We have arrived at the first of two weeks when NHL teams go on their bye. This bye is when a team gets five straight days off with no games. Half the league starts theirs today, the 8th of January and the other half starts next Monday, the 15th of January. As we had to this break, let’s take a look at four teams who have been surprising, both positively and negatively.
Vegas Golden Knights
At this point what can you say? We are witnessing history with this team right now. They are 29-10-2 going following their win Sunday vs the Rangers. Now, they head to their bye and Vegas has opened up a seven-point lead following their game against the Rangers. Jonathan Marchessault has 39 points in 37 games leading the way. Those stats got him a six-year extension last week that will keep him a Golden Knight for the near future. Marchessault has been on a line with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Those three are the top three point scorers for Vegas and they are a plus 17,19, and 18 respectively. The defense has been solid with the likes of Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, and Shea Theodore. Marc Andre Fleury is finally healthy at this point and Malcolm Subban has been unreal in both his roles as a starter and backup to this point. Gerard Gallant has done a fantastic job behind the bench and George McPhee is a legend in Vegas for the way he built this team. Vegas is no joke and look for them to be playing hockey come late April.
Sure the Avalanche were going to be better after last year’s debacle in which they went 22-56-4. Saturday night they already retained their 22nd win of this season matching last years total. It has been a complete 180 from last year to now. Through exactly half their season (41 games) they are 22-16-3. Sure that is not a draw dropping stat but going from last year to now, it has been a major change. The Matt Duchene was a blessing in disguise. The cloud around the team is gone and now they are just playing. Nathan MacKinnon is on a tear with his 52 points but their depth guys have helped them get to this point. Guys like Mikko Rantanen, Alexander Kerfoot, and Carl Soderberg have been nice surprises with all three having at least 20 points at the halfway point. Again, Colorado is not one of the top teams in the league but they have turned it around and they are no longer a roll over in this league.
The Ottawa Senators were a team that was an overtime goal away from going to the Stanley Cup final last Spring. That Senators team is currently no where to be found. Through 40 games they are 14-17-9, and the only team they are above in the Atlantic Division is the Buffalo Sabres. Rumors are everyone can be traded besides Erik Karlsson. They are in a tailspin. It starts from the goaltender on out in Craig Anderson. He is 11-12-5 and has a goals against average over 3.00 and a save percentage under .900. Mark Stone has 40 points but besides that, there isn’t really much there, including Erik Karlsson who is a -15. Ottawa has too many teams to jump and unless they pull off an improbable run they will be golfing in May instead of playing hockey.
Everyone is talking about Edmonton and how bad they have been and those people are correct. But what is going on in Montreal? 18-20-4 through 42 games will not cut it. Carey Price was out for an extended period of time and when you’re missing one of the best goalies this decade it is hard to replace. But the scoring has not been there. 23 points for Brendan Gallagher and 23 points for Max Pacioretty are just plain out not good enough. All signs point to Max Pacioretty on his way out from Montreal, and time will tell on that aspect. Too many teams to jump for Montreal and unless they decide to put the puck in the net alot more often and get some help it will be a long summer in the hockey hotbed of Montreal.