Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Season's Pleasant Surprises

Every hockey season is full of surprises. Things that were unexpected at the start of the season, whether they be good or bad things. A few of the surprises on the not so good side are players performing way under their expected range such as Henrik Zetterberg, Ryan Getzlaf, Drew Doughty, Brad Richards, Derek Roy, Ryan Miller and Alex Ovechkin. There has also been a number of surprises this year of guys that have gone above and beyond expectations. The following is my list of the pleasant surprises of 2011/12 heading into the All-Star break.

Scott Hartnell
With 25 goals and 44 points in 47 games, he may just about to be off to his first All-Star game as a replacement for Ovechkin. Although still 16 points behnd his career best, he is only 5 away from matching his top goal total.

Joffrey Lupul
Was pretty much a throw-in/salary dump in the Beauchemin for Jake Gardiner deal last year but now has 70 points in 76 games since moving to Toronto from the Ducks. Even the most ardent Leaf fans (me) did not see him scoring at over a point per game pace this year. Is now one away from his career high in points and an Alternate captian for the All-Star game.

Jason Garrison
This guy was playing beer league hockey in the summer with a buddy of mine (seriously) and now leads NHL defencemen in goals. He hadn't scored more than 8 goals in a season since 2005 with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCJHL.

Jaromir Jagr
Multiple groin injuries aside, did anyone really expect Jagr to put up near a point per game after three years in Siberia?

Chris Kelly
Always a solid 10-15 goal solid checking guy, currently has 14 goals through 46 games on pace for 25. Oh yeah, and is also a plus 23.

Michael Del Zotto
Sure he's still only 21 years old and had 37 points as a rookie, but he had such a regression last season that this one has to be considered a pleasant surprise. Was minus 20 as a rookie, currently is plus 20 and playing himself into consideration for the Canadian Olympic squad.

Jannik Hansen
The 'Honey Badger's development may be more expected this year after a nice playoff last season, but 13 goals and 25 points is still a pleasant surprise for Canuck watchers. Already bested his career high in goals by 4.

Mike Smith
After never playing more than 42 games in any of his first five seasons, 'Bubbles' is carrying the mail for the Coyotes this year with 37 games played. His .921 save pct. is the highest by far in his career.

Brian Elliot
Although having been usurped again by Jaro Halak, is there any better surprise than Elliot leading the NHL in Goals Against Average? His save pct is almost 30 points higher than in any other season and five shutouts in 22 games ties his career high set in 55 games.

JS Giguere
Not thought of as an elite (or even average) NHL goaltender in about 4 years, but Giggy has had a bit of a renaissance in the thin air of Denver. His .922 save pct and 2.11 GAA are both career bests in his 12th full season.

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