So, here we are at the All-Star break. It’s the time of the season where teams get a few extra days to heal, relax and get ready for the stretch drive. For hockey fans, it’s a few days to get reacquainted with our families, spend some quality time away from the tv and/or rink and assure them that there’s only a few more months left in the season and we’re all theirs.
It’s been a typical NHL season so far: some teams are surprising, some are disappointing, and no one still has a clue what Colin Campbell is thinking, or if he is at all. So while we catch our breath, here are my views of what’s taken place around the league in the first half:
– Despite being addressed last season, head shots is still one of the biggest topics in the league. Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion from one of two possible head shots in early January and hasn’t played since. Marc Savard suffered a concussion for the second straight season and now may have to consider retirement. The league and the players are going to have a sit down on this and address this again because it’s still happening too often. Whether that means discussing a complete ban on headshots, I don’t know. But I think if you’re discussing brain injuries, just about everything should be on the table. Just don’t send troglodyte Mike Milbury to the discussion, who deals with those who are calling for head shot bans by doing his best school yard bully impression by implying they’re effeminate.
– Hey Nathan Horton, be careful what you wish for. Horton was the only guy to asked to be traded from the Florida Panthers when Dale Tallon took over as GM. When he was traded to the Boston Bruins in June, he stated he was happy to be in a hockey market, and pundits awaited his eventual 40 goal season, now that he had Boston’s centermen to feed him the puck. The result? 12 goals and 16 assists (on pace for 20 and 26). Hey Boston….suckers!
– I’m a big fan of guys who step up and respond in the face of criticism. My hat’s off to Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. If you remember back to the preseason, Price was booed and the thinking was that he would best be served by playing elsewhere. He has responded with an All-Star season while placing second in the NHL in wins. Schenn, while not having great offensive numbers (on a bad Leafs team) has become Toronto’s best d-man and is putting his bad 09-10 season behind him and fulfilling the promise of his rookie season.
– And since I mentioned Carey Price, let’s talk about St Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak. While many Habs fans were furious the club traded Halak away after one of the best playoff performances in recent memory, the Blues thought they just picked up the piece that would put them back in the playoffs. After a strong start, Halak has lost his game in recent weeks which has pushed the Blues to 14th in the Western Conference. And while the Blues have had injury and waiver wire troubles, he hasn’t performed the way they need him to ride out the storm.
– This year’s Anaheim Ducks are the embodiment that a slow start isn’t a death rattle for a season. They had a disastrous October, going 4-7-1 and looked really bad (especially on defense) in the process. Since then, the Ducks have gone 24-13-3, good for 60 points and 5th in the West.
– Credit Guy Boucher for finally getting the Tampa Bay Lightning to play up to the level of their talent. But I still think a deep playoff run will elude them with their goaltending situation. Does anyone really trust Dwayne Roloson with Dan Ellis as a back up? I don’t.
– I’ve heard some people say (not everyone, mind you) the Washington Capitals are focusing more on defense to explain the decline in offensive production from a team we associate with plentiful scoring. And while I like the Caps goaltending situation with the young guns of Semyon Varmalov, Michal Neuvirth and now Braden Holtby, I think the explanation is much simpler: like Alex Ovechkin, they’ve just not been as good as in years past. Hard to pinpoint the reason, but it’s just the way it is. Maybe the playoffs will tell a different tale.
It should be a great finish to the season. Many of the playoffs spots are still there for the taking for any team that can make that second half push. Can the Florida Panthers make that run and end their decade long playoff drought? We’ll find out when things get back rolling on Tuesday! Enjoy the All-Star festivities!
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Tags: Alex Ovechkin Anaheim Ducks Boston Bruins Carey Price Colin Campbell Dale Tallon Dan Ellis Dwayne Roloson Florida Panthers Guy Boucher Jaroslav Halak Luke Schenn Marc Savard Montreal Canadiens Nathan Horton Sidney Crosby St Louis Blues Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs Washington Capitals