You probably could have predicted that Martin Brodeur would smash Terry Sawchuk's all-time shutouts record by Christmas.
After all, the game's best goaltender only needed three whitewashes to finish off his assault on Sawchuk's long-standing mark. Heck, if Brodeur hadn't missed several months last season with a bicep injury, the record would have been broken a long time ago.
But what most couldn't have predicted - in fact nobody did - is that the Devils would be the best team in the NHL by the time Santa comes down the chimney. A 4-0 pounding of the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins last night gave Brodeur another record - what more does he have to play for? - and put the Devils three points clear of the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference and four points up on the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
A league-best 13-2-1 road record has fueled Jersey's rise to the top, as has the return of former head coach Jacques Lemaire, who replaced Brent Sutter after Sutter bolted to Alberta and has once again made the Devils hockey's stingiest team (well, second stingiest, behind Chicago). Under Lemaire, the Devils have shaved almost a half-goal off their defensive record compared to last year under Sutter.
While many are suggesting Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller will be the star of Team USA at the Vancouver Olympics, not enough are considering the potential impact of Devils forward Zach Parise, currently sixth in NHL scoring and quickly becoming the best forward ever drafted and developed by Lou Lamoriello.
Winger Niclas Bergfors is second among all rookie scorers, but the Devils have also received contributions from relatively anonymous types like Vladimir Zharkov, Ilkka Pikkarainen, Tyler Eckford, Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond and Matthew Corrente.
The Devils the team nobody talked about last summer or earlier this fall, are back on top.
Notes: In the west, no team is falling faster than the Columbus Blue Jackets, and speculation is starting to mount about Ken Hitchcock's job status. That seems a bit ridiculous. . .In the east, Philly has lost 14 of 17 and you have to wonder how many players off a team that seems to be rotting inside will Steve Yzerman want on Team Canada? Chris Pronger, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are the key candidates, but Richards and Carter are really struggling offensively.