Looking back at the first month of the NHL season

Rich Lam

The first month of the NHL season is in the books, and we have plenty of fantastic moments to look back on. Did your favorite moment make the list?

The first month of the NHL season is officially in the books and plenty of  intriguing story lines have developed.

Right off the bat, how great is it that the first month of the season didn't take place in the first month of the new year? Last year's lockout shortened season was so rushed that it felt like you couldn't appreciate all that was happening. It's so much more enjoyable to have a buildup through training camp that leads into a normal schedule.

Of course that's going to constrict once the Olympics hit.

From the bottom to the top

But, in terms of the action, we had an opportunity to see some surprising performances from some prospective cellar dwellers. The Colorado Avalanche are the feel good hit of the fall, jumping out to a 10-1-0 start in October and claiming ownership to the top spot in the Central Division, which could be the league's most difficult grouping. Matt Duchene has been red-hot fire and appears primed for a trip to Sochi.

On the Eastern side of things, the Tampa Bay Lightning also find themselves near the top of the standings despite a poor showing the last few years. Goaltender Ben Bishop has shinned, while the tandem of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos are operating at status quo, meaning exceptionally better than the majority of players in the world's best league.

Tampa is tied with the Boston Bruins for the second most points in the newly formed Atlantic Division, which is presently ruled by the Toronto Maple Leafs. After an active summer that saw several transactions, the Maple Leafs are a precarious team that might be really good or really lucky. Sporting a fantastic duo in goal with James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs have a head scratching shot differential of minus-134. Will their success be sustainable with that significant amount of attempts being directed at their net? Time will tell.

Pacific Division dominance

On the other side of the continent, the Pacific Division has proven to be extremely competitive as the top-five teams are separated by four points entering competition on Friday night. The San Jose Sharks are off to another fast start, collecting points in 12 of 13 contests this season. The Sharks have been a favorite for the Cup for several seasons and many wonder whether this is the year they finally get it done. This start certainly fans those flames.

Impressively, the Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes and Sharks all boasted undefeated home records this month, with each team collecting at least five victories on home ice. Anaheim and Phoenix have both performed well, with Phoenix presently in the midst of a three-game winning streak that includes points in 10 of their last 11 games.

Metropolitan performing poorly

In addition to having the worst name in the NHL, the Metropolitan Division has also proven to be the weakest grouping in the league. With the exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins, every other team in the division has more losses than wins. Needless to say, their point totals are not very high.

The Philadelphia Flyers round-out the grouping, but surprisingly aren't there because of goaltending. Steve Mason has played exceptionally well for the Flyers, but the team's offense has failed to generate much production this season. The team re-acquired forward Steve Downie on Thursday afternoon in the hopes of boosting that deficiency.

Of course, Philadelphia pales in comparison to the inept Buffalo Sabres, who have quickly emerged as the league's weakest team.

Scoring stars

In terms of individual performances, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby once again leads the league in scoring with 21 points. Crosby has collected a point in almost every game this season (held without a point in only two contests) and opened the year with a eight-game point streak. Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is second to Crosby in total points with 18 and is tied with Henrik Sedin and Stamkos with that mark.

Surprisingly, St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen leads the league in goals with 11 in 10 games. Is it sustainable? No, probably not. Impressive? Ohhhh yeah. Washington captain Alex Ovechkin has scored 10 in 12 games, followed by Duchene, Kessel and Stamkos, all of whom have nine.

These are just some of the moments from the season's opening month. Let us know what your favorite moment has been thus far and what you're keeping an eye on in the season's second month.

More from SB Nation NHL:

How to burn out an NHL goalie

The Sabres could be historically bad

When Ovi shoots, good things happen

The Goal: The rivalry between two high schools where hockey is life

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