Yeah, we are probably a bit past what would be considered the NHL's "midway point," but not so far as to be unreasonable to discuss where things currently stand. Olympic rosters are being named. Teams have basically locked up playoff spots, and vice versa. Well, that makes it sound like playoff spots have locked up teams. What I mean is that some teams are out of it. Anyway, here's where we are at the moment.
In the Eastern Conference, the Sabres, Panthers, and Islanders are out of it. Buffalo is also pretty much heading toward locking up the worst record. They only have 28 points, and a minus-44 goal differential. Of course, this was expected. The Islanders are a different story. They are awful again, and it is because they can't stop teams from scoring. People talk about the surplus of netminders on some teams, and how finding somebody to trade them to is hard. Why aren't they knocking down Garth Snow's door? They should very much trade one of their good forwards or prospects for, say, a Viktor Fasth or a Ben Scrivens. They aren't "the answer," but they could be enough for a team with Tavares.
The Penguins are locked into a playoff spot, and the Metropolitan is basically theirs. They have 63 points, the next highest team in the Metro has 46. They are the team with a positive goal differential. Boston feels safely in, as does Tampa, since they've managed to very much weather the storm of not having Steven Stamkos. Everybody else is in the thick of it. Right now, Toronto and their 47 points are clinging to the final playoff spot.
The West is much more interesting, because it tougher and deeper. Only Calgary and Edmonton are out of it, but Nashville is right on the brink. I think they have basically no shot, but I don't want to write them off completely yet. Right now, Chicago and Anaheim lead their divisions, and I expect both to safely make the playoffs, if not hold onto their division leads necessarily. The Blues seem like a great bet too, as they have a league best plus-55 goal differential. It is the last wild card spot that seems most interesting to me.
I don't want to quite cede one of the top three spots in the Central to Colorado, but it seems safer by the day, especially with Minnesota's injury issues. I think Vancouver at least gets one of the wild card spots. Who gets the other? Phoenix? Dallas? Hey, even Winnipeg is in the discussion. It should be interesting, as will the positional jostling of the better teams.
In terms of point scoring, it is the usual named. Sidney Crosby has the most points, Alex Ovechkin the most goals. Patrick Kane is having a great season too. I think they will end up being the three guys up for the Hart. In net, Ben Bishop has the best save percentage, just ahead of Tuukka Rask and Josh Harding, the latter of which is having health issues that are a straight up bummer in what has been a surprisingly great season.
There's a lot of season left, but not enough for some teams. Something is going to go down to the wire here. I don't know what, and I don't know who will be involved. I just know it will be quite exciting.