We’d like to meet whoever picked the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Pacific Division, but we’re afraid such person does not exist.
Adding to the energy of the expansion city would have been sufficient enough for a team assembled from excused talent. But coming together to deliver the greatest debut season in history in addition to that division banner? That’s straight out of Major League.
Wild things do, however, happen in the NHL.
In a year that humbled most prognosticators, here are five other unpredictable storylines from the 2017-18 season:
Barzal blasts off
Talk about being ready for take-off; Mathew Barzal soared in his first NHL campaign.
The Islanders centre has been as consistent as any this season, collecting at least 10 points every month with the exception of October. But as cool as consistency is, being explosive is better. Included in Barzal’s 19 multi-point games are three five-point bursts.
Padding his totals with 61 assists (which ranks fifth league-wide), the zone-entry wiz became the first rookie since Evgeni Malkin to eclipse the 80-point plateau, making him a lock for the Calder Trophy.
Wild Bill with more G’s than the Bellagio
In his past two NHL seasons, William Karlsson combined to score 15 goals. This year, the goal-scoring-machine-from-out-of-nowhere has 43 and counting. He went from being barely a threat, to an NHL goalie’s worst nightmare.
Seriously. Look at this.
William Karlsson with a DISGUSTING goal of the year candidate pic.twitter.com/xUGwI1HekK
— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) April 1, 2018
His production is impossible to explain. At 25, the former second-round pick is a reminder to the entire league that some players take more time than others to develop. Luckily for Vegas, it didn’t have to do any of the waiting.
So nice, they surprised twice.
There weren’t extremely high hopes for the Bruins coming into the season, but stumbling out of the gates with six wins from their first 17 starts certainly wasn’t the expectation most had for a team that made the postseason the year prior.
What provided complete shock for most, however, is that since playing possum at the start of the season, the B’s racked up 43 wins to just 13 regulation losses to wrest the Atlantic Division lead from a Tampa Bay Lightning team that jumped out to a 13-2-2 start.
For the first time in a long time, there was a shimmering light at the end of the tunnel for the Oilers. Connor McDavid dragged them back to the promise land, where they offered the look of a perennial playoff team.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. The Oilers have seen Cam Talbot endure the worst season of his career, and the McDavid-led attack sits 20th in the NHL with a minute 2.8 goals per game despite the captain’s Art Ross brilliance.
Just an added kick for the Oilers is the fact that Taylor Hall continues to dominate while making a strong case for league MVP.
The Jets finished the 2016-17 season on a bit of a high note with a seven-game winning streak. However, the team still had a big issue to hash out: trouble between the pipes.
The initial resolution? Steve Mason. But after he allowed 16 goals in his first three starts, it looked like the same issues would again torpedo Winnipeg.
Re-enter Conor Hellebuyck.
After his shaky season, Hellebuyck has shut the door. His 2.38 goals against average and .923 save percentage rank amongst the league’s best at the position. The Jets possess quite a talented roster, but it was Hellebuyck’s steady presence in the net which helped the team during some injury-filled stretches.
Winnipeg is no where near as successful as it has been without Hellebuyck’s strides.
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