Well, it's early, perhaps too early to be writing this, but where would the fun be if we didn't jump in and make some observations at this point? As I wrote just prior to the season, the short season could result in some surprising results, for both individual players and for teams, both good and bad. As examples, I stated that some teams who would normally be a lock to be contenders could stumble, and teams could sneak up on people. Players could get hot and be scoring leaders, who otherwise wouldn't be the usual suspects. Wonder of wonders, the first bit of the season has had it's share of surprises.
For example, who would have guessed, even at this point, that teams like Chicago, and especially San Jose would be undefeated, Tampa Bay would be the highest scoring team, and that the Islanders would be dominating teams like Pittsburgh? Conversely, it's equally surprising that Philadelphia is struggling as badly as it has (and that goaltending has been a strength instead of a weakness in the process), the Canucks and Penguins have been middle of the pack teams who can be described as inconsistent at best, and Carolina, with all their off season aquistions, are still trying to find themselves an identity.
As for individual performances, if anyone drafted Patrick Marleau early in your office hockey pool, you should find out where he/she got the crystal ball, and get one for yourself, preferably before Super Bowl Sunday, so you can make a few bucks. The fact that he's leading the league in scoring, goals, PP goals, is out of profile and he would be a field goal ahead of the pack, were it not for the fact that Joe Thornton is his linemate, or that Tampa's #1 line is equally on fire, which in itself could be seen as a minor surprise. On the flip side, Alexander Ovechkin only has 1 goal so far, to go with only 1 assist, dispelling the myth that players who were actively playing during the lockout would absolutely outperform those who stayed home. Phil Kessel has yet to score a goal, but lucky for him, he doesn't play in a market where the media pays much attention to such things, and isn't comparing his production to say, Tyler Seguin, who only has 1 goal, and the same number of points. Names like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (and Rick Nash) are missing from the top ten in scoring, replaced by names like Joe Pavelski, and Cory Conacher. The two Penguins and the Rangers new star aren't even on the first page, whereas players like Daniel Winnick, Vladimir Tarasenko, and David Clarkson, household names all, are currently top 30 scorers.
As I mentioned before, it's still really early, but already there are some things about this season that have people scratching their heads. The Flyers might be among the biggest puzzlers. Exactly where the problem lies is difficult to say, but things better right themselves soon, or they may not have the horsepower to make up the ground they've given to the other Eastern Conference teams. Philly isn't exactly blessed with patient fans or ownership, and it's hard to believe that heads won't roll if a team with their talent and payroll doesn't deliver the goods. At the other end of the spectrum, but with equal pressure is a team like the Calgary Flames. Calgary might not have as lofty a set of goals as the Flyers, but their slow start will undoubtedly start the Jerome Iginla and/or Miikka Kiprusoff trade rumors swirling if it looks as if they will be missing the playoffs again. Florida, if their disappointing start becomes a trend, will also have GMs circling like vultures, ready to pick the juicy bits off the bones at the trade deadline.
Who knows, a month from now, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Stamkos might be running neck and neck for the scoring lead, Phil Kessel might be vying for the Richard Trophy, and the Flyers might be ahead in the race for the President's Trophy. Toronto might have Roberto Luongo starting in net, and will be sitting solidly in a playoff spot. That's what is going to make this season interesting. If there is one thing that can be predicted about the 2013 NHL season, it's going to be hard to predict.