January 16, 2009 by Big Tony
Every team in the NHL has now played at least 41 games which means the halfway point has officially been surpassed so sort of mid-season review is in order to see where things have gone and where we are headed as the stretch run approaches. Boston, Detroit, and San Jose are clearly the three best teams in the league each achieving high marks each by adding their own flavor. The second tier of teams includes the likes of the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Philadelphia Flyers who can all make a ton of noise in the playoffs and should not be forgotten about.
The halfway point’s biggest disappointments have to be Edmonton, Pittsburgh, and Dallas in no particular order. Edmonton was picked to win the Northwest division by many and now sit tied for last place with 45 points. Their expected top players are underachieving not scoring very much and although defensively they aren’t terrible, good is not a good adjective either. Last year’s East champions are floundering in Pittsburgh currently sitting in the 8th spot and are losing players like crazy seemingly on a nightly basis. The Penguins have suffered a number of injuries this season (and even before the season began) including superstar Sidney Crosby who is out with a knee injury (see http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/injuries?teamAbbrev=pit for a complete list of their injuries). This has resulted in a large number of AHL players having to skate for Pittsburgh but nevertheless they are not playing well and look far from last year’s finals form. As for Dallas, well last season’s conference finals appearance and subsequent thrashing by Detroit seems to be having a lasting effect. To follow the 4-2 series loss the Stars signed trouble free agent Sean Avery (who has been dismissed by the team), are getting unusually poor play from Marty Turco with subpar defense in front of him and oh by the way they are in 12th in the West.
Enough doom and gloom there are some brighter points to perhaps balance these sob stories and they are the reemergence of the Chicago Blackhawks and the stellar play of the sleeper Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes may be in financial trouble by they are playing like a team bound for the playoffs and ready to ruin another team’s cup chances. Meanwhile the Blackhawks have evolve into quite a formidable team who can certainly do more than spoil the cup dreams of other teams come mid April. There is so much more to talk about and so little time but sit back and buckle up ladies and gentlemen for the second half of the season is sure to entertain men, women, and children alike. Just sit back and enjoy the ride as we watch the world’s greatest athletes charge toward sports’ most coveted trophy.