Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 11/1/11

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05: Milan Michalek #9 of the Ottawa Senators during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 5, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Senators 3-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


As always, there were surprises in the first month of the season. Who surprised the most in October? Will those teams/players be able to keep it up?

1. Milan Michalek and the Ottawa Senators
Which team has won six straight games, and has looked impressive in doing so? The Ottawa Senators – the same Ottawa Senators that many people predicted would finish 30th in the NHL this season. There is still plenty of time for that to happen, but you have to give credit to new bench boss Paul MacLean and company.

Jason Spezza leads the team with 15 points, but not many people could have foreseen the season that Milan Michalek has had thus far. Michalek, whose first two seasons in Ottawa were overshadowed by injury, has 13 points in 12 games. It would great for the Sens if Michalek continues his consistency, considering the team doesn’t have much offensive depth to begin with.

2. Nikolai Khabibulin and the Edmonton Oilers
Young teams with confidence can sometimes be a dangerous proposition. Insert, Edmonton Oilers. Tom Renney’s club is currently looking down at the rest of the Northwest Division and tied for the conference lead. Do we expect this to keep up? No. However, high-flying Oilers have shown some positive signs in the early going.

Aside from the young kids and re-emergence of Ryan Smyth, the Oiler that is stealing headlines is goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Earlier this calendar year, Khabibulin was in newspaper clippings for the wrong reasons. Now he has the looks of the goalie that led Tampa Bay and Chicago to deep playoff runs in previous years. Khabibulin has a 1.12 GAA and .960 save percentage. If he continues to stand tall in the crease, there’s no reason to believe the Oilers won’t hang around in the playoff picture.

3. Sheldon Souray and the Dallas Stars
Like Edmonton, most pundits expected the Dallas Stars to finish in the bottom third of the Western Conference standings. Rookie bench boss Glen Gulutzan and his team are proving those doubters wrong with their standout performance thus far. The Stars are 8-3-0 and lead a loaded Pacific Division, thanks in large part to goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

When GM Joe Nieuwendyk signed Sheldon Souray in the off-season, many glossed over it and didn’t think much of it. Souray’s career has been rejuvenated by the move to Dallas. He has eight points in 11 games and is a reason why the Stars’ defense is much improved. Souray also boasts a team-best plus-8 rating. Since the departure of Sergei Zubov, Dallas hadn’t had an offensive defenseman. Now with Souray and Alex Goligoski, they have two of them.

4. Colorado Avalanche
Count the Avalanche as in the same group as the Oilers and Stars. No one expected anything from Colorado, who embarrassingly ended 2010-11 with a 5-26-2 record in their final 31 games. But the new additions (and a clean slate) are making a difference. Semyon Varlamov has been solid (5 wins, .924 save percentage), while Gabriel Landeskog is fitting in nicely. More impressively, the Avs went through October with a 6-1-0 road record.

5. Jaromir Jagr
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren shocked everyone when he dished out $3.3 million to Jaromir Jagr, who hadn’t played in the NHL since the 2007-08 campaign. Through 11 games, the experiment has gone well. Jagr has racked up 11 points in 11 games, and has looked great on a line with Claude Giroux. Obviously, there is still a chance the 39-year-old will hit a wall; but the Flyers have been getting great production from Jagr, which was half-unexpected.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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