A surprising team that just continues to impress, a goalie on a mission, and a team with its own goaltending woes are all on my mind this week. Read on to see who and what I'm talking about:
The most surprising team at this point in the season is the Dallas Stars. They went into Washington last night to play the Capitals, a team that hadn't lost in regulation at home since Feb. 25, and they dominated the hockey game. The Capitals didn't even have a chance to win because of the amount of mistakes they made, but also because of the pressure, hard work and consistency that Dallas again showed on the road.
The Stars are a very good road team and they're creeping up on people. They're also using that unknown factor to their advantage.
GAA: 2.13 | SVP: 0.936
Dallas has one of the better leaders in the game, a leader that goes unnoticed because of where he plays, in Brenden Morrow. He is one of the toughest pound-for-pound competitors I have ever played against.
I couldn't be happier for Sheldon Souray, who has been a great addition. He got a raw deal in Edmonton, spent a year in Hershey, and he really struggled mentally. Now he is back playing at a high level and contributing every night. That was one of my favorite signings of the summer because I respect Sheldon Souray so much.
The Stars are 11-3 and they've won four in a row despite ownership issues, financial issues, and low attendance numbers. They just go out and go to work. They're going about their business as well as anyone in the National Hockey League right now, and they are the team that is playing the best as a team in the League right now.
The other great thing that I'm enjoying watching is Nikolai Khabibulin, who has been great after a summer of personal issues.
I know Nikky well and I know that he was embarrassed at what happened to him with his legal issues. I truly believe that he wants to make up for his mistake by showing the Edmonton Oilers how good of a goaltender he is. He is a competitor and it seems impossible to beat him right now.
When you look through his mask when the camera is on him, he's as focused as I have ever seen him, and this comes from a guy who has won the Cup. My hats off to Nikky and the way he's playing. Under a 1.00 goals-against average so far -- that's unheard of.
GAA: 3.78 | SVP: 0.878
This is a team that has been flying through the first half of the season. Phil Kessel has been unbelievable. Joffrey Lupul has been unbelievable. Dion Phaneuf is being the captain that everyone wants him to be. With James Reimer, who is one of the better young goaltenders in the NHL and in my opinion one of the guys that saved Ron Wilson's job last year by playing so well, the Leafs were looking great.
Now that Reimer is out, it's no secret that this team is struggling. It's no secret that they've allowed 12 goals in the last two games.
Jonas Gustavsson has not made the big saves when they need it. He continues to get frustrated, and that's trouble for a tired team that is not going to score four or five goals a game and has a young kid who is not the answer as the backup.
Through the first 10 or 12 games the Leafs worked harder than anyone I had seen on the ice. Their speed and aggression on the puck was unbelievable. But, it's only natural that they would have a letdown somewhere, and a lot of that is because their Reimer is not in the net.
If I was a Leafs fan, I would be concerned about how long Reimer is going to be out of the lineup.