Monday, January 26, 2015

Your NHL Midseason Report

Ryan Getzlaf has the Ducks primed for a Stanley Cup run.
By Andy Dougherty (@AndyDougherty10)

On Sunday, Team Toews took down Team Foligno 17-12 in the NHL’s highest-scoring All-Star game ever. As the All-Star break wraps up, let’s take a look back at the best highlights from the first half of the year.

Goal of the Year

Sabres forward Tyler Ennis leapt past the Montreal Canadiens’ goal and put a blind backhand past Carey Price while falling down. ESPN listed this play third in its Top Ten Plays of 2014 in all of sports.

Save of the Year

Blake Comeau was left all alone in front of the net, and it looked like he had burned Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward with a nice move. But Ward stayed with the play and made an unbelievable save with the blade of his stick.

Best Team

The Anaheim Ducks have been the class of the NHL this year. Their 68 points lead the league, and if they continue on their current pace, they’ll finish in first place with 119. Ryan Getzlaf is an MVP candidate and 2010-11 MVP Corey Perry is still an elite goal scorer. The Ducks’ goal differential only ranks 12th in the league, but they have an insane 22-0-6 record in games decided by one goal. That record bodes well for how they should perform under pressure in the playoffs.

Biggest Surprise

The New York Islanders have not won a division title since 1988 or a playoff series since 1993. They were the NHL’s worst team in 2008-2009, when they were also the worst professional sports team in New York. Now they have built a solid team around John Tavares, who has become one of the league’s biggest superstars. By late November, the Islanders had won more games than the Jets, Giants, Nets and Knicks combined.

Suddenly, they’re the best team in New York.

Biggest Disappointment

The L.A. Kings have dramatically underperformed this year. After winning the Stanley Cup in dominant fashion, they currently sit just outside of the playoff picture. With the vast majority of a star-studded championship roster returning, the Kings were expected to have their best regular season since the Gretzky days. It hasn’t turned out that way. Now they’ll just have to hope things play out like they did in 2012, when they entered as the 8th seed in the Western Conference and won 16 of 20 playoff games to hoist the Cup.

The MVP Race

This honor almost always goes to a forward, but this year, the two most productive forwards are on mediocre teams. Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars lead the NHL in assists and goals respectively, and they are first and second in points. But their teams are 12th and 11th in their respective conferences.

Meanwhile, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne has led the Predators to the second-best record in the NHL by going 29-6-2 as the starter. In the games he has missed, Nashville has gone 1-4-3. His save percentage is .931, he has allowed 1.96 goals per game and he has 29 wins. All of those numbers lead the NHL among goalies who have played at least 25 games.

Unfortunately, a sprained knee will likely sideline him for the next month, hurting his chances of winning the MVP or the Vezina trophy, awarded to the league’s best goaltender. Carey Price of the Canadiens is the only other goalie among the leaders in every major category, so he has the best chance to overtake Rinne for those honors by the end of the year.

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