The first half of NHL action has been full of surprises. Through the All-Star break, fans have seen some preseason contenders turn to bottom-tier teams, while teams projected to be weak before the start of the season exceeded all expectations.
The most surprising of all teams this year has been the Vegas Golden Knights. This is the inaugural season for the NHL’s newest franchise, and the team has been too good to even describe. Through 48 games, the Golden Knights amassed 68 points and currently sit in first place in the Western Conference. The team was built through the NHL expansion draft, consisting of a new franchise selecting certain players from different teams. There are limitations for who the team could choose, but the Golden Knights have surprisingly built a very competitive team. Youngsters Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson have led the team offensively with 46 and 42 points, respectively, while established players Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal have brought their veteran presence to the team. Both Fleury and Neal were selected for the NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay.
Among the other surprising teams are the Boston Bruins, led by superb goaltending from Tuukka Rask, the New York Islanders with rookie phenom Mathew Barzal and the emerging Colorado Avalanche led by a core of great young players.
The most disappointing team so far has been the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were supposed to take this season by storm after a very good season last year, which saw the Oilers reach the semifinals of the playoffs in the Western Conference.
This year has been nothing like the last, with Edmonton’s season turning into a pure disaster. Besides the consistent play of the dynamic Connor McDavid, the team has struggled to find form since the start of the season. The defensive core, led by the likes of Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse, is subpar, while the goaltending of Cam Talbot has been horrific. The Oilers have an uphill mountain to climb if they would like to make a run at the playoffs this year.
The Montreal Canadiens have been another disappointing team. Montreal has yet to do anything right this season. Goaltender Carey Price has turned around his relatively slow start, but the rest of the team has remained stagnant for the most part. With 46 points in 49 games, the Canadiens will need a huge second-half recovery to get back into contention.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to keep up its strong play in the second half. The team currently sits first in the league and power rankings with 71 points.
The team is complete up and down the roster, bolstering some of the league’s premier players, such as Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s strong play has helped the Lightning even more with consistent nightly play.
The second half of the season seems to always brings a different style of hockey to the league. Now is the time to see which teams can break out and which teams will sink heavy.