Six Early Season PP Surprises
1. Florida Panthers. After seven games, the Panthers are second in the NHL in PP efficiency, with a success rate of 29.6%. Considering the Cats were dead last in the league in this category last season at 13.1%, their hot start is a major eye-opener. Mind you, five of the team's six PP goals to date did come in one game (Oct 17 against crosstown rival Tampa Bay), so clearly this is not a sustainable trend. Having said that, the team underwent a significant overhaul during the offseason, adding guys like Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg who just happen to be No. 1 and 3 in PP scoring right now with six and five PP points, respectively. So maybe the team is poised to take everybody by surprise this year - who knows?
2. Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are tops in the NHL right now with a 31.8% kill ratio. This is less surprising given that the team finished just out of the top 10 last season (11th, 18.5%), however given the absolute lack of any expectations in Denver coming into this season following the team's second-half collapse last year, nobody expected them to jump out to a 5-1-0 start and lead the league in PP%. And five of their first six games were on the road, no less. Granted it's early, but Erik Johnson (five PP assists) is making everyone who scoffed at the trade last season that moved him from St. Louis to Denver look rather silly. The ageless Milan Hejduk (2G, 2A), Paul Stastny (3A) and David Jones (2G) are also contributing.
3. Ottawa Senators. Ok, perhaps not the entire team. See, Ottawa is still a pretty crummy team (1-5-0 on the season and going nowhere fast). But the Sens do happen to be in the seventh spot in the PP rankings right now, due largely to one guy - defender Erik Karlsson - who is enjoying a breakout season thus far, at least on the PP anyway, as eight of his five points on the season are assists of the PP variety. You've also got to like Milan Michalek's showing so far - four PP points (2G, 2A), which matches his entire output from last season. Meanwhile, you have to wonder about Sergei Gonchar - who used to rule the PP point category at one point in his career - however, he has just a single PP helper so far this year despite averaging over five minutes of PP ice time per night.
4. Anaheim Ducks. Third overall in PP% last season, the Ducks are off to a dreadful start with just two PP goals in 20 opportunities (10% success rate, 23rd overall). Teemu Selanne has one goal and Corey Perry the other. Aside from that, these guys just haven't caught fire yet - including Lubomir Visnovsky and Ryan Getzlaf who have just one assist each, and Bobby Ryan and Cam Fowler who have zero PP points apiece thus far. Remember, this is the same team that had opposing teams' PK squads shaking in their boots last season, especially Perry down the stretch as he nailed down his first-ever Hart Trophy in June. We're expecting the Ducks to bounce back before too long - they just have too much talent not to.
5. Detroit Red Wings. Surely the PP standings are inverted thus far, no? Somebody at NHL.com must have posted these numbers upside-down, with Detroit third from the bottom, right? Upon closer inspection, stats don't lie - the Wings have just a single PP goal in 19 opportunities (0-for-12 at home, yikes) for a dismal 5.3% success rate. The only real change to the team's top PP unit so far this year is the absence of Brian Rafalski, who retired during the offseason. Granted, he didn't exactly light it up last year on the PP with zero goals and just 17 helpers, but he was still a key contributor to for the Wings last season and his presence was often felt away from the scoresheet. This year, it's still Nicklas Lidstrom (zero points) on one point, joined by newcomer Ian White (1A) on the other, and veterans Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk down low, a trio that currently has just one assist between them. Like the Ducks, the Wings won't be held down for long. They also have considerable PP depth with a second line comprising of Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary.
6. New York Rangers. Well, all we heard all summer long was how the Rangers were going to light it up this season now that Marian Gaborik had a bona fide playmaking center to play with in Brad Richards. So far, however, the team is taking a little longer to gel than most had hoped, last place in the Atlantic and off to a 1-1-2 start, including zero PP goals in those four games. Who knows - maybe the whole Richards deal will turn out to be a big Broadway bust and he just never finds his feet with guys like Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. In the meantime, however, these guys will continue to form the nucleus of the Blueshirts' first PP unit along with Michael Del Zotto who appears to be back from exile following his demotion to the minors last season.