“Wow!” is about all I can muster at this point. With a quarter of the NHL season completed, it sure is looking interesting.
First off is a recap of the current conference standings for the East and West, where in the East, it is the tightest that it has been for quite a while. The Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs are surprising everyone with turn-around seasons, and are positioned 2nd and 3rd respectively. The rest of the East is to be expected, with Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, and Philidelphia mixing it up as per usual, with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils barely hanging on to a top 8 spot.
Speaking of the Pittsburgh Penguins, they have finally regained the use of number 1 star forward Sidney Crosby, after such a long time off from concussion-based injuries, dating back as far back as January and the Winter Classic of this year. In his return, you could almost call it triumphant – he certainly hasn’t missed a beat with scoring a goal in his first game, and most recently against the Ottawa Senators he gained 3 assists. He will definitely be heading toward the top of the points table very shortly.
The Winnipeg Jets are definitely looking like a top 8 contender, with getting points in 7 out of their last 10 games with their most recent win against the Carolina Hurricanes; a traditionally tough team regardless of their standings. This puts the Jets sitting in the Eastern Conference with 22 points, only 3 points behind 8th place New Jersey Devils. If they keep performing and winning key games, they could be a surprise late-season addition to the Playoffs.
Another surprise in the East are the Boston Bruins, most recently going on a 10-game winning streak, only just recently broken by the Detroit Red Wings, and by a shootout no less. Considering there is the usual talk of post-Stanley Cup blues and the Stanley Cup Champions suffering from such a long season, after a slow start the Boston Bruins are definitely looking like they could make it to the Finals again.
The New Jersey Devils, who failed to make the Playoffs for the first time in 13 years last season, have had a generally positive start to the season, with adjusting to their new Head Coach Peter DeBoer’s system. They have won 7 out of the last 10 games, albeit some tough losses falling to Boston and Florida in the last periods which were games that they could have won. Their most recent win finds them starting their home and home series against the New York Islanders in a good position, heading home to play the New York Islanders again today. Whilst there was no penalty during play, John Tavares was fined the maximum $2,500 for slashing against the Devils’ Zach Parise during the game yesterday, and with a fight breaking out within the first minute, heading back to Prudential Center to face the Islanders the day after will be interesting. Additionally, what is with the ugly Islanders’ third jersey?? Time to shoot the designer on that one.
On to the Western Conference, and we find that there are some teams also turning their seasons around, with the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Edmonton Oilers still fighting it out in the usually-tight West. Whilst the Dallas Stars got off to a great start, they have slowed down a bit and hit a bit of a losing streak. The St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers are finding some luck at the start of their seasons, each winning 12 of their 22 games in regulation, and in 6th and 7th respectively in the Western Conference.
The Western Conference is very tight at the end of the season, usually only a few points seperating 3rd and 8th heading into the Playoffs, so as the season progresses, it will be very interesting to keep an eye on the teams. Speaking of teams to watch, the Vancouver Canucks are only a point out of the top 8 in 10th spot, and Phoenix are right behind the Los Angeles Kings in 9th spot, with only a point seperating Vancouver and Phoenix from getting in to the top 8. The Columbus Blue Jackets are still struggling in last place of the West, although they bounced back from their shootout loss against the New Jersey Devils with a win.
Keep an eye on these pages as we keep you updated leading up the last few weeks before Christmas, and then it’s only a few weeks again before the All-Star break. Additionally there is the Winter Classic, usually always an interesting game to watch.