5 Biggest Surprises of the NHL Season Thus Far

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: Mike Hoffman #68 of the Florida Panthers stakes with the puck against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on November 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the least predictable and toughest to win of those of any sport. However, the NHL has proven that even the regular season can amaze its fans through these five unexpected moments this season.

5. Florida Panthers Developing Ahead of Schedule

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: Brett Connolly #10 of the Florida Panthers looks on against the Washington Capitals in the first period at Capital One Arena on November 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Though expectations were reasonably high after the Panthers hired Joel Quenneville, the team has shot out of the gate with 29 points in 25 games, the second-best record in the Atlantic Division. Despite a below-par start from Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov's outstanding performances as well as their tremendous depth have more than made up for questionable goaltending.

4. Edmonton Oilers Return to Form

DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 27: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers advances the puck against the Colorado Avalanche in the first period at the Pepsi Center on November 27, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Oilers looked destined to reclaim their former glory in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs before blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 5 against the Anaheim Ducks. After two disappointing seasons since then, the Oilers have jumped out to the Pacific Division lead now that they have the defensive consistency to support Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

3. The Arizona Coyotes in Playoff Position With League's Best GAA

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 27: (L-R) Alex Goligoski #33, Michael Grabner #40, Brad Richardson #15 and Christian Fischer #36 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrate after Goligoski scored a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on November 27, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 4-3 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona is just two points behind Edmonton after seven straight seasons without reaching the playoffs. Their 86-point campaign last year was surprising enough, but they have shocked many with four very balanced lines and an active defensive unit. Darcy Kuemper has played to an excellent 2.03 GAA and combined with backup Antti Raanta for the league's best mark.

2. Tristan Jarry Outplaying Matt Murray

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 28:  Tristan Jarry #35 of the Pittsburgh Penguins tends goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on November 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Murray has played 11 more games, but it's definitely quality over quantity considering Jarry's GAA is a mere 2.01, compared to Murray's surprising 2.72. Also, Murray's save percentage is just .901, while Jarry's is .938. Jarry's stats are the best among qualifying goaltenders this season.

1. Robin Lehner and Islanders Both Playing Well Without Each Other

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 16: Robin Lehner #40 of the Chicago Blackhawks plays against the Nashville Predators  at Bridgestone Arena on November 16, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Lehner's return to the NHL and glory with the Islanders while battling mental health issues and drug addiction was inspirational, so it seemed a little odd when he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks after winning the Vezina Trophy. It led many to wonder whether he was a product of the Islanders' system or vice versa. Yet, the Islanders are a top-five team in the NHL with 34 points, and Lehner is second in save percentage and in the top-10 in GAA.