Five under-the-radar NHL story lines: Bruins are surprisingly good

Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty (8) waits during a timeout during during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Friday, Dec. 11, 2015.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty (8) waits during a timeout during during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Friday, Dec. 11, 2015.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Talk around the NHL these days centers on the Washington Capitals, hot rookie Artemi Panarin, the Calgary Flames' recovery and the exceptional play of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

But here are five important story lines falling under the radar:

1. Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) and Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild) should be leading Norris candidates. The award shouldn't only be about point production. Doughty is a primary reason why the Kings are 20-10-2 (through Sunday). Suter is one of the best one-on-one defenders in the game.

2. Boston Bruins are way better than anyone anticipated: Remember the heavy criticism general manager Don Sweeney took for his return on the deals for Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic? Given that the Bruins currently own the ninth-best record entering Sunday's games, it appears Sweeney's offseason plan had considerable merit. The Bruins have the second-best goals per game average at 3.26. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci have had strong seasons. Brad Marchand is on pace for 40 goals. Zdeno Chara is still a force on defense, and Tuukka Rask has found his game.

3. Ryan O'Reilly benefits from move to Buffalo: The hockey world certainly knew O'Reilly (12 goals, 29 points) was a desirable player, but it's odd that his reputation has grown significantly since he landed in Buffalo.

There’s a sharp focus on Buffalo these days because of Jack Eichel and curiosity over how this team will develop. What everyone seems to be noticing is O’Reilly’s skilled, edgy game. He’s a hard-working, gritty competitor who is solid defensively.  Wouldn’t he be the perfect fourth-line role player for Canada in the World Cup?

4. Colorado Avalanche have awakened in recent weeks: Over the past 10 games, they have the best record (8-2) in the tough Central Division. They have a better road record than Minnesota, Chicago and Nashville. Their plus-5 goal differential is fifth in the division, with the Blues one goal better. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has given up nine goals in his last eight starts. He hasn't had a single-game save percentage of under .944 in that span.

5.  Ryan Getzlaf's goal drought is severe: Although Getzlaf is on a pace to record more than 50 points, his goal slump has reached the alarming stage. In 27 games this season, he only has one goal, and that was an empty-netter. He went the last 11 games of the playoffs without a goal, too.

He is not the only reason why the last-place Anaheim Ducks have struggled, but Getzlaf’s reduced production is a major factor. The Ducks need him to lead the way if they want to save their season.