(Photo via usatoday.com)
Halfway through the 2015-2016 NHL season, there are a number of teams that have performed beyond there expectations, as well as some teams that have not lived up to their hype. Some playoff teams from last year are currently out of the hunt this year, like the Columbus Blue Jackets, and some teams that missed the cut last year hold a playoff spot at the midpoint of the season, like the red hot Florida Panthers.
The Dallas Stars have been one of the strongest offensive teams in the league. Dallas finished just 2 points in front the last place Colorado Avalanche in the strong Central Division last season. Led by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the Stars are in second place in the Central Division trailing only the Blackhawks, no surprise there, and in third place in the entire league with 63 points.
From shock to disappointment, the Anaheim Ducks sat at the of the Pacific Division and the entire Western Conference last season with 109 points, and took the Chicago Blackhawks to 7 games in the Western Conference Finals. Expectations were high in Anaheim at the start of the 2015-2016 season. Halfway through the season, Anaheim has been arguably the biggest disappointment so far, as they are in fifth place in the weaker Pacific Division with 45 points and are 3 points out of a wild card spot.
Another team that has risen far above their expectations is the Washington Capitals. Last season, the Caps finished in a tie for second place in the Metropolitan Division with the New York Islanders. They ended up losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in overtime of the seventh game. Led by their captain, Alex Ovechkin, they lead the NHL with 71 points this season and have a 17 point cushion in the Metro Division. They are the favorite to win the Presidents’ Trophy, which is given to the team with the most points in the league.
But the biggest shock of the season has been the performance of the Florida Panthers. The Panthers finished in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and found themselves out of the playoff hunt. Led by 43 year old Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers sit at the top of the Atlantic Division with 57 points, in front of the Canadiens and last year’s Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers are fresh off a 12 game winning streak, which boosted them into first place, and they owe much of their success to veteran goalie Roberto Luongo.
– T. Ilardi