Screen Shots: Our Top 5 surprises

Updated: October 31, 2006, 2:54 PM ET
By Adam Proteau | The Hockey News

I've had just about enough of the "surprise!" generation -- you know, the twits who think Punk'd is the new 60 Minutes or the yahoos who believe shaving obscene words into their sleeping friends' eyebrows is the ideal way to show affection.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted no part of that garbage. In fact, I'm famous among my friends for barricading myself behind closed doors when inebriants have left me partially (or fully) incapacitated. It's for their good as much as mine, because if somebody poked me with a sharp stick between the legs while I was unconscious, I just might do serious physical harm to them when I came to.

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That said, there's little I like more in hockey than to be shocked. Whether it's an eighth-place playoff seed making a run to the Stanley Cup finals  happy now, Oilers fans?  or Charles Wang's latest trippy maneuver, there's nothing better than defied expectations and unforeseen circumstances.

The NHL is chock-full of surprises already this season. Here are my top five:

1. Flyers icon Bobby Clarke takes a powder. As I wrote about on The Globe and Mail blog that The Hockey News' writers contribute to, signs of Clarke's disenchantment with the new game have been evident since the NHL lockout ended. Still, of all the white flags to be waved, did anyone expect the first one would be held by the GM with the thickest skin in the league? Not me. But I'd be even more taken aback if Clarke wasn't back in the game within three years.

2. The Canucks as road warriors. Last season, Vancouver was 25-10-6 inside British Columbia's borders, but their record away from GM Place (17-22-2) was ultimately what sunk their playoff battleship. This season, only the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres have won as many games (5) as the Canucks have. If they can hold their home-ice advantage, Alain Vigneault's team should makeup for their late-season letdown in 2005-06.

3. Attendance for the Ducks is mighty awful. Most Anaheimites (Anaheimers? Anaheimians? Anaheimi?) didn't expect the formerly Mighty Ducks to be the upstart contenders they were last season, so you could forgive them for allowing their team to be the seventh-worst home draw (an average of 15,106 per game) in the league. But after seven home games this year, the Stanley Cup favorites are doing even worse at the gate, averaging just 14,351 a night. Kind of makes the L.A. Times' decision to drop full-time NHL coverage a little more understandable, doesn't it?

4. Boston can't score. The Bruins, a team that has Marc Savard, Glen Murray, Brad Boyes, Patrice Bergeron, Paul Mara, Phil Kessel and Zdeno Chara on the payroll, has just 15 goals in seven games, tying them with Philadelphia for the lowest total in the league. That's less than a third of the 46 their division rivals in Buffalo have amassed so far. That's not a lot of offensive bang for the $46.8 million in bucks Jeremy Jacobs is shelling out.

5. Alexander Semin, goal machine. Most prognosticators expected a Russian-born sophomore NHLer to lead the Washington Capitals in scoring all season. But it wasn't Semin, whose best goal output came in 2004-05 with Lada Togliatti. Nevertheless, there he is, with eight goals in as many games this season. Alexander Ovechkin eventually will overtake him in the goals department, but if Semin can keep on burying the biscuit at anywhere close to the pace he's on now, the Caps could challenge for a postseason berth in extremely short order.

Adam Proteau's Screen Shots appears every Monday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at aproteau@thehockeynews.com.

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