Saturday, April 19th, 2014

NHL Season a quarter over already

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The NHL season’s basically a quarter finished already as November draws to an end. There have been a few surprises so far, such as the goaltending of Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas. Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie in 2009, but then lost his starting job to Tuukka Rask last season. Thomas’ salary cap hit is $5 million a season and it looked like the Bruins were trying to unload him in the summer. Of course, that was almost impossible to do because of his salary and inactivity last year.

However, he’s bounced back in a big way so far this season and as of Nov. 25th the 37-year-old was leading the National Hockey League in goal-against-average (1.46), save percentage (95.5) and with shutouts (4). He was also fourth in wins with 11.

Another surprise has been the fine play of some of the league’s older players such as Teemu Selanne, Mark Recchi, Dwayne Roloson, Mike Modano, and Nicklas Lidstrom, who are all 40 years old and up. Recchi’s the oldest player in the league at 42 and has 15 points on four goals and 11 assists in his first 20 games. Modano has two 2 goals and six in 19 games, but has seven points in his last nine games. Selanne has 22 points in 22 games with eight goals and 14 assists. Lidstrom has 20 points in 20 contests with three goals and 17 assists. Meanwhile, goaltender Roloson has a goals-against-average of 2.58 and a 91.2 save percentage with the woeful New York Islanders.

The parity in the Western Conference has been a bit of a surprise as the leading Detroit Red Wings were just four points ahead of the ninth-place Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, there were just six points between first and 13th place in the conference.

Players are scoring goals in bunches so far this season as there were 26 hat tricks scored in the first quarter. There were just 13 at the same time last year. Steven Stamkos of Tampa and Alex Semin of Washington have two each. Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers scored a hat trick in his first NHL game on the season’s opening night.

The New Jersey Devils have only missed the post season once in the last 20 years and that came on the last day of the season in 1996. But they’ve been at the bottom of the league’s standings this season ever since opening night. However, they have been hit by injuries and that could explain their second-worst start ever.

Shootouts are down so far this season as only 26 out of 62 overtime games have gone to shootouts. At this time last year there were 52 shootouts out of 77 overtime games. Tampa Bay, Ottawa, and Montreal haven’t gone to a shootout in the first quarter of the season. Last year at this time, they had combined for 12 shootout games.

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