Winners and Losers from 1st Quarter of 2013 NHL Season

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Winners and Losers from 1st Quarter of 2013 NHL Season
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Since almost every NHL team has played 12 games, we are now at the quarter mark of the 2013 lockout-shortened season.

This is the time of the year when underperforming players have to find ways to improve or face the possibility of getting their ice time cut or being a healthy scratch. Coaches won't have the same level of patience with players as they would in an 82-game season.

Let's look at the winners and losers through the first quarter of the season.

 

Winners

Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins

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At 8-1-1, the Boston Bruins are off to their best start in franchise history through 10 games, and they are just behind the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Bruins have battled injuries and a tough schedule with strong defense, timely scoring and spectacular goaltending from Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin.

Lots of people weren't sold on the Bruins goaltenders entering the season, but Rask and Khudobin have given their team a chance to win every game. Rask is 6-1-1 with a 1.96 GAA, a .921 save percentage and one shutout as the starter, while Khudobin is 2-0-0 in his backup role.

Boston's strong goaltending is the primary reason why the team ranks seventh in goals against and second in penalty killing.

Head coach Claude Julien has seven players with five points or more thus far, and his team looks a lot more motivated than it did last season as defending champs. At the moment, the Bruins are the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

 

Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks

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The Chicago Blackhawks lead the NHL with 22 points and are the only team that hasn't lost in regulation yet (10-0-2).

The Blackhawks offense has been fantastic, but the improved play of the team's defense and goaltending is the primary reason for Chicago's early success.

Veteran defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya are providing consistent scoring and strong play in their own end, while starting netminder Corey Crawford is off to the best start of his young NHL career. Crawford ranks first in wins (seven), fourth in save percentage (.935) and third in GAA (1.62)

Young star Patrick Kane has been the Blackhawks' most impressive forward through 12 games, with nine goals (second in NHL) and 10 assists. He also ranks second in the league with 19 points.

The Blackhawks have started the season in near-perfect fashion, and they have established themselves as the team to beat in the Western Conference.

 

David Clarkson, Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils

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The New Jersey Devils did not come into the season as the favorites in the Eastern Conference despite making the Cup Final last season, but even after losing captain Zach Parise in the offseason, this team is still a top contender.

David Clarkson ranks second in the league with nine goals after scoring a career-high 30 last season, and he's helping his resume for the summer, when he will likely earn the first major contract of his career as an unrestricted free agent.

Veteran goalie Martin Brodeur played in his 1,200th game on Saturday and is still playing like a Vezina Trophy-caliber player. He is 6-1-2 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA this season.

New Jersey has 19 points and is in first place in the conference. The Devils are legitimate contenders because they have a strong defense, consistent goaltending and do all the little things needed to win.

 

James Reimer and the Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference despite the fact that superstar winger Phil Kessel failed to score a goal through the first 10 games. The young forward now has goals in two straight games, with 10 points total on the season.

The Leafs are in fifth place in the East and would be challenging the Bruins at the top of the Northeast Division if they could win consistently at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto has an impressive 6-1 record on the road, but it is just 1-4 at home.

Starting goaltender James Reimer is most responsible for the Leafs' solid start to the season. He's 5-3 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.30 GAA. If the defensemen in front of him played well more often, Reimer would probably have Vezina-worthy stats.

The Leafs are a better team than they were last season, and they don't need to trade for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo to end their playoff drought in 2013.

 

Viktor Fasth and the Anaheim Ducks

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Viktor Fasth
The Anaheim Ducks are the biggest surprise in the league this season with an 8-2-1 record atop the Pacific Division.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau is in his first full season with the Ducks, and his offensive system is really benefiting the entire team. He gives his players the freedom to use all their talents on offense, which is what he did in Washington when Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin had multiple Hart Trophy seasons.

Anaheim ranks third in goals scored and sixth in power-play percentage, and the team has gotten strong goaltending from rookie Viktor Fasth. The 30-year-old netminder is 5-0 with a 1.72 GAA and a .932 save percentage.

The Ducks are for real, and with impressive scoring depth and three superstars for teams to game-plan against, this team will be in the playoff race all season as long as its goaltending stays strong on a consistent basis.

 

Steven Stamkos

To no one's surprise, Steven Stamkos is having another great season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the young superstar ranks fourth in the league in scoring with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists).

Stamkos began the year with an eight-game point streak and has eight points (three goals, five assists) on the NHL's second-best power-play.

Expect the league's best young player to continue his MVP-caliber season and lead the Lightning to the playoffs.

 

Thomas Vanek

Buffalo Sabres winger Thomas Vanek leads the NHL in goals (11) and points (23), and he also has six multi-point games while failing to score a point in just two games.

The Sabres are still in the playoff race despite having a 5-7-1 record, and the team has Vanek to thank for that. Without his incredible offensive production, Buffalo might be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Vanek also leads the league with 17 takeaways, so he's making a strong impact at both ends of the ice.

Right now, Vanek is the leading candidate for the Hart and Maurice Richard trophies.

 

Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo is 3-0-2 this season with a .940 save percentage and a 1.53 GAA. He's been one of the league's most impressive goaltenders despite Cory Schneider having the starting job in Vancouver.

Luongo is boosting his trade value and standing on the depth chart with great performances in the early part of the season, and the 33-year-old star has helped his team earn points in every game that he's started this season.

 

Tobias Enstrom

Winnipeg Jets veteran Tobias Enstrom leads all NHL defensemen with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists), and he is a surprising early-season candidate for the Norris Trophy.

Enstrom's eight-game point streak end on Saturday, but he's been one of the most consistent offensive defensemen through the first quarter of the season.

It will be interesting to see if Enstrom can play this well for the rest of the year and provide the Jets with the amount of scoring needed from the blue line to compete in the Southeast Division.

 

Losers

Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals

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The Capitals still have the worst record in the NHL at 3-8-1, and they've failed to win back-to-back games at any point this season.

Washington ranks 21st in goals scored, 27th in goals against and 28th in penalty killing. Alexander Ovechkin has four goals and four assists through 12 games, and he hasn't played like a star player at either end of the ice.

If goaltenders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth do not improve and the team still struggles to win on the road, the Capitals will be in the draft lottery at the end of the season.

 

Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings

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After a few extra months to rest because of the lockout, not many people expected the Stanley Cup hangover to have a major impact on the Los Angeles Kings' start to the season.

However, the defending champs have played poorly in nearly every area of the game thus far. The Kings rank 26th in goals scored, 21st in goals against, 27th in power-play percentage and 17th in penalty kill.

Nobody on the Kings has scored more than four goals or six points this season, and injuries to top-four defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell have hurt the team's blue-line depth.

Star goaltender and reigning Conn Smythe Award winner Jonathan Quick has surprisingly struggled so far. He is 3-4-2 with a .891 save percentage and a 2.70 GAA. Last season, Quick had a 1.95 GAA, a .929 save percentage and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

The Kings are 14th in the Western Conference with eight points, and they need to improve quickly to have an opportunity to defend their title in the 2013 playoffs.

 

Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla has scored just one goal with five assists through nine games this year, which is not the kind of production that the Calgary Flames were expecting from someone who has 11 straight seasons of 30-plus goals.

The Flames need Iginla to improve quickly, because only four players on the roster have scored more than two goals this season, and without star netminder Miikka Kiprusoff in the lineup due to injury, Calgary doesn't have the goaltending talent to make up for its lack of scoring.

If Iginla's scoring woes continue, trading him at the deadline and getting a quality prospect and/or a first-round draft pick in return might be a very difficult challenge for Flames general manager Jay Feaster.

 

Ryan Suter

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Star defenseman Ryan Suter was signed to a 13-year, $98 million contract in the summer to bolster the Minnesota Wild's struggling offense and lackluster power play.

Through 11 games, he has made a small impact on the team's success in the attacking zone, and his defensive play has not been impressive.

Suter has zero goals, six assists and a plus/minus rating of minus-seven this season, and the Wild currently rank 27th in goals scored and 19th in power-play percentage.

For Minnesota to get back into the playoff race, Suter has to be more productive offensively. He's way too talented to not make a difference on the power play and fail to defend well in his own zone.

 

Dion Phaneuf

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Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman and captain Dion Phaneuf has not had a strong start to the season, with just three points (one goal, two assists) and a minus-six rating through 12 games. He currently ranks outside the top 25 in hits and outside the top 40 in blocked shots.

Phaneuf also accidentally injured teammate Joffrey Lupul with a slap shot that gave Lupul a broken arm.

Luckily for the Leafs, they have been able to earn a 7-5 record despite their best defenseman not playing well through the first quarter of the season.

 

Jason Garrison

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison has failed to make a substantial impact on the team's offense and power play this season, with just two points (one goal and an assist) in 11 games.

The 28-year-old veteran also ranks outside the top 75 in hits and blocked shots, and he has zero power-play points this season.

The Canucks have not received much offense from their blue line, and only Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis have more than three points among the team's defensemen. Garrison has been a major disappointment thus far after signing a six-year, $27.6 million deal in the summer.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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