We are just over halfway through the National Hockey League (NHL) season and although the landscape is about what we expected, there are tons of intriguing storylines and match-ups. The NHL in recent years has been dominated by the big market teams. The last six years has seen the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup three times, the Los Angeles Kings twice, and the Boston Bruins once. The defending champion Blackhawks are looking to repeat their victory for the first time in franchise history, as well as to cement themselves as the dominant team of this decade. Meanwhile, the Kings are right there with them looking to claim the same title. Will these two teams continue their dominance or will another franchise crash the party?
In the Western Conference, both the Blackhawks and the Kings have given us little reason to doubt them as they are both atop the standing in their division. The Blackhawks currently stand atop them all in the Western Conference largely due to the historically hot start of Patrick Kane. He is currently the NHL leader in points and is 15 points ahead of the next closest player. Staying atop the conference in the second half of the season is crucial for them, as it would give them home-ice advantage and they are currently 21-5-1 at home compared to just 12-10-3 on the road. The Kings lead in the Pacific division and while I think we are in for an incredible Western Conference Finals between these two teams, the team that seems to have the best chance to disrupt this would be the Dallas Stars. While they have struggled as of late and are defensively suspect, they have one of the best offenses in the league right now, lead by their one two punch of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who are second and third in the league in points.
The Eastern Conference has been dominated by the Washington Capitals. They currently lead the league in points with 73, boast the league’s best offense and defense and have the best goal differential by 23. Their record is equally impressive at home as it is on the road. The second team in their division, the New York Rangers, have been too inconsistent to make anyone believe that they can run the table. Currently their home record is 18-3-1, while their road record is 9-12-3.Given that they are not sitting atop their conference, they will most likely need to win games on the road to compete in a playoff series. Given how they have not been able to do that in the regular season, the likelihood of them doing that while going against the league’s top teams is unlikely. In the Atlantic division, Florida, Boston, Detroit, and Tampa Bay are all fighting for the top spot, but will really have to pick up their play if they look to compete with Washington for the Conference title.