The Tampa Bay Lightning rebounding like Dennis Rodman in his prime, the Nashville Predators reasserting themselves as the best in the West, the Vancouver Canucks chucking more balls in the lottery hopper as we wind down to the end of March….
Yes, much of these 2017-18 NHL happenings we could have predicted.
But the fun of sports lies in what we don’t see coming.
And so we look back at a winter filled with happy surprises and unfortunate head-scratchers in our NHL Power Rankings: Season of Shockers Edition.
As per tradition, all 31 clubs are ranked in order of their current scariness. The write-ups single out an event or performance regarding each team that we could not have foreseen back in October.
1. Nashville Predators
Mike Fisher coming out of retirement and signing on the last possible day to qualify for what could be a lengthy Predators playoff run feels like a twist torn from a WWE script.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Despite all the wonderful surprises this season – Nikita Kucherov’s Hart and Art Ross bid, Steven Stamkos’s return to form, the continued emergence of Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde, and the Vezina bid of Andrei Vasilevskiy – the biggest surprise in Tampa is that it’s finishing the season with Ryan Callahan on the roster.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
Life is a dream and the expansion Golden Knights are your Pacific Division champs running away.
4. Boston Bruins
We knew Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak could play, but the level of play from young forwards such as Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk – both set to crush 40 points – has impressed. And the bounce-back of Zdeno Chara, still logging more than 23 minutes a night, wasn’t something we saw coming at age 40.
5. Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck’s .923 save percentage and almost immediate reclaiming of the starter’s job from summer signing Steve Mason is one of the league’s best surprises.
6. Minnesota Wild
Is there a bigger individual shocker than Eric Staal, 33, enjoying his greatest offensive season in a decade? The Wild’s bargain centre is on track for 40 goals and 70-plus points.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
We were surprised that after the price Jim Rutherford paid to acquire some muscle in Ryan Reaves at the 2017 draft the Penguins GM dealt him to Vegas. If Pittsburgh gets into a nasty playoff series, will they wish they had Reaves back?
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Pierre-Luc Dubois stepping in at 19 and showing Number 1 centre pedigree when Alex Wennberg stumbled out of the gates was fantastic.