This was the time of the season a year ago that
The Capitals now sit atop the Southeast this time around, picking up where they left off last spring. Likewise, the Northeast's Boston Bruins, who have been the feel-good story so far in the Eastern Conference, aren't leaving another playoff appearance to chance. Goaltender
Last season, the B's made the playoffs by trimming 65 goals-against off the previous season's total. So far this season, the jump is on the other side of the equation, with Boston scoring more goals than any team in the East.
Out west, the Vancouver Canucks have been a revelation. After a 1-4 skid in October, they now lead the tough Northwest Division and are in the midst of a 7-0-2 run that defies preseason prognostication. They seem determined to be part of the postseason mix with their inspired run. Sure, goaltender
Luongo is obviously the foundation on which the Canucks base their game -- being the goaltender captain that he is -- yet the team's play goes beyond their defensive stinginess. Theirs is a hard-charging aggressive team game that is invigorating.
The Sedin twins predictably lead the way in scoring (Henrik was second star of the week behind Bergeron), but
Overall, though, what strikes me about the Canucks is how they get after it every night. They skate furiously and are dedicated on both sides of the puck, things that will stand them in good stead while their captain and cornerstone recuperates.
Both the Bruins and the Canucks are up-and-comers that share that entertaining element of rambunctiousness, and it has them sitting atop their respective divisions where the view is encouraging at the quarter poll. As for the league's disappointing laggards and underachieving bottom-dwellers, yes, a turnaround and playoff position are still viable, but getting untracked as soon as possible is the main order of business as the clock is ticking, and turnarounds on the order of the Capitals, while encouraging, are still relatively rare.