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THN.com Blog: Third team's a charm

Thanks in part to the goaltending of Rick DiPietro, the Islanders have been the NHL's surprise team this season.

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Thanks in part to the goaltending of Rick DiPietro, the Islanders have been the NHL's surprise team this season.

Ottawa, at 16-3-0, is No. 1 in the NHL, while the top team in the West, Detroit, is second overall.

But do you have any idea which NHL team ranks third overall, in terms of winning percentage?

The New York Islanders.

Yes, at 11-6-0, the Islanders are winning at a .647 clip and trail only the Senators (.842) and Red Wings (.725). However, coach Ted Nolan’s team isn’t the only club playing well above expectations as the NHL season nears the quarter pole.

Through Nov. 19, there were six other teams with a winning percentage of .600 or better: Carolina (.643), Montreal (.625), St. Louis (.611), Colorado and Philadelphia (tied at .605) and Minnesota (.600).

What do those clubs have in common? Only Minnesota made the playoffs last season.

As for the Islanders, the secret to their success seems to be: Don’t worry about getting blown out, as long as you win the close ones.

New York has lost 8-1 (to Toronto) and 8-3 (to Carolina) this season, but is 5-2-0 in its past seven games – with each contest decided by just one goal. They are the first team in NHL history to play seven consecutive one-goal games that were decided in regulation time.

Not bad for a team that lost five of its top seven scorers from last year and was widely dismissed as a playoff afterthought in the pre-season.

Lower-case Capitals

At the other end of the spectrum are the Washington Capitals, who kicked off 2007-08 with three straight wins – and have gone 3-13-1 since.

The Caps have already had a three- and two four-game losing skids; they’re 2-6-0 at home; and, since beating Toronto 7-1 on Oct. 29, have gone 1-7-1 with 15 goals for in those nine games. (Alex Ovechkin scored five of those 15 goals and with 22 points on the year, has been in on 48 percent of Washington’s 46 goals.)

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The Birds

Look who’s back.

The Atlanta Thrashers, who started the season 0-6-0, ultimately costing coach Bob Hartley his job, have won 10 of 14 to hit .500 through 20 games; with 20 points, they’re ninth in the East and surely breathing a lot easier after their season looked like a lost cause.

GM Don Waddell, who will stay on as head coach for the rest of the year, can thank super-sniper Ilya Kovalchuk for the turnaround; the left winger has 11 goals and 17 points in his past eight games and leads the NHL with 17 goals on the season.

White-hot Lightning

If Kovalchuk is hot, Vincent Lecavalier is white-hot.

The Lightning center is riding an eight-game multi-point streak – i.e. he has had eight consecutive multi-point games – with seven goals and 21 points in that span.

The highlight was a three-goal, five-point (and plus-5) effort in a 6-1 win over Carolina Nov. 14.

Lecavalier (34 points), with the longest multi-point streak since Jaromir Jagr got hot for 10 straight games in 1995-96, has taken over the NHL scoring lead, edging ahead of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (30 points each).

The Osgoodinator?

In Detroit, one of the Red Wings goalies is 9-1-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

The other netminder is 5-4-1 with a 2.89 GAA and .859 save percentage.

Chris Osgood is the former; Dominik Hasek, owner of six Vezina and two Hart Trophies, is the latter.

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