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THN.com Blog: Early season NHL X-Files

Ryan Dixon
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Mikhail Grabovski is on pace for 148 shots on goal this season.(Photo By: Dave Sandford/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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THN.com Blog: Early season NHL X-Files

Ryan Dixon
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It doesn’t take long for a season to get odd.

People who laid bucks down on the Ducks or wished upon the Stars can start breathing a little easier, but there are still plenty of things happening around the league to induce some head-scratching.

Try wrapping your brain around some of these absurdities:

• The Toronto Maple Leafs are a firing squad. Overall, the Leafs are averaging 34.1 shots per game, third-best in the league. But in its past five games, Toronto is putting an average of 40 pucks on goal, including a 48-shot effort Tuesday night against New Jersey.

There may be a dearth of talent among the Leafs forward group (hence the low goal total despite all the shots), but to borrow and alter the meaning of a phrase from Jay-Z, you can’t knock the hustle.

Incidentally, don’t you think Jacques Lemaire still sheds a single, silent tear when he opens the newspaper and reads the Devils surrendered 48 shots at home?

• Jonathan Toews and Filip Kuba are bound by the fact they don’t have a single goal this year, but it’s what separates the pair that’s truly batty.

Kuba has six more points than Toews based on the fact he’s posted 11 assists through Ottawa’s first nine games. He’s almost halfway to equaling his career-high of 25 helpers and it’s not even Halloween yet. He also has more points than any other NHL blueliner.

Tell you what: if Alexandre Picard – a 23-year-old with a 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame – continues his climb toward becoming a highly serviceable defenseman, Ottawa isn’t going to fret over losing Andrej Meszaros.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s young captain clearly has a touch of the sophomore jinx. I expect he’ll shake it soon.

• The NHL has come out and told its teams they don’t have to worry about getting too specific when discussing injuries. What’s next; Mother Nature telling fish she’s passed a law stating it’s OK to swim all day?

Doesn’t exactly represent any departure from what was already going on.

• I wanted to wait until the end of this blog to address the Blues, just to make sure things didn’t suddenly change in the last few minutes.

It’s been a downright spooky-weird season in Missouri, right from the moment sophomore defenseman Erik Johnson hurt himself while riding in a golf cart during training camp. Then Manny Legace injured himself tripping on a carpet that had been laid out for a pre-game puck drop with vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The Blues’ power play is clicking at 34.2 percent, thanks in large part to the fact Keith Tkachuk has six man-advantage markers and is a goal-a-game sniper overall through eight contests.

The penalty kill, not to be completely outdone, is sixth-best in the league.

But the improbable doesn’t stop there. The Blues’ top 4 scorers – Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes, Paul Kariya and Tkachuk – are all minus players, which speaks to the team’s dependency on power play goals.

Four is also the number of goalies who’ve drawn crease duty in St. Louis. That’s an average of one new goalie every second game.

We’ll make a quick switch from the Blues to Blueshirts and get you out of here on this note; Nikolai Zherdev, minus-52 for his career entering this season, has the best plus/minus in the NHL at plus-9. (Tied with Carolina’s Niclas Wallin.)

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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THN.com Blog: Early season NHL X-Files