NHL

The Most Impressive Stats Early in the 2013-14 NHL Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2013

The Most Impressive Stats Early in the 2013-14 NHL Season

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    The first month of the season is just the first chapter of the book.

    Like any mystery, there will be many twists and turns before the full story is written.

    The Colorado Avalanche, for example, may not remain on top in the Central Division by the end of November or certainly by the end of the season.

    The same holds for the individual leaders in the NHL's statistical columns. Josh Harding sits atop the NHL's goals-against leaders, but it doesn't seem likely, based on his track record, that he will remain there.

    However, the Avs could shock the prognosticators, and so could Harding.

    Here's a look at the most impressive statistical performances as the season moves into its second month.

Goals: Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues

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    Brad Watson/Getty Images

    It's usually fairly easy to predict the NHL's goal leaders. Start off with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals or Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and you're going to be right most of the time.

    If either one of those players doesn't finish on top, you might see Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs or perhaps Sidney Crosby.

    It would be a complete shocker to see Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues. Yet Steen is on top of the goal-scoring leaders with 12 tallies. That's two more than Ovechkin and Stamkos and three more than Kessel, Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche.

    Steen has been on fire since the start of the season for the red-hot Blues, who are 8-1-2 through their first 11 games.

    Steen is a moderately talented left winger who has never scored more than 24 goals in any season.

    He should go flying by that mark, but it's difficult to see him remaining at the top of the heap in this vital category.

Assists: Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Henrik Sedin is perhaps the best playmaker in the NHL.

    He led the NHL is assists in three consecutive seasons from 2009-10 through 2011-12, so rising to the top in this category is quite familiar to him.

    Sedin simply has the gift of timing. Not only does he see the play when he has the puck on his stick and pass it accurately to an open teammate, he waits an extra fraction of a second to make the pass. That kind of timing has allowed Sedin to register an NHL-best 15 assists through his first 15 games.

    Sedin is just starting to hit his stride. He has had five assists in his last four games.

    First-year Vancouver head coach John Tortorella is learning firsthand that neither Sedin nor his brother Daniel are "soft" players, despite their reputations.

    "These aren't soft players," Tortorella told the Toronto Sun. "I've had the honor, in this short time, to be with them, up close and personal and see how hard they work and see what they do on the ice."

Points: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    It's no surprise to see Sidney Crosby on top of the league's leaders in scoring with 22 points through his first 14 games of the season.

    However, it might be a surprise to learn that Crosby has won just one scoring title in his NHL career. Crosby finished as the league's leading scorer in 2006-07 when he scored 120 points.

    He has had many brilliant seasons since then, but injuries and other factors have kept him from rising to the top. Crosby is arguably the most talented and best player in the league, but he will have to hold off Henrik Sedin, teammate Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Phil Kessel if he wants to take home the Art Ross Trophy in 2013-14.

    As long as he stays healthy, he has a great chance to do it.

Plus/Minus: Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, San Jose Sharks

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    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    The San Jose Sharks have been dominant in the first part of the NHL season. 

    In addition to building up a 10-1-2 record, the Sharks have scored 51 goals and given up just 24. Their plus-27 goal differential leads to a lot of impressive plus/minus figures on their roster.

    San Jose defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are leading the way in the NHL with plus-13 ratings. 

    Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues are right behind Vlasic and Braun with plus-11 ratings.

Power-Play Goals: Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    It's already been an eventful season for Matt Moulson. The long-time New York Islander was traded to the Buffalo Sabres last week.

    Moulson has already scored eight goals for the Islanders and Sabres, and five of them have come on the power play. No other player has scored more than four goals with the man advantage.

    All five of his power-play goals came in an Islanders uniform, and two of them came in an Oct. 22 game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Goals-Against Average: Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    The 2012-13 season was a difficult one for Josh Harding. He missed two months of the season because of multiple sclerosis and was rarely on top of his game.

    However, when starting goalie Niklas Backstrom suffered a sports hernia before the start of the playoffs, Harding was forced to take over in goal. The Wild were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in five games. Harding was solid, but he was not good enough to stem the tide.

    Backstrom is still not in top form, but Harding is. He has a 6-2-1 record and a league-best 1.22 goals-against average.

    It seems unlikely that Harding will hold off goalies like Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask and Kari Lehtonen by the end of the season, but Harding is playing consistently every night.

    He has given up one goal or fewer in eight of his 10 appearnaces this season.

    Last year's nightmare has turned into this year's dream season for Harding.

Save Percentage: James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    James Reimer is fighting for his job. He was the No. 1 goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and  would like to hold on to that position this year.

    There are no guarantees he will, even though he has a league-best .949 save percentage through six games for the surprising Leafs.

    Reimer and former Los Angeles Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier are battling to see who will be the Leafs' starting goalie by the time the season reaches its crucial point. 

    Head coach Randy Carlyle is not going to rush into his decision, even though most expect Bernier to emerge with the starting position. Reimer is fighting hard to make sure that doesn't happen, and he has been exceptional thus far. 

    If he can maintain his lofty save percentage, he will almost certainly be starting for the Leafs in the playoffs.

Faceoff Percentage: Paul Gaustad, Nashville Predators

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    When it comes to gaining possession of the puck, Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators has been dominant.

    He has been the NHL's best early-season performer in the faceoff circle. No player who has taken 100 draws or more has done better than Gaustad. He has won 147 faceoffs and lost 88 for a 62.6 percentage.

    Gaustad is ahead of Jeff Carter (62.1) of the Los Angeles Kings, Boyd Gordon (60.8) of the Edmonton Oilers and Patrice Bergeron (60.3) of the Boston Bruins. 

    Gaustad may have a hard time holding off Bergeron, Antoine Vermette (59.9) of the Phoenix Coyotes and teammate Matt Cullen (57.6), but he has been sensational for head coach Barry Trotz so far this season.

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