We’re halfway into the NHL’s season. As such, we’re going to take a look at each team’s biggest storyline, based on standings. Which means:
- Columbus Blue Jackets: the Blue Jackets, somehow, someway, have become one of the best teams in the NFL, including a 16 game winning streak, good for second best in NHL history. Maybe it was Tortorella finally wearing glasses?
- New York Rangers: the Rangers have a very fast offense, capable of scoring goals quickly. That’s how they’ve overcome their relatively weak defense.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: the Penguins continue to ride on the backs of their stars, this time Crosby has looked like an MVP candidate the whole year and Evgeni Malkin is quietly a spoiler for that award.
- Washington Capitals: Ovechkin isn’t the Ovechkin of previous years, but it turns out that Ovechkin is still a superior player. Holtby doesn’t hurt either.
- Philadelphia Flyers: the Flyers haven’t been as successful, as Shayne Gostisbehere especially has hit a wall. Voracek is the quietest player on a nearly PPG pace. The goaltending situation is quietly awful.
- Carolina Hurricanes: the Hurricanes top 6 is great, so is Cam Ward this season. But the lack of depth in every area for the Hurricanes is troublesome.
- New Jersey Devils: man, Hall and Henrique are trying, but Hall has missed games and there aren’t enough forwards to make up for it. Schneider’s not having a great season either.
- New York Islanders: Who would’ve guessed that the losses of Okposo and Neilsen would end the Islanders hopes and dreams? Plus, it’s been a down year for Tavares and every Isles goaltender not named Greiss.
- Montreal Canadiens: the Canadiens have had to deal with some troublesome injuries, including top 6 winger Brendan Gallagher. But the one guy who can’t get injured for the Canadiens hasn’t.
- Boston Bruins: Too many of the Bruins forwards have been disappointing, but Tuukka Rask in beast mode has made up for that.
- Ottawa Senators: so far, coach Guy Boucher has done what he was supposed to when brought to Ottawa – make the Senators a playoff team. But with their lack of depth on offense, can the Senators hang onto that spot?
- Toronto Maple Leafs: the combination of Matthews, Marner, and Nylander is scary and ridiculous. The rest of the team however, is not. Yet.
- Tampa Bay Lightning: after losing their captain and star forward Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have had to find new avenues to offense. So far, it’s not been enough.
- Florida Panthers: after abandoning coach Gerard Gallant, the Panthers have lost their edge and play style. Luongo is still good, but when a bottom 6 forward for the Lightning last year is your second best scorer, you’re in trouble.
- Buffalo Sabres: After losing Jack Eichel for the first stretch of the season, Eichel has picked up the Sabres’ slack and is tied for seventh in points for the team. Now, if only the Sabres could get a goaltender.
- Detroit Red Wings: before the season, it was well-known that the Red Wings wouldn’t be making the playoffs again this year. What wasn’t well-known is that at the half-way point they wouldn’t be close.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford and Scott Darling have kept the Blackhawks lackluster offense in games. But Kane and Toews are both heating up, and there’s hope on the horizon.
- Minnesota Wild: Devan Dubnyk has turned into a perennial all-star for the Wild, and Eric Staal is back to being Eric Staal, exactly what the Wild needed.
- St. Louis Blues: The Blues lost a lot when they lost Backes and Brouwer, as well as Elliott. Jake Allen and Carter Hutton haven’t done enough to replace that last loss.
- Nashville Predators: The Predators have nothing going offensively, considering injuries to lead goal scorer James Neal and to newly acquired PK Subban. Juuse Saros looks like a star, though.
- Winnipeg Jets: Patrick Laine could be the rookie of the year, even despite tough competition from the Maple Leafs. The Jets lack a proven goaltender, though.
- Dallas Stars: The Stars lack several things: defense, goaltending, and depth. Hemsky has missed time, and Hudler didn’t work out. Turns out the all offense plan didn’t work long.
- Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche are just a bad team, and it’s not because of coaching. There’s no goaltending talent, and the Avs can’t score to make up for it.
- San Jose Sharks: The Sharks can rely on Norris-worthy Burns, the Joe Show (Pavs and Thornton) and Logan Couture. In other words, it’s the same team as last year. Perhaps better, as Jones and Dell have both been great in net.
- Anaheim Ducks: far from the train wreck they were projected to be (another case of the odd turnaround) the Ducks have succeeded on the backs of their Holy Trinity, but only Kesler can score goals.
- Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are yet another surprise team, as they’ve killed it behind the work of Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot.
- Calgary Flames: Chad Johnson’s been better than Brian Elliott. Johnny Gaudreau’s been hurt, and is still tied for the lead in points. Yet, the Flames find themselves in playoff positioning. Huh.
- Los Angeles Kings: Peter Budaj has been a good replacement for Jonathon Quick. In a very down year for Selke favorites, Anze Kopitar isn’t a top five scorer for the Kings, with just 18 points and 3 goals.
- Vancouver Canucks: Bo Horvat has seized the lead for the Canucks, and they’ve maintained near playoff positioning, just a point out in a close race.
- Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes don’t have a ten-goal scorer. They don’t have a 30 point scorer, they don’t have the same Louis Domingue. What they do have is a hurt Max Domi and Brad Richardson, leaders last year.
As you see, the NHL season has been interesting this year. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out.
Also, midseason predictions:
President’s Cup: New York Rangers
Stanley Cup: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Montreal Canadiens
Division Champions: Rangers, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Sharks