NHL Surprises From the Opening Weekend of the 2010-2011 Season
The start of a new season is always an exciting time in the NHL.
Every team is undefeated again, and everyone has an equal chance of winning the Stanley Cup. Once the previous season's champions raise the banner, the party is over, and it is back to business.
In the season's opening games, things happen that we didn't expect. Teams that were supposed to falter get off to a hot start, and vice versa.
Players make their mark sooner than expected, or someone scores a ridiculous goal that even makes ESPN pay attention (and ESPN paying attention to hockey is surprising in and of itself).
Now that the opening weekend of the 2010-2011 NHL season is over, let's look at some of the biggest surprises on the league's 30 teams.
Sergei Bobrovsky: Goaltender, Philadelphia Flyers
I know what you're thinking: Wait, who?
That's exactly what I was thinking when I heard Sergei Bobrovsky would be starting against my Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
I had never heard of Bobrovsky, and this was his first season in the NHL after spending the last three years in the KHL. Therefore, I thought the Penguins should have no problems getting past the rookie netminder, right?
Bobrovsky stopped 29 of 31 shots and helped the Flyers spoil the Penguins' regular-season debut at Consol Energy Center. Philadelphia won the game 3-2.
The game helped his NHL career get off to a remarkable start. He currently stands at 1-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .940 save percentage. That is a far cry from his 2009-2010 season in the KHL, where he had a 2.72 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
At 22 years old, he is the youngest goalie to ever start a season opener for the Flyers.
A lot can happen over the course of the season, but Flyers fans have every right to be excited for the netminder playing his first season in North America.
Tim Brent: Center, Toronto Maple Leafs
Just like a lot of people probably still don't know where Bobrovsky came from, I'm sure some of you are trying to figure out who this Tim Brent guy is.
Prior to making the Maple Leafs roster out of this year's training camp, Brent had played 19 NHL games in his career with the Anaheim Ducks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Chicago Blackhawks. In those 19 games, he had one point.
Brent has already passed his NHL point total prior to this season. He tallied goals in the Maple Leafs' victories over the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and Saturday.
Can he keep up the point production and finally become an NHL regular? Or will he prove to be a flash in the pan and head to the AHL once again?
Only time will tell.
Toronto Maple Leafs Are 2-0
OK, so it's way too early to start planning the Cup parade in Toronto, but how many people predicted the Leafs winning their first two games of the season?
On opening night at the AIr Canada Centre, the Maple Leafs defeated their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, by a score of 3-2. Two nights later, they defeated the Ottawa Senators with a dominant 5-1 victory.
Aside from Tim Brent's two goals, Toronto has also gotten offense from Phil Kessel and Clarke Macarthur, who also have two points apiece after the games against their Canadian opponents.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere has also been a strong contributor in the wins. His performances in both games have earned him a 1.51 GAA and a .935 save percentage.
Derek Stepan: Center, New York Rangers
20-year-old Derek Stepan, playing in his first professional season with the New York Rangers, did more on Saturday night than score his first NHL career goal.
Stepan put up three times that and tallied his first NHL hat trick as the Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 6-3.
By accomplishing this feat, Stepan became the first player in Rangers' history to have a hat trick in his first game. He was also the first Ranger since 2006 to score in his NHL debut.
He also became the fourth player in NHL history to score three times in his NHL debut.
Stepan comes to the Rangers after two seasons with the University of Wisconsin, where he had 87 points in 81 games.
Atlantic Division Favorites Pittsburgh and New Jersey Go 0-2
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the New Jersey Devils are two consistent favorites in the Atlantic Division every season.
However, this year, both have dropped their first two games of the season.
The Penguins didn't get the opening night debut in Consol Energy Center they had dreamed of, losing to interstate rivals Philadelphia by a score of 3-2. On Saturday night, they gave up two goals within 24 seconds in the third period to lose to the Canadiens, again by a score of 3-2.
Meanwhile, New Jersey dropped their opening night by losing to the Dallas Stars by a score of 4-3 in overtime. They played again on Saturday night, but got crushed by the Washington Capitals by a 7-2 score.
The Penguins improved their defense over the summer by signing former Devil Paul Martin and former Phoenix Coyote Zbynek Michalek to long-term contracts. They also signed physical forward Arron Asham and consistent goal scorer Mike Comrie.
However, Pittsburgh is trying to compensate for the loss of Jordan Staal, who is not expected to return until December after having foot surgery. Meanwhile, Asham is on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, New Jersey seems to be off to a slow start even after signing Ilya Kovalchuk to what seems like an eternal contract and getting top free-agent defenseman Anton Volchenkov from the Ottawa Senators. However, Volchenkov sustained a broken nose after getting hit with a slapshot.
The winless rivals will battle each other on Monday, and someone will get their first win of the season, while the other team will still be searching for a win this week.
Jordan Eberle: Right Wing, Edmonton Oilers
Jordan Eberle is one of the youngsters on the Edmonton Oilers playing his first full NHL season this year.
In the Oilers' season opener against the Calgary Flames, Eberle scored a highlight reel goal when he got on a shorthanded breakaway and backhanded a shot past Flames goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff, who didn't even stand a chance at saving the puck.
Eberle also had an assist on a Shawn Horcoff goal as the Oilers, who hope to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, shut out the Flames by a score of 4-0.
This is not surprising in the sense that Eberle was not expected to be an outstanding player. Rather, it is surprising that he got his first professional point before first round draft pick Taylor Hall, who is arguably the face of the re-building Oilers.
Martin Brodeur: Goaltender, New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur is arguably the best NHL goalie of this generation, but that doesn't mean he's immune to having a bad night.
On Saturday, the Devils were embarrassed out of Washington D.C. after a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Capitals.
Brodeur gave up five goals in the loss, including four goals in the second period. He was replaced by Johan Hedberg, who was brought over from the Atlanta Thrashers, in the third.
Brodeur only gave up five goals in a game four times last year in a total of 77 games played. Now, he has already done it once and has started the season with a 5.29 GAA and .813 save percentage.
Of course, Brodeur will very likely not be this bad all season. However, let's not overlook the fact that he is aging, and we could very well be looking at the beginning of the end of his storied career.
Jeff Skinner: Center, Carolina Hurricanes
Jeff Skinner was drafted by the Hurricanes in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and while he looked promising, it didn't seem likely he would so quickly adjust to the NHL.
However, he has. At 18 years old, he is the youngest player on the Hurricanes roster and has become an impact player right off the bat.
During the Hurricanes' recent trip to Finland for NHL Premiere, Skinner had the game winning goal in the shootout against the Minnesota Wild and assisted on a Tuomo Ruutu goal. In that game, Carolina defeated Minnesota by a 4-3 score and swept the series with them overseas.
The Hurricanes come back to the States with a 2-0 record, and Skinner is a big part of the reason why. For now, he has earned himself a spot to further prove himself in the NHL.
Pavel Datsyuk: Center, Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk shocked NHL fans when he put up his first Gordie Howe hat trick on Saturday night as the Red Wings shut out the Ducks by a 4-0 score.
Datsyuk assisted on a Dan Cleary goal in the third period and then got a fighting major when he took on Anaheim forward Corey Perry. After he served his penalty, he completed the Gordie Howe hat trick by scoring a goal of his own.
Datsyuk has won four Lady Byng trophies in his career for sportsmanship, and he had 17 penalty minutes in the entire 2009-2010 season last year.
Datsyuk does not expect to start fighting frequently, so Red Wings fans should not get used to it. However, it had to be an unforgettable moment for everyone who watched the game.