Through two months of the 2009-10 season the NHL hasn’t exactly played out as most expected. Sure, Joe Thornton leads the league in assists and New Jersey is allowing a league-low number of goals against, but Martin Havlat has just two goals and is minus-14, and Anaheim is last in the Pacific Division.
So, in an ode to Saturday Night Live’s What Up With That?, this week we did some number-crunching to bring you a stats package with some of the wackier findings from the first two months of the season.
10. Dustin Penner
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound right winger showed great promise as a sophomore in 2006-07, scoring 29 goals and 45 points, but has disappointed since his controversial signing in Edmonton. Not so any longer. Penner, who despite his size looks to be better suited to a finesse roll, leads the Oilers in every major statistical category and is ninth in the league in goal-scoring and 10th in points. What up with that?
9. Marian Gaborik’s games played
He has averaged just 52 games played per season since the lockout (including a 77-game 2007-08), which is why the Rangers were largely criticized for investing five years and $37.5 million in him last summer. A ‘right leg’ injury kept him out of two games to end October – and must have scared the bejeezus out of GM Glen Sather – but Gaborik has played every other of the Blueshirts’ 27 games, and is second in league scoring. What up with that?
The Hurricanes have a history of making deep playoff runs and then taking a step back the next season, but nobody would have guessed this kind of backward leap. Currently last overall by a healthy six points, despite playing more games than half the league, Carolina has been hurt by injuries, but also by a roster that just looks too old to compete on a nightly basis. What up with that?
7. Stephane Robidas’ bodychecking
This guy is the most non-descript hitter in the league. The Dallas blueliner leads the NHL in that category as of Wednesday with 104. What up with that?
6. Washington’s first periods
The Capitals have firepower and are definitely a talented squad. But did you know they’ve only trailed on the scoreboard after the first period twice this season? By the way, Washington won both of those games. What up with that?
5. Pittsburgh’s bodychecking
Who would have guessed the known-for-their-finesse Penguins would lead the league in bodychecking on Dec. 2? Almost as stupefying, the Philadelphia Flyers are 28th. What up with that?
4. The Detroit Red Wings
It’s fair to say most observers knew the Wings wouldn’t – even couldn’t – be as strong as the team that went to the past two Stanley Cup finals. But 10th in the West behind Colorado, Los Angeles, Nashville, Phoenix, Columbus and Dallas – how’s that now? We’ll tell you: spotty goaltending and a lack of depth at forward after free agent defections. What up with that?
3. Sidney Crosby’s goal total
The Kid proved in the 2009 playoffs he can be an elite goal-scorer in the NHL and it looks as if he’s decided he wants to be one. The center has averaged more than two assists for every goal he’s scored in the NHL prior to this season (265-132) and has never finished higher than 12th in goals. But this year he’s got more goals than assists (17-16) and is fifth in the category without sacrificing his point total – he’s tied for third overall. What up with that?
2. The Atlanta Thrashers
Atlanta’s play through the first two months of the season has been nothing short of bewildering. The team is currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, has two players among the league’s top five in plus-minus (Pavel Kubina and Nik Antropov) who were a combined minus-29 last season, and is 10-0-0 when leading after the first period, an amazing stat for a team known for poor goaltending and leaky team defense. What up with that?
1. Rich Peverley
Speaking of the Thrashers, quite possibly the reason they are where they are is Peverley. He was a waiver wire castoff last season, but this year is leading his team in scoring and playing in all situations, with only Ilya Kovalchuk getting more ice time among Atlanta forwards. Peverley is on pace for 88 points and his 26 are currently more than Evgeni Malkin, Mike Richards, Mike Ribeiro, Vincent Lecavalier and Pavel Datsyuk. So tell us, what up with that?
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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