Just some quick general thoughts about the skating from day one.
Yuzuru Hanyu is deservedly in first place after an awesome skate. You rarely see a skater so winded after the short program, but it was like a sprint from the start. I love the difficult 3Axel entry and how ridiculously easy he makes the jump look (he does 3Axel/3Axel sequences like they are nothing) and I like this program on him. Would I have had him 10 points out in front? Not quite. The components were too high for me and I'd have them 2+ points lower.
Takahiko Kozuka remains one of my favorites, but I was really bored by his short programs from the last two seasons. Not this year. He moved away from the jazzy feel and returned to something classical, and it works. Great start to the year, and I think his components should have been closer to his teammate (and the skating skills mark should have been higher than Hanyu's). As a side note, I really can't figure out why he always skates long programs with puffy sleeves/loose-fitting clothing. he has nice lines. He should keep it simple and not try to mask them.
Jeremy Abbott.. I don't know. I was confused by the program. I like the concept and I think it fits him better than what we've seen in the last few years as far as short programs go, but I couldn't figure out some of the movements in the first half. It almost looked like he was trying to readjust his outfit at times, but I think it was just some awkward arm/hand choreography (which we have seen from him before). I think the program will grow on me, but I really wish Jeremy would get over making it obvious that he's so nervous and almost too serious about everything.
Tatsuki Machida continues to improve, and I really enjoyed his program. Oh, to be a male skater from Japan right now. He has very little chance of making the World team in this Olympic cycle, but he probably could finish in the top 10 if he did go. Makes you question if the system should be reworked to allow spots based on World Ranking rather than a limit by country. For what it's worth, I thought his components should have been a bit higher.
Konstantin Menshov was a little out of his league in my opinion. I have all the respect in the world for someone who is 29 and just recently starting to produce great results, and also that might have been one of the easiest-looking quad/triple combinations I have ever seen. However, his skating is just not in the league it needs to be if he ever wants to truly be competitive. I thought his skating skill mark, at 7.11, was way too high. At least he has a program that fits more into his style of skating rather than pointing out his flaws.
Michal Brezina's program is cheesy to me. I don't think I will ever grow into it, and he should have been behind Mahbanoozadeh. The fall on the triple toe in the combo looked like it really hurt. Oddly, I got somewhat bored of Michal skating to An American in Paris for two seasons, but I like that traditional look so much more on him than what he comes out with now. Also, while the free skate is 'cool', I have no idea what the mentality was behind keeping that for another season. Oh well.
Armin Mahbanoozadeh was alright. I still don't see the excitement or intensity in him that I saw a few seasons ago (specifically in the free skate at this event two years ago). I still question whether him looking 12 holds his components down. He's made big improvements with new coaches, but the scores don't really reflect the work.
Alexander Majorov got a new choreographer over the summer and I think that was a good idea. The program has potential, but I wasn't really into it today. I see he still has that wild entry into the flip, and it didn't work out this time.
I was excited at the prospects of Tomas Verner skating to Dracula, and there was even a mention by the commentators that he worked with Kurt Browning and Kurt said something about having to skate more exciting. The program didn't do it for me, though. I just haven't been able to get into his skating for a few years now. His program looked really empty in-between the elements when comparing him with the top 4. A 6.68 for transitions was generous, but we can't expect the judges to drop down that much, can we? One of them gave him a 5.25. Good for that judge.
Douglas Razzano rounds out the field. He really improved between two seasons ago and last season, but I don't think he had the spark this time. Components could have been higher, and Menshov should have been getting PCS right around his level.
Volosozhar/Trankov didn't really excite me. The program itself is alright, but I just didn't get into it or really feel anything from them.
Pang/Tong looked out of shape to me, and I wonder how much push they are getting from the Chinese federation about continuing, especially when the only other top team (Sui/Han) are injured and out of the Grand Prix series. I don't think I've ever seen Tong fall that hard on a jump before. Actually, I don't remember him falling much at all. I like them, but I think their components have always been generous.
Denney/Coughlin are another one of those teams that are just 'there' for me, and I don't have much thought. Great height on the twist, though. Her technique entering the triple toe bothers me a little. In any event, I think they should have been ahead of the Chinese.
James/Cipres have made great improvements! I was really surprised by their skate. They are much more steady and focused than last season, where everything seemed unsure and rushed.
I love Castelli/Shnapir, and I think they might be one of the only American teams in recent history that has the 'it' factor potential. She is fearless, they are interesting, and there's a tension in their skating that I really enjoy. So much height on the throws! I hope they go for the 3Axel in the free skate.
Montalbano/Krasnopolski are the 'happy to be here' team but they come off the short program ahead of another team, even if it's by .12. I am really impressed with his consistency and overall skating, but I wonder whether she will ever get to the same level with the jumps. Not a bad effort, but I don't think Requiem for a Dream was the best choice.
Donlan/Speroff were probably my top highlight at Nationals. She has this 'look at me' presence without even trying, and they could one day be amazing. This performance was all over the place, though, and I didn't get into it (as much as I absolutely love the music). Here's to hoping for a solid free skate.