The Secret to Success: How NHL Teams Are Falling Into Place After October

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The Secret to Success: How NHL Teams Are Falling Into Place After October
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I think it’s about the right time to put up this post. Yeah, seems right. We’re past the "WAY TOO EARLY, MAN!" stage to get excited about our respective teams in the National Hockey League, and we’ve moved into the reality we all knew was coming.

If you don’t realize what exactly this reality is, it’s the one where the Leafs actually do suck. Good, now you’ve got it.

So the Leafs are losing, the Hawks are winning, the Kings and Flyers are rising and everything seems to be falling into place just the way the “experts” predicted it. Eh…not so much.

Now, unless you’re a Buffalo fan, or for some reason placed your bet on Taylor Hall leading Edmonton out of the basement, you’re probably pleasantly surprised with how your team is playing. It seems as though certain sports cities were upset with their respective MLB teams' finishes and are trying to make it up to their loyal citizens.

If you’re a Texan, you probably forgot about Cliff Lee as quickly as you waved goodbye to Mike Modano. Who needs ‘em??

What about the Rays and all their star players that are going to walk after an early golf season in Tampa? Meh, Steve Stamkos is lighting it up enough to keep them warm heading into the winter.

Albert Pujols couldn’t slam it out of the park enough to keep the Cards in the hunt? So what? It’s all on David Backes and Jaroslav Halak now who are carrying the weight of their wild sports town.

Yeah, I know. I can’t believe it either. The Stars and Blues have played some exceptional hockey, and it doesn’t look like they’re about to give up any time soon. So what gives? What’s their secret??

The answer is actually pretty interesting:

Goaltending.

Okay, okay, I can hear you shouting your arguments back at me through my computer…let me explain. Jeez.

Remember last year right before the playoffs (and throughout them as well) all those teams who had too many goalies and didn’t know what to do with them? Now think to free agency and check off all of those netminders who switched teams in the offseason. Yeah…you’re almost there.

Now, think about where those guys went and which teams are successful in the early weeks of the NHL season…You get it yet? It’s simple, right?

What do Dallas, Chicago, Philly, Montreal, Washington, St. Louis and Tampa all have in common? They’re all either leading or competing for the lead in their divisions, and they all had offseason goalie changes. Yup. I’m not making this up.

So now you’re going to tell me that teams like Tampa and Montreal lost their stars in net and are winning because of offense.

NOT true.

Just because a big-name goalie leaves town doesn’t mean the team will get worse. It means that they picked up someone else who may be more suited for the role and the team could win more than they did with their previous “All-Star.” Just use San Jose as a reference for that.

With their goalies settling into their proper roles of starter and backup and not into a race to be the No. 1, more teams are winning because their goalies are in a groove and not trying to go out every night and impress the organization. In an NHL where Stanley Cup winning teams need to purge their depth because of the salary cap, stability is what wins games.

As we move into this season’s second month tomorrow, we can take this stability as proof of moving back to hockey reality. The teams that should be winning are winning (and will continue to do so), and those who are losing shouldn’t blame it on Phil Kessel or Taylor Hall or Ilya Kovalchuk but rather on not having all the right pieces.

For all we know, these bottom-feeder teams could step it up once they put together the right formula, but until then it’s going to be a bumpy road for the unstable.

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