If the season were to end on the eve of Halloween, Detroit, Boston, Anaheim, Carolina and Vancouver would all miss the playoffs. Instead, teams such as Colorado, Buffalo, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Ottawa would qualify.
And that's when you know it's only October.
Not to take anything away from the surprising fast starters, but the opening month did nothing more than support the notion that parity reigns the NHL. How else can you explain an Avalanche team expected to be the worst in hockey that ascends to No. 2, right behind the Stanley Cup champs?
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-2-0, Previous: 1) – With Evgeni Malkin(notes) out for at least a couple weeks due to a bum shoulder, the skate is on the other foot as it's up to Sidney Crosby(notes) to step up the same way Malkin did each of the last two seasons when Crosby missed extended time with injury.
2. Colorado Avalanche (10-1-2, Previous: 30) – Best story of the early season, bar none. Craig Anderson(notes) is emerging as a star in goal. And if you haven't gotten a glimpse of teen-aged rookies Ryan O'Reilly(notes) and Matt Duchene(notes) you really are missing something.
3. Washington Capitals (8-2-2, Previous: 8) – Thirteen goals in his first 12 games puts Alexander Ovechkin on an early pace to threaten Wayne Gretzky's record 92-goal season. Remember, Ovechkin had only three at the same stage last season en route to scoring 56.
4. Buffalo Sabres (7-1-1, Previous: 24) – Probably the least publicized surprise of the early season, the Sabres sure are a stingy bunch on defense thus far.
5. San Jose Sharks (8-4-1, Previous: 4) – Patrick Marleau(notes) is the fastest Shark to 10 goals in franchise history (13 games). Is it because he's playing more relaxed with the burden of being captain? It probably has more to do with the fact he's healthy and thus skating like the wind.
6. New York Rangers (8-4-1, Previous: 22) – Scoring goals hasn't been a problem and the power play is a legitimate threat. Maybe John Tortorella's style is going to work with this group.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (7-4-1, Previous: 6) – It’s still very early, but the 'Hawks just might have what it'll take to snap that eight-year division dominance by the Red Wings. Marian Hossa(notes) is a couple weeks away from his debut.
8. New Jersey Devils (7-4-0, Previous: 12) – One win out of five at home and a perfect 6-0 on the road. How do you explain that? Maybe home ice means nothing, that's how.
9. Phoenix Coyotes (8-4-0, Previous: 20) – Even with Ilya Bryzgalov's(notes) brilliant start, it was hard to see this kind of success coming. But it was suggested this team would be better than most predicted.
10. Calgary Flames (7-3-1, Previous: 7) – The Flames have lost only three times in regulation so they're hanging in there and appear poised while they wait for the Avalanche to hit a bump.
12. Ottawa Senators (6-3-2, Previous: 19) – The good and the bad in the big trade of Dany Heatley(notes) to San Jose: Milan Michalek(notes) had six goals in his first 10 games and Jonathan Cheechoo(notes) had zero in his first 10.
13. Vancouver Canucks (7-6-0, Previous: 2) – With Roberto Luongo(notes), Pavol Demitra(notes), Daniel Sedin(notes), Sami Salo(notes), Kyle Wellwood(notes), Ryan Johnson(notes) and Janik Hansen all nursing early season injuries, the Canucks have every right to whine and complain about their bad luck.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (5-4-1, Previous: 9) – Simon Gagne(notes) has two small hernias that might require surgery. Medical personnel must decide if rest can solve the problem, or opt for surgery that will sideline the offensive threat for at least one month.
15. Edmonton Oilers (6-5-1, Previous: 18) – The Oilers were probably expecting more than two points in the first 10 games from Shawn Horcoff(notes) when he signed a multi-year deal that pays him $7 million this season.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-5-0, Previous: 15) – With a .3.57 goals-against average and .877 save percentage, exactly when does the notion of a sophomore slump start getting applied to Calder winner Steve Mason(notes)?
19. Detroit Red Wings (4-4-3, Previous: 5) – Isn't there something just plain wrong with allowing Brad May(notes) to wear his customary No. 24 so soon after Chris Chelios(notes) has departed? That's not right.
20. Montreal Canadiens (6-6-0, Previous: 14) – Thirty-eight goals allowed in the first dozen games and poor on special teams, the Habs are lucky to have a .500 record.
21. Boston Bruins (5-5-1, Previous: 3) – Before suggesting this team is underachieving, consider the Bruins had the exact same number of victories after 11 games last season en route to a 116-point run.
24. Nashville Predators (5-6-1, Previous: 29) – Here they are, hanging in again despite a horrible power play and not much depth on the roster. The Preds boast a strong defense, though, so as long as they've got that going maybe they can hang tough.
25. Anaheim Ducks (3-6-1, Previous: 11) – Is the Ducks' horrible showing on a long homestand against teams they should beat the precursor to the season's first coaching casualty? Not saying it's Randy Carlyle's fault, but you know how these things go.
26. New York Islanders (2-4-5, Previous: 27) – John Tavares(notes) and the Isles are entertaining, but they can't gain any traction in one of the best divisions in hockey. Wait, the Cup champs are here, so it is the best division in hockey.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (2-6-3, Previous: 10) – The mystifying 'Canes have a lot of problems right now, a seven-game winless streak going into Saturday is front and center, but the fact Eric Staal(notes) has no goals and only one assist in five games at home is shocking.
28. Florida Panthers (2-7-1, Previous: 16) – A nightmare start for probably the best team to miss the playoffs each of the last three seasons. Think the Panthers regret letting Craig Anderson get away? Or Jay Bouwmeester(notes)? Or Olli Jokinen(notes)?
29. Minnesota Wild (3-9-0, Previous: 23) – You knew there would be growing pains with a new coach and a new system, but Todd Richards can't be happy about this start, not to mention an 0-8 record on the road.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-7-2, Previous: 26) – Goaltending and the penalty kill have been atrocious. One regulation win in the first 10 games is not going to cut it in this success-starved city.