As the NHL season has just surpassed its halfway mark, there have been a lot of surprising teams thus far. Three NHL teams in particular have surprised us the most this season. Let’s look at which NHL teams have surprised, examine their seasons up to this point, and determine why they are playing above expectations.
Surprising NHL Teams
At the beginning of the season, the Boston Bruins were a team full of question marks. They had just brought back aging veterans David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron and wondered how Krejci would fare in his return from the Czech league. The question of who would start in net also remained as Swayman and Ullmark split starts last season.
The Bruins were also dealt major blows as Charlie McAvoy, and Brad Marchand were both projected to be out until after the new year. However, the B’s have seemingly had an answer for everything this year.
The Bruins currently have a stranglehold on the President’s Trophy as the league’s top team after their scorching hot start to the year. McAvoy and Marchand were able to return much quicker than their anticipated timelines. Linus Ullmark has taken over the starting job and is garnering some Vezina trophy talk, deservedly so.
Not to mention, David Pastrnak is on pace for a career year as he sits second in the NHL with 35 goals and third in points with 62. Not to mention Krejci and Bergeron have drank from the fountain of youth as the former has found chemistry with fellow Czech Pastrnak, and the latter is doing typical Patrice Bergeron things.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are a team that has been on the rise for a few years now, however, this year they have exploded onto the scene. The Devils currently sit third in the league behind only the Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes. The team is looking to make its first playoff appearance since 2018 when they lost in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
The Devils are being led by Jack Hughes who much like his team, has burst onto the scene with 55 points thus far this season. The team is also getting great contributions from Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton who are all having great campaigns thus far. Vitek Vanecek has also been stellar in goal for the Devils, as he already has 18 wins on the year while Mackenzie Blackwood, for his part has 6 in a reduced backup role. It’s hard not to like the Devils right now as they are beginning to look like a potential cup contender this season. With a strong prospect pool as well, they should be a perennial contender for years to come.
Embed from Getty Images
The Seattle Kraken are potentially the team that has surpassed expectations the most this year. The Kraken have gone from a bottom-three team in the league to a top-ten team poised to make the playoffs. They are a team without any bonafide superstars on their roster but that hasn’t stopped the Kraken as they have been scoring by committee all season. They are led by Matthew Beniers and Andre Burakovsky who are pacing the team with 36 and 37 points respectively. Jared McCann also has managed 22 goals already for the Kraken. As a team, they have thirteen different players with over 20 points on the season which illustrates the depth they’ve had this year.
The Kraken however, have one of the weaker goalie duos in the league with Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer. The two both have sub-.900 save percentages on the year despite the teams’ success. Without better goaltending, it’ll be difficult for them to maintain their top-10 pace the rest of the way. The Kraken however, are fortunate to be in a weak pacific division this season as well which bolsters their playoff hopes significantly.
These three NHL teams have surprised everyone with their play so far this season. All three of these teams have surpassed expectations and are poised to make the playoffs. The Bruins and Devils are in a position to be buyers at the deadline and should be locked for the playoffs. Their strong play in the first half could very well be sustainable, especially with some new additions bolstering their lineups. The Kraken however, are question marks heading into the back half, and their trade deadline gameplan is another question mark. Expect their play to drop off to an extent if they don’t receive better goaltending. But in a weak division, they’ve most likely built up enough of a cushion to squeak into the playoffs. Only time will tell what the rest of the season holds for these clubs, but they’ve impressed everyone with their surprising play so far.
Embed from Getty Images