Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) skates with the puck as Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (5) and Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie (7) chase in the first period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
(USA Today) -- Some early season NHL trends that could be sustained:
1. Alex Ovechkin scoring at will: Barring injury, Ovechkin seems a sure bet to have his first 50-goal season since 2009-10. He might have a shot at surpassing his personal best of 65 goals.
The Washington Capitals captain is in the midst of probably the hottest run of his career.
Going back to last season, Ovechkin, 28, has scored 26 goals in his past 26 games.
Ovi seems motivated, driven and dominant. It's an Olympic year and he wants to be at his best in Sochi next February.
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He understands coach Adam Oates' system. He has 24 shots on goal in his first three games. The Capitals have the best power play in the league, and premium point man Mike Green is healthy.
Pencil Ovechkin in for another Rocket Richard Trophy.
2. St. Louis Blues dominating: The Blues were expected to challenge the Chicago Blackhawks for supremacy in the realigned Central Division.
But the Blues look deeper and more polished in the early going. Derek Roy seems to be helping the team's offense come together, and Brenden Morrow adds to the Blues' reputation for being very difficult to play against.
The Blues have the NHL's best defense, and now they have more offensive weapons. If their goaltending remains strong, they could pull even with the Blackhawks.
3. Rookie defensemen Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba playing veteran minutes: Two games into his NHL career, Jones, 19, looks like he's the No. 3 defenseman on the Nashville Predators.
Unless his situation changes, he will be a 20-minute defenseman this season. He's very poised for a rookie. He looked even more valuable when Roman Josi went out with a concussion during Nashville's loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
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Trouba (Winnipeg Jets) is playing even more than Jones, averaging nearly 23 minutes per game in his first two games. Trouba, 19, possesses a big shot and a willingness to play physical.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs finding ways to win: The Maple Leafs are not a contender in the mold of the Boston Bruins or Blackhawks or Blues because their defense is not efficient or consistent enough. But they have the scrappiness and offensive might to compete with those teams.
Their quick-strike ability allows them to climb back in games and they seem to have a will to succeed. It's too early to know how exactly their goaltending will play out. However, Jonathan Bernier (0.64 goals-against average, .979 save percentage) continues to show why he deserves a shot to be a No. 1 goalie.
If general manager Dave Nonis could trade for a veteran, defensive-minded defenseman, this could be an intriguing team.
5. Kyle Turris among NHL scoring leaders: Turris, 24, isn't likely to stay among the top 10 scorers. But he has the offensive gifts to be among the top 25-30 scorers. He could push toward 25 goals and 65 points.
The Ottawa Senators forward played at a 50-point pace last season and had two goals and an assist in his final two regular-season games. Turris had six goals and nine points in 10 games in the playoffs and has emerged with one goal and four points in his first two games of this season.
For those scoring at home, that's 16 points in his last 14 games.
6. Colorado Avalanche better than expected: Everyone in hockey knows the Avalanche has some impressive young players, the benefit of finishing low in the standings and drafting early in the first round. When USA TODAY Sports polled 29 top NHL players in September, many mentioned the Avalanche even if they didn't vote for them as the team most likely to be a powerhouse in three seasons.
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The Edmonton Oilers won that vote, but the Avalanche might have a quicker rise. This team will have some growing pains, but it will score goals.
Coach Patrick Roy's influence will be significant. One of his most important attributes as a player was his willingness to concede nothing and to never stop battling. He will try to instill that in this Avalanche team.