Rask, Nash among reasons you should pay attention to the NHL


There's too much to pay attention to when you're a sports fan.

Right now, you got the start of the NBA, the middle of the college football season, the ever-ubiquitous NFL, and, of course, the NHL. While the NHL just began its season three weeks ago, it has been worth paying attention to.

Why has the NHL been worth your attention? Well, this season has had just enough surprises to balance out the expected monotony of good and bad teams. The surprises range from the struggles of reigning Vezina winner Tuukka Rask, Rick Nash looking like Rick Nash again, and two unlikely teams (Montreal and Nashville) dominating the league.

For goaltender Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, the start to his season has been a mess. His current numbers, a .880 save percentage and a 2.91 goals against average, are ugly. He even had the misfortune of getting pulled against the Bruins' rival, the Montreal Canadiens, after giving up five goals and getting tormented by a fan's laser pointer.

So, clearly, it's been a rough season so far for Rask. However, there's still hope for him. Thanks to a capable backup in Niklas Svedberg and an improving Bruins defense, Rask will be able to get rest and face fewer good shots.

After two seasons of disappointment with the New York Rangers, Rick Nash is finally becoming Rick Nash again. Right now, he's leading the league in goals with eight goals on team that has won its last three games.

Rick Nash figures to be a huge factor for the Rangers this year, especially with star center Derek Stepan being out a few more weeks with a broken jaw and veteran defenseman Dan Boyle losing a month with a broken hand. For Nash, however, he has a chance to step up his leadership, score goals, and put his name into MVP consideration.

The biggest question for the Montreal Canadiens and the Nashville Predators is whether or not they can keep it up. For the Canadiens, they're at the top of the Eastern Conference with 12 points through seven games. They haven't dominated these early games (they only have a plus-one goal differential), but they have won close games when needed to, with two shootout wins and a thorough 6-4 beating of their rival, the Boston Bruins.

The Canadiens won't be able to keep up this pace of winning through the season, but they have the firepower and late-game heroics to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings.

The Canadiens were supposed to be at least somewhat decent entering the season. That's what makes the Nashville Predators such a surprise so far this year. Currently, they're tied with the Anaheim Ducks with 10 points in the Western Conference and they've yet to lose a game.

It's quite impressive for a team that fired its longtime head coach Barry Trotz after missing the playoffs last season. However, they still have all-star defenseman Shea Weber and a potential Vezina winner in Pekka Rinne. Thanks to those two pieces, the success of the Predators can last, but in a tough Western Conference, we will just have to see.