NHL 2010-11: Top 10 Surprises From Week 1
The 2010-11 NHL season is only one week old, and it’s already been full of surprises. The surprises include unexpected starts from certain teams and players, and wild injuries or suspensions. I am not going to share all of them with you; instead I have chosen what I feel to be the top 10 surprises from the first week of the new hockey season!
At the end, feel free to leave a comment below on what you feel have been the biggest surprises of week one.
10. Brandon Dubinsky
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The often criticized Rangers winger has had an extremely hot start to the season. Scoring three goals and one assist (four points) in only two games is very impressive. Dubinsky has always had potential of being a superior NHL scorer, but he has not shown it in his 241 game career (over three full seasons, and one six game season). His best season was 2009-10 (last season) in which he tallied 20 goals, 24 assist, and 44 points in 69 regular season games. The potential is there for him to become a 30 goal scorer, and this may be the season.
9. Nathan Horton
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The injury plagued center was traded to the Bruins, along with Gregory Campbell, during the NHL entry draft this summer. Horton has had a very good start to the 2010-11 NHL season, with a total of three goals and one assist (four points). He has played a total of two games this season, like Dubinsky, making this start very impressive. In 2006-07, Horton had his best NHL season in which he scored 31 goals, 31 assist, and 62 points in a complete 82 game season. Horton looks like he will finally have a healthy season, and with this hot start he may be heading into a career season.
8. Nikolai Khabibulin
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Kept to only 18 games in the 2009-10 season due to injury, the newly signed Oiler couldn’t wait to begin the 2010-11 season. But his injury return was scarred when news broke that Khabibulin was arrested and found guilty for extreme DUI during the offseason. The surprise from him so far this season has been his fantastic play. Though the season is very young, Khabibulin has played as if nothing happened over the summer. In two games Khabibulin two wins, one being a shut-out. The Oilers are looking for a comeback season after ending in thirtieth place last season, and Khabibulin will have to play well for Edmonton to be successful.
7. Anaheim Ducks
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The Anaheim Ducks have had a brutal start to the new season with a record of 0-3, and goal for-too-goals against ratio of two-to-thirteen. Nothing is going right for the Ducks, and things have only got worse with the news that defenseman Andy Sutton will be injured for at least six weeks with a broken right thumb. They are not scoring, and they are not playing good defense. They are headed in the wrong direction, but on the plus side things cannot get any worse.
6. Dallas Stars
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The Stars are coming off a hot finish to the 2009-10 NHL season, and it shows in their 2-0 record. The Stars are already receiving contributions from Mike Ribero and Brad Richards. The Stars are in a tough division as they will have to battle San Jose, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, so this hot start may be short lived for Dallas fans. It is a good, surprising, start for Dallas; but with the division circumstances the Stars may be in trouble as the season grows on.
5. Derek Stepan’s Hat-Trick
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One of the most exciting moments to start the new NHL season, first year rookie Derek Stepan tallied a hat-trick for the New York Rangers in a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. It was Stepan’s first regular season NHL game, and it will be one to remember. Stepan is a strong contender for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, and that performance definitely helped his chances.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
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The Toronto Maple Leafs made a lot of good changes to their team over the offseason, and it’s no secret they will be playoff contenders this season. The Maple Leafs have shown that they are a stronger team with an excellent start to the NHL season. A hot start is always a good sign for a playoff contender, and they are off to a very good beginning as one of the league’s best. They are getting strong contributions from Clarke MacArthur, and Phil Kessel, and they are receiving strong goaltending from J.S Giguere. A new and improved Leafs team is flying high right now, and if they can stay hot they may be a major playoff team come April.
3. New York Islanders
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The Islanders are without their top three players John Tavares, Kyle Okoposo, and Mark Streit. Even with the injuries, the young Islander team has shown resilience in a huge win over the New York Rangers on Monday, and a clean game against the Dallas Stars in their season opener (in which they received an overtime point). The Islanders are not necessarily on a “hot-streak” and no one is labeling them as playoff contenders. The “early season surprise” has been the fact that they continue to play well without their superstars. They are in a tough division and it is unlikely that they are playoff competitors come March. But they are off to a good start, and their play has been very impressive (this is coming from a Rangers fan).
2. Edmonton Oilers
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The Oilers had a horrific season in 2009-10, and have nowhere to go but up in the standings this season. The Oilers are off to a very good start this season, receiving key contributions from their younger players, and from their veteran goaltender. In no way do I believe the Oilers will be a playoff team, or contenders for that matter, but they are off to a very impressive start and that is a plus. The Oilers have a handful of young players on their team either in their rookie or sophomore season. Their future is a bright one, and hockey fans are receiving a glimpse of it in their early season “hot” streak.
1. New Jersey Devils
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The Devils are off to their worst start since the 2001-02 NHL season, beginning with a winless record in their first three games. Devil fans often have an excuse for doing their losing streaks, but the blame for this bad start may be on the shoulders of Lou Lamoriello. The signing of Ilya Kovalchuck has made them cap struck, leaving them to play with only 15 players in their most recent games. I would believe it is no easy feat to play with only 15 skaters, and what makes it even harder for them is the fact that they are missing their top defender Anton Volchenkov. They are also playing without another top defender Bryce Salvador, and forward Brian Rolston. With the absences of Volchenkov and Salvador the Devils defense has been weak, which has led to a not-so-hot start for goaltender Martin Brouder. It’s not going to be easy for the Devils to turn this around, especially playing with a down-sized, injury plagued roster, and fans may have to deal with it.