As we approach the end of January, that also means the All-Star Game is right around the corner. With that being this weekend in St. Louis it is time to take a look at a recap of the first half and who is the favorite to hoist Lord Stanley come June.
Contrary to last season, the Lightning started off abysmal while the Bruins started to run away with this division, leading by as many as 16 points. Now, January has come and Boston has lost some of that fire while some of the other teams such as Tampa and Florida have gained that fire back. Now, the standings look as such:
BOS: 70 pts, TBL: 62 pts, FLA: 61 pts, TOR: 57 pts, BUF: 51 pts, MTL: 51 pts, OTT: 42 pts, DET: 28 PTS
I expect Toronto to really turn on the gears and overtake Florida for the third spot but other than that I don’t expect much change as Boston has seemed to click once again and they look to be getting reinforcements with players returning from injury and the trade deadline.
This is a division with many teams such as NYR and NJ in rebuild while the Caps and Pens just keep being the dominant force that they have always been as Washington leads the NHL in points right now. With Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Carlson as their backbone this team will not be stopped. It also doesn’t help that Holtby has been solid in net for them as well. The Islanders have been the shock team to me because of how well they have come together despite there being so much young talent on one team and just one year removed from the whole Tavares drama. The standings are as such:
WSH: 71 pts, PIT: 67 pts, NYI: 63 pts, CBJ: 62 pts, CAR: 61 pts, PHI: 60 pts, NYR: 50 pts, NJ: 41 pts
I expect the Caps and Pens to push for that top spot now that Crosby is back in the lineup while the Islanders continue to play consistent hockey and take that 3rd spot while Carolina steals the wild card spot from Columbus thanks to Justin Williams and the Jackets end up on the outside thanks to Florida.
This division is all sorts of messed up. At the beginning of the year, I had San Jose as a runaway favorite but now they have seemed to just phone it in. Arizona has gotten ridiculous play from Kessel and their two goalies while Vegas has been subpar and fired their coach. Per usual though, Conor McDavid has been spectacular while leading his team to the second spot in the division behind Vancouver. The standings are as such:
VAN: 58 pts, EDM: 57 pts, Cal: 57 pts ARI: 57 pts, VGK: 57 pts, SJ: 46 pts, ANA: 43 pts, LAK: 41 pts
I honestly have no idea what will happen in the second half of the year as any one of these teams could rocket to the top or fall off completely. The one team I can maybe count on being consistent is Edmonton because of that one two punch with McDavid and Draisaitl. This division will have both wild card teams I predict though as it just seems too good of a race for them not to be competitive.
The reigning champs have been playing well behind a solid goalie in Binnington and a great defensive core. I was impressed with their victory last season and Berube just always puts them in a great spot. The Avalanche can contend though with Nathan MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen. The rest of the division as usual is unpredictable as we’ve seen so far this season as Nashville has not played up to their expectations and fired Laviolette. The standings are as such:
STL: 68 pts, COL: 62 pts, DAL: 58 pts, CHI: 54 pts, WPG: 54 pts, MIN: 52 pts, NSH: 51 pts
This division in my mind has been very unpredictable but it seems in the last couple years, the Blues and Avalanche have seemed to be the the top tier teams so I expect them to be the one and two seeds here while the Jets who have a significant amount of talent slides into the 3rd spot and wipes away Dallas’s chance of a Championship parade.