The NHL season has officially entered the part of the schedule where there is a mandatory four-day break period for the impending all-star festivities. Each team will be sending at least one of their most talented player to Los Angeles, there they will compete in numerous skill competitions (Saturday on NBCSN at 7:00 PM ET) and finally the 3 on 3-styled all-star game (Sunday on NBC at 3:30 PM ET). So, at this universally known “mid-way” point of the season how has certain teams and more specifically certain players performed? Let’s take a look.
In the Eastern Conference, we have seen many surprises. Whether it be the Columbus Blue Jacket’s historic win streak that ended at 16, the Detroit Red Wings whose streak of 25-consecutive post-season appearances is in jeopardy (currently 7th in the conference), or the Toronto Maple Leafs who have mustered a very respectable first half of the season (55 pts, 9th in the conference) solely relying on their rookies who have combined to score 179 of their 380 total points this year. There also has been a lot of expected. The Washington Capitals have the best record in the league with 72 points, Sidney Crosby has lead the Penguins to an impressive 30-13-5 record (3rd in the conference), and the New York Rangers (5th in the conference) are currently in a playoff spot much like they always are at this time of the year. Another overarching theme of the Eastern Conference this year is the dominance of the Metropolitan Division. As of right now the two Eastern Conference wild card positions are occupied by Metropolitan teams. Metropolitan teams have also accumulated 473 points to the Atlantic Division’s 434 points.
In the Western Conference, things look eerily similar to what they were at the end of the regular season last year. Six of the eight playoff teams from last year currently reside in a playoff spot. However, there has been a few surprises. The defending Central Division Champions, the Dallas Stars, have been utterly disappointing. With only 50 points thus far this year Dallas has been struggling mightily. A huge storyline among the NHL this year has been the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are looking to end a 10-season playoff drought as they currently sit 4th in the conference fairly in part due to Connor McDavid’s remarkable year. To go along with the good, there’s always the bad, and the Colorado Avalanche have done a great job of supplying us with it. With a league worst 13-31-2 record, you better believe that a major shakeup of their roster will take place come the February 27th trade deadline.
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Sidney Crosby
Even though Sidney Crosby has missed five games this year due to injury he has not missed a step. Crosby has tallied 55 total points (28G,27A) in only 42 games played. To go along with his impressive point total, he also holds a remarkable 2.99 points/60min and a 1.77 goals/60min.
Runner-up: Connor McDavid
Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie): Devan Dubnyk
Devan Dubnyk has built off last year’s success and currently boasts a league high in both save percentage (.936%) and goals against average (1.88). He also leads the NHL in win percentage as he has produced a 27-8-3 record. Dubnyk is ad mist a career year and if he continues to put up these fabulous numbers he should be awarded the Vezina trophy at years’ end.
Runner-up: Sergei Bobrovsky
Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the “Year”): Patrik Laine
Two rookies have taken the NHL by storm this year. Matthews and Laine have put together great years, but thus far an edge must be given to Laine. Laine has put up one more point in three fewer games than Matthews, owns a +7 to Matthews’ +2, and has logged more time on ice than Mathews. I do feel that Matthews will perform better the second half of the year and overtake Laine and be crowned rookie of the year at the years’ end. Mathews’ has been far superior in the sense of possession statistics, for example, he has a Corsi rating of 51.8% compared to Laine’s 47.2% and a Relative Corsi (shots generated while player is on ice compared to off the ice) of 2.5 compared to Laine’s -4.3.
Runner-up: Auston Matthews
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top Defenseman): Brent Burns
This was perhaps the toughest decision I had to make, but Brent Burns point total (21G 30A) is just outrageous for a defenseman. Burns has outscored every other defenseman in the league by 12 points. When comparing him to Ryan Suter he has blocked 18 more shots than him, and if you are comparing him to Erik Karlsson Burn’s has 8 more hits than he does. Burns also outperforms Karlsson and Suter in possession metrics with a higher Corsi statistic (53.1%<48%<46.5%) and a higher Relative Corsi (3.8<0.7<-2.6).
Runner-ups: Erik Karlsson and Ryan Suter
Frank J. Selke (Top Defensive Forward): Patrice Bergeron
This would-be Patrice Bergeron’s 4th Selke award. Although the offensive statistics haven’t been there for Patrice this year, he has certainty contributed on the defensive end. He is the heart-and-soul of the Boston Bruin’s 2nd ranked penalty kill unit. He also holds the lowest CA60 (min. 500 minutes played) in the league at 42.66 which contributes greatly to his league best Corsi (min. 500 minutes played) of 62.4%.
Runner-up: Anze Kopitar
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the “Year”): Todd McLellan (Edmonton Oilers)
A lot of people might disagree with my opinion on this one but if you put a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in ten years you deserve some recognition. Todd McLellan has coached his Oiler’s to a 28-15-8 record which is currently good for 4th in the Western Conference. The seven-year Oiler’s rebuild might finally be paying off as McLellan has the Oilers in a prime position to make the playoffs going forward.
Runner-ups: Bruce Boudreau (Minnesota Wild) and Barry Trotz (Washington Capitals)