Halfway point of the NHL season

January 25, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

With the 2017-18 NHL season at the halfway point, there have some terrific and entertaining surprises, both good and bad.

Starting off the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals are in front of the pack, led by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on the Lightning, and Alex Ovechkin, and despite getting off to a mediocre start in October, they have been on fire since that month ended, and lead the Metropolitan division.

Right behind the two teams is the New Jersey Devils, who have definitely made an impressive turn around since last season. Last year, they were dead last in their conference, and only won 28 games. Now, they have won 22, and are poised to make the playoffs, thanks in no small part to youngster Taylor Hall.

The Toronto Maple Leafs is one of the best teams at the moment. But don’t get your hopes up. They have been known to falter in the second half of the season. Right now the team is tied with the Boston Bruins for second in their division.

The Leafs started the season off in an entertaining, but concerning way. They won several games in wild fashions, 8-5, 7-2, 6-4. Though offensively they’ve been great, defensively these crazy victories shown they need to shore up the blue line.

Star Auston Matthews and James Van Riemsdyk continue to provide goals, while veteran new-comer Patrick Marleau has surprised, at least myself, with his performance. Despite his age, 38, he’s scored 15 goals so far, third on the team.

Youngsters Mitch Marner and William Nylander have not had the explosive season like last year. Though Nylander and Marner are second and third in points on the team respectively, they have yet to crack the double digits in goals, something they easily accomplished last season. However, they are known to pass the puck and set up plays more so than scoring, but if they want to stay with the Leafs, they need to provide a goal here and there, not just once every 16 games. Fortunately, they’ve regained a bit of that scoring magic, and still have plenty of games to show off their talent.

Overall, the Leafs are doing well. When December rolled around, coach Mike Babcock began to focus on the team’s defence, creating tighter games decided by one or two goals. Though it is addressing and helping fix the team’s constant blue line problem, it’s created a bit of a stifle in their offence. They’ll need to balance both if they want to continue their winning ways this second half of the season, and make the playoffs.

Overall the Eastern Conference is quite peculiar. White the Metropolitan Division is a close race, with teams being pushed out of the division lead or wild card spot by loosing just a couple games, the Atlantic looks like it’s already set. All five bottom teams in the conference are part of the Atlantic Division, with Tampa, Toronto, and the Bruins sitting well above the next place Detroit Red Wings, who are 12 points back. If any of those teams (including Montreal and Ottawa) can get into the playoffs, they’ll have to pull off an impressive run, but so far, have hardly shown any of that.

In the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks are surprisingly out of the division lead and wild card spot. However, this season’s Western Conference will most likely be a race to final game, as, apart from the bottom three, all remaining teams are within a few points of the wild card or division top three.

One of this years’ stand out teams is no doubt the Vegas Golden Knights. Playing in their inaugural season, they are first in their division, conference, and second league-wide. The Knights are certainly shining in their first season, surpassing everyone’s expectations.

The most disappointing is the Edmonton Oilers. Like the Leafs, the Oilers last year surprised everyone with their league and season dominating performance. Unlike the Leafs, the Oilers have not been consistent this year because of poor defence, and are near the bottom of the conference.

The 2017-18 NHL season marked the centennial year of the formation of the league back in November, and it’s certainly been a great one. Given the way several teams have surpassed or failed our expectation, the second half is sure to be full of those same surprises

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