With only a week until the All-Star Game, the NHL heats up. ESPN’s Barry Melrose recaps the first half of the season and takes a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning as well as the most surprising and disappointing teams this year.
Tampa Bay Lightning
While the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights are currently atop the standings, many teams remain in contention.
The reigning two-time Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are not going anywhere. They currently have 61 points, tied for second-best in the league. They only trail the Panthers by two points in the Atlantic Division.
Leading the way once again has been goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who is 23-7-3 this year. He has a goals-against-average of 2.25 and a save percentage of .922 with a pair of shutouts.
Also, Steven Stamkos has had a resurgent season and leads the team with 20 goals and 50 points. Ross Colton has been red-hot as of late and has scored four goals in his past five games. Nikita Kucherov has seven points during that same stretch as they get set to face the New Jersey Devils Thursday night.
While plenty of teams have been surprises this year, Melrose is most intrigued with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After losing to the New York Islanders in six games during the postseason last year, the Penguins currently have 59 points.
In only 30 games this season, Sidney Crosby averaged over a point a game with 34 total. He has scored 11 goals and recorded 23 assists. Jake Guentzel has a team-high 21 goals as the Penguins have a +34 goal differential.
After struggling in the postseason, Tristan Jarry has bounced back during this season and is a potential candidate for the Vezina Trophy.
On the other end, Melrose says no team has underachieved more than the Edmonton Oilers. While they have only played 38 games, the Oilers sit in sixth place in the Pacific Division with 42 points.
Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have done their parts with 116 points, the Edmonton’s third-leading scorer has 27 in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers have also struggled to keep the puck out of the net. They are giving up 3.24 goals per game. They are also missing goaltender Mike Smith, defensemen Tyson Barrie and Oscar Klefbom, as well as forward Zach Hyman.
Still, a lot can change in the second half with plenty of games left. The NHL will not be sending players to the Olympics as many teams will be making up games after postponements from COVID:19.