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Giving out midseason grades in the NHL is a difficult task.
There are 15 clubs that have yet to reach the 41-game milestone, including the New York Islanders, who have only played 34 of them as of Monday’s games.
Due to players and coaches undergoing the NHL’s COVID-19 procedure, 104 games have been postponed, with another 25 games rescheduled to accommodate those postponements. The league stated that the schedule alterations were so severe that it had to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics in order to utilize the planned February break for make-up matches.
Some games were not postponed, and clubs were forced to play with considerably less players due to the absence of important players or the failure to ice entire rosters.
Keep all of this in mind as you go at our grades thus far for the 2021-22 season. Some groups have obviously outperformed expectations, while others have completely defied them. Plus, the MVPs from the first half, as well as guys who wish they could press the “do over” button right now.
The Atlantic and DIVISION OF THE PACIFIC teams were evaluated by Kristen Shilton, while the Metropolitan and DIVISION CENTRAL teams were evaluated by Greg Wyshynski. Unless otherwise specified, all statistics are from Hockey-Reference.com, Natural Stat Trick, and Evolving Hockey.
ANA | ARI | BOS | BUF CGY | CAR | CHI | COL CBJ | DAL | DET | EDM FLA | LA | MIN | MTL NSH | NJ | NYI | NYR OTT | PHI | PIT | SJ SEA | STL | TB | TOR VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG VAN |
Table of Contents
DIVISION OF THE ATLANTIC
Brad Marchand is the MVP of the second half of the season.
Marchand, who is always entertaining, has been the Bruins’ heart, soul, and top scorer this season. If there was any dispute about his importance to the club, just look at the fear his upper-body injury sparked last week. Boston isn’t the same without Marchand, as everyone knows.
Nick Foligno is a player who has to be re-energized.
The veteran winger hasn’t exactly lived up to the terms of his two-year, $7.6 million free agency deal with Boston, which he inked in July. Foligno has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries, and when he has been available, he hasn’t done much. It hasn’t gone down well with the fans to see emerging players like Oskar Steen scratched to make place for Foligno.
B+ on the whole.
Boston has bounced back admirably after a sluggish start with COVID difficulties. The club has seemed to be more unified, tough, and competitive, which is exactly what we expect from the Bruins.
Rasmus Dahlin is the MVP of the second half of the season.
Dahlin’s breakthrough season would undoubtedly get more notice if Buffalo were enjoying a better season. Dahlin is thriving on the Sabres’ blueline under coach Don Granato, leading the club in scoring and on track to surpass his prior offensive figures in every category. It’s no surprise that he’ll be playing in his first All-Star Game this year.
Victor Olofsson is a player who requires a reset.
Something has gone awry when a regular forward hasn’t scored a goal since October. In a nutshell, that’s Olofsson’s year thus far. Olofsson’s output has decreased noticeably, he’s been demoted from the Sabres’ top power play unit, and his game hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent seasons.
C is the overall grade.
Buffalo entered a new chapter after officially parting ways with Jack Eichel. That has been hampered by severe goaltender troubles, injuries, and a lack of success so far.
Moritz Seider is the midseason MVP.
There are a handful of Red Wings that could step in to fill this role. I’m going with Seider, the rookie defender who has been outstanding in the first half of the season. He’s a hard worker who averages more than 22 minutes per game, leads Detroit in assists, and can be relied on in any circumstance. It’s impressive for any defender, much alone a 20-year-old.
Filip Zadina is a player who need a reset.
When a player’s name begins to crop up in trade possibilities (like Zadina’s has recently), it’s a good indicator of how his season is progressing. The brilliant 22-year-old striker for Detroit isn’t producing much. Zadina’s offensive performance has been inconsistent, his defensive play hasn’t improved, and his ice time has dwindled. This isn’t beneficial for either the athlete or the team.
B on the whole.
The first half of Detroit’s season had a lot to enjoy, mostly because of its young talent. Lucas Raymond, Alex Nedeljkovic, Seider, Tyler Bertuzzi, and even Dylan Larkin are all enjoying outstanding seasons, lifting the standard in Detroit.
Jonathan Huberdeau was named MVP for the second half of the season.
To summarize Huberdeau’s first half in Florida, there aren’t enough superlatives. He’s been the Panthers’ finest player, top scorer, and a rock of consistency over the team’s many ups and downs. Huberdeau, though, is more than the Panthers’ MVP; he should be a contender for the Hart Trophy as well.
Spencer Knight is a player that requires a reset.
Being a young backup goalkeeper in the NHL is difficult. You’re spending a lot of time on the bench in the big leagues instead of playing every other night in the minors. Knight, who has just three NHL victories since early November, is beginning to feel the pressure. Florida must determine what the best course of action is for the 20-year-future old’s growth.
A+ for the overall grade
The Panthers have the ability to make any club seem foolish. They’ve been scoring at an incredible rate recently, with 63 goals in 12 games since returning from the NHL’s COVID hiatus. If this trend continues throughout the second half of the season, Florida will be in for a lengthy playoff run.
Nick Suzuki is the Midseason MVP.
Suzuki has been ahead of the curve in Montreal if the best ability is availability. He is the Canadiens’ lone forward who has played in every game and leads the club in points despite playing almost 20 minutes per game.
Jeff Petry is a player who has to be reset.
Petry stands out among a crowded field of applicants. Petry’s decision-making has been a problem, and for a long-time top-pairing defender who has been a pillar of stability in previous seasons, the first half of the season has yielded perplexing outcomes.
D+ on the whole.
Montreal had a tiny respite from a failing rating since they are playing without all-world goalkeeper Carey Price. But, in reality, this Montreal club has a lot of skill that isn’t showing up. Kent Hughes, the new general manager, will be responsible for finding a solution.
Drake Batherson is the MVP of the midseason.
Every night, Batherson is a reason to watch Senators games. As a budding playmaker, he’s been a lot of fun to watch, thanks to his tremendous, dynamic skill set. It’s no surprise that Batherson’s coach, DJ Smith, continues rolling him out all over the ice, confident in his forward’s ability to contribute in every facet of the game.
Matt Murray is a player who has to be reset.
Murray hasn’t seen much action in goal for Ottawa this season. But that’s been a part of his (and the team’s) issue as well. Murray only won two of his first nine starts, and just four of them had a save percentage of over.900. He’s gone through waivers, been demoted to the minors, and suffered with sicknesses and ailments along the road. Resetting the clock on this year might be beneficial as we enter the second half.
C is the overall grade.
Because the Senators have played fewer games than most other teams, it’s difficult to get a feel on them. Is it possible that they are a victim of circumstance? Or is it simply a team that isn’t up to par? The story will be told in the second part of this season.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the MVP for the second half of the season.
The goalkeeper is more important to Tampa’s success than any other player. Vasilevskiy is that excellent all of the time. The Lightning have an excellent core of offensive players and a strong blue-line corps that feeds off Vasilevskiy’s confidence in the net. A Lightning three-peat is incredibly likely when Vasilevskiy is at his best.
Erik Cernak is a player who has to be reset.
Tampa’s top-pairing defence has had a difficult season. Cernak has been out for a long period due to injuries, which has severely harmed the Lightning’s blueline depth. Tampa Bay must now hope that Cernak can recover from his latest absence and improve their defense in time for the second half crunch.
A- on the whole.
Tampa has the skill, the results, and the championship legacy to back it up. More than anything, the Lightning need a couple more games with a healthy lineup.
Jack Campbell is the MVP of the midseason.
Campbell has quickly progressed from backup to possible Vezina Trophy candidate. This came at the perfect moment, as Toronto had been relying on Campbell to handle the weight in goal all season. He’s been up to the job, ranking among the top in the NHL in save % and goals-against average while rescuing the Leafs with a couple hard-fought wins.
Justin Holl is a player who has to be reset.
Holl’s breakthrough season last year may have set the bar too high. In the early part of this year, he struggled to maintain his former success. While youngsters like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are progressing, Holl’s game seems to be stagnated, especially for a second-pairing defenseman. Toronto will need a stronger second-half drive from Holl.
A- on the whole.
The Leafs’ recent proclivity for blowing leads hasn’t been ideal. Coach Sheldon Keefe’s use of the word “soft” to describe his squad was also a mistake. However, Toronto’s foundation is solid, and it should be able to keep it on pace.
DIVISION OF THE METROPOLITAN
Frederik Andersen is the MVP of the second half of the season.
After ranking third in the NHL in team save percentage, it’s not every summer that a club overhauls its goaltender (.915). But it’s because of Andersen that the Hurricanes currently have the NHL’s second-best save percentage (.919). In his first 26 starts, the former Maple Leafs goaltender went 20-6-0 with a.930 save percentage. Any other player in Carolina’s lineup would be enough to keep the Canes alive. But not Andersen, who is third in the NHL in terms of goals saved above average (19.8).
Jordan Staal is a player that has to be reset.
The Hurricanes had the best points percentage in the Eastern Conference after 36 games, so there weren’t many options. The 33-year-old Staal, on the other hand, could need a stronger second half. He has the lowest points per 60 minutes (1.0) of his career, and he has a team-worst 2.6 goals against average. His ice time has reflected this as well, averaging 16:57 per game, the lowest since his rookie season. It isn’t all awful, though: He’s the key penalty-killing forward for one of the league’s greatest penalty-killing units.
A+ for the overall grade
The Hurricanes were the greatest defensive club in the NHL (2.25 goals-against average) and fourth in team offense after 36 games (3.50). Their special teams have consistently ranked in the top five. Their stars, Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, who are enjoying a career year, are leading a squad with remarkable depth. Outside of Raleigh, defender Tony DeAngelo has done all he was hired to do as a substitute for Dougie Hamilton, despite his lack of popularity.
MVP in the middle of the season: Jakub Voracek
The 32-year-old winger spent his first three seasons with the Jackets before being sent to the Flyers in an offseason move that sent Cam Atkinson to Columbus. While he is no longer the 80-point forward he once was, he is still an outstanding passer, with his assist totals this season placing him in the top 20 among forwards. Most importantly, he has gravity, creating an impression on whatever line on which he has appeared.
Joonas Korpisalo is a player that need a reset.
Last season, the 27-year-old goaltender failed to build on the promise of his 2020 postseason bubble performance, and his troubles have continued this season, as he ranks second in the NHL in goals saved above average. Korpisalo is a pending unrestricted free agent who isn’t a long-term fit for the Jackets. Unfortunately, his performance this season may have reduced his value as a trade prospect. Jarmo Kekalainen, the general manager, should have transferred him sooner.
B on the whole.
Around the halfway of the season, the Blue Jackets were a.500 club, which was better than many expected. Oliver Bjorkstrand was a constant attacking force throughout the season. Boone Jenner has made a strong comeback to his goal-scoring ways. On defense, Zach Werenski has been a rock, while offensively, Adam Boqvist, who was acquired in the Seth Jones deal, has been excellent. Then there’s Patrik Laine, who in Columbus has finally shown some “Patrik Laine” moments. He’s a restricted free agent who could be a big part of the Jackets’ bright future, which is getting brighter by the game.
Jesper Bratt is the midseason MVP.
The 23-year-old Swede doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Jack Hughes, so he’ll have to make do with being the Devils’ finest playmaker and top scorer this season. Without Bratt on the ice, their 5-on-5 output diminishes by well over one projected goal per 60 minutes. Above all, he has remained in the lineup (for the most part) and has 33 points in his first 35 games.
Mackenzie Blackwood is a player who has to be reset.
It’s never a good indication when a player’s immunization status gets more attention than his performance on the ice. After getting the jab, Blackwood stood there and watched as a barrage of blows flew past him. In 23 games, the goaltender has a.894 save percentage, allowing 3.2 goals less than the league average. Only 36% of his outings have matched the criteria for a “quality start.” In front of him, the Devils aren’t exactly a defensive wall, but he hasn’t bailed them out as frequently as he did last season.
C is the overall grade.-
The Devils have had a lot of terrible luck with their lineups. Dougie Hamilton, a free agency coup, shattered his jaw after a respectable 30 games. Hughes has a high point-per-game average, but he has missed 17 of the team’s first 38 games. Following hip surgery, goalie Jonathan Bernier, who was recruited to bolster their duo, is out for the season. There have been some highlights, such as Nico Hischier’s steady performance and Dawson Mercer’s good rookie season, but lowlights like as poor 5-on-5 defense and mediocre special teams have kept coach Lindy Ruff’s squad out of the postseason race.
Ilya Sorokin was named MVP for the second half of the season.
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It would have been a landslide if this had been a vote. In 2021-22, the 26-year-old goaltender has been the team’s sole constant bright spot, earning a 10-7-5 record with a.927 save percentage in 22 games. He scored points in eight of the Islanders’ last nine games as they moved up the rankings.
Kyle Palmieri is a player that has to be reset.
To produce goals, the winger was signed to a four-year, $20 million free-agent contract. He only had one of them in 25 games, a good illustration of this team’s diminishing rewards. Due to a lower-body injury, he is now out of the lineup.
D is the overall grade.
The Islanders’ lack of success may clearly be attributed to mitigating conditions. They were winless in their first seven games in the new barn after spending their first 13 games (5-6-2) on the road while UBS Arena was being built. COVID-19’s schedule was disrupted by the fact that they only played two games between December 20, 2021 and January 13, 2022. Due to an injury, defenseman Ryan Pulock was restricted to just 12 games. Their odd defensive deficit at the start of the season has been stabilized, but they still can’t score, placing third in goals-per-game average. Despite a recent turnaround in fortunes, they still have a fewer than 10% chance of reaching the playoffs, according to Money Puck, after making the conference final in consecutive seasons.
Igor Shesterkin was named MVP in the middle of the season.
The leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, as well as a goalkeeper who will likely get substantial support for the Hart Trophy. In the Rangers’ first 40 games, the 26-year-old went 18-4-2, leading the NHL in save percentage and goals saved above average. Quality starts accounted for just over 78 percent of his appearances. A fantastic season for a rising talent. Nobody now would argue with the Rangers providing a four-year deal to a goalkeeper who had made 47 NHL appearances at the time.
Patrik Nemeth is a player who requires a reset.
The Rangers signed Nemeth to a three-year free-agent contract, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. They tested him out with a few defenseman, including Adam Fox, the current Norris Trophy winner, and none of them had an anticipated goals percentage over 50% at 5-on-5. He’s also falling short of the offensive minimums he’s established in prior years.
A on the whole.
While some of their underlying metrics are perplexing (the Rangers are bottom in shot attempt share at 5-on-5), a.700 points percentage after 40 games is undeniable. There’s no doubting that Chris Kreider (29 goals), Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Ryan Strome have all been outstanding, and that Fox is a strong contender for another Norris Trophy. Coach Gerard Gallant joined the Rangers at an ideal moment in their development as a contender.
Claude Giroux is the MVP of the second half of the season.
While linemate Cam Atkinson (15 goals) is deserving of mention, we’ll go with the 34-year-old captain, whose 2.7 points per 60 minutes is marginally better than last season’s rate. For the captain, who is an unrestricted free agency after the season, it might be a bittersweet finale to a terrific stint in Philadelphia.
Keith Yandle is a player who has to be reset.
Yandle is set to shatter the NHL’s “Iron Man” record this week when he plays his 965th consecutive game. Then, maybe, a better choice on his roster spot might be made. In 40 games, the 35-year-old free agent has 13 assists and has played at a tempo that is below replacement level. In the last six games, he has played fewer than 14 minutes in five of them. He could need a refresh more than a reset.
D is the overall grade.-
In the offseason, GM Chuck Fletcher made several important signings. Some have been excellent (Atkinson), some have been adequate (Martin Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen), and one has been tragically lacking — defender Ryan Ellis, who has played in just four games this season due to injury. But the club has never gelled, and losing Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes won’t help even the best-laid intentions. To stimulate the squad, Alain Vigneault (8-11-4) was dismissed, but the Flyers followed up a nine-game losing stretch with a 10-game winless record under interim coach Mike Yeo. Money Puck has reduced their chances of making the playoffs to less than 1%.
Tristan Jarry was named MVP for the second half of the season.
Jarry has been a stabilizing factor for the Penguins this season, with a credit to top scorer Jake Guentzel, who has played well with or without Sidney Crosby in the lineup. He’s second in the NHL in goals saved above average and has started 30 of the Penguins’ first 39 games. After Jarry’s disappointing playoff performance in 2021, GM Ron Hextall placed his trust in him, and it’s paid off so far.
Jason Zucker is a player who has to be reset.
If we’re being honest, Zucker is undoubtedly looking for a new start in Pittsburgh. The winger scored 13 points in 31 games for the Penguins, a minor drop in productivity from previous season, which was a sharp drop from his 2019-20 campaign. He’s now on injured reserve and is in the last year of a five-year deal.
A- on the whole.
The Penguins are the best club in the NHL when it comes to playing through lineup changes. Crosby, a point-per-game player once again, missed 12 games. On January 11, Evgeni Malkin made his season debut. Bryan Rust has missed 22 games this season. Nonetheless, with to the performance of Jarry, Guentzel, defender Kris Letang, forward Evan Rodrigues’ breakout season, and a bunch of veterans who know how to deal with adversity, coach Mike Sullivan has led the Penguins to third place in the Metro. Rumors of the Penguins’ collapse were highly overblown — or at the very least, much too early.
Alex Ovechkin is the MVP for the second half of the season.
If he’s a candidate for NHL MVP, logic dictates that he’s also the team’s MVP. After 41 games, Ovechkin led the NHL in goals and points, which is not something one would anticipate from a 36-year-old. The Capitals were 14-2-5 when Ovechkin scored a goal in those 41 games, and 8-8-4 when he didn’t. He was a rock for the Capitals during a season in which they had to deal with a lot of injuries.
Carl Hagelin is a player who has to be reset.
With seven points in 39 games, the 33-year-old attacker is having a nightmare season. If Hagelin maintains his current rate, he will have scored fewer than 1.0 point per 60 minutes in all scenarios for the first time in his career. One of the reasons Hagelin has been chastised by Capitals fans is his lack of output.
B+ on the whole.
The Capitals, like their archrivals the Penguins, have done a remarkable job of playing despite the absence of key players like as Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha. However, they’ve earned a playoff berth thanks to top-ten offensive and defensive performances, as well as better-than-average goaltending from Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. The rest has been handled by Ovechkin.
Karel Vejmelka was named MVP for the second half of the season.
Giving GM Bill Armstrong some truth serum and finding out how he actually thinks about the 25-year-old goaltender’s surprise season would be intriguing. After going winless in his first nine NHL outings, the rookie is 6-5-0 this season with a.910 save percentage. Armstrong looked to have put together a team that would be a first-round choice. While that is still likely, Vejmelka has made the Coyotes more competitive than they were before.
Jakob Chychrun is a player who requires a reset.
Last season, the defender finished 10th in the Norris Trophy voting with 41 points in 56 games, and he seemed to be the kind of player the Coyotes could build a future around. After a full season, Chychrun has 8 points in 29 games and a minus-31 rating. This season, Chychrun’s Norris Trophy hype has been replaced with speculation about where he may be dealt.
D+ on the whole.
The Coyotes were designed to be terrible, as Armstrong amassed a war chest of draft picks to rebuild the franchise. Mission accomplished: They have a .300 points percentage, rank last in the NHL in team defense and second to last in team offense. But they’ve also won a quarter of their games, going 10-26-4 through 40 contests. Given their roster, their move to the DIVISION CENTRAL and the general expectations surrounding them, that’s better than expected. Among the highlights: forward Clayton Keller (2.4 points per 60 minutes) and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (25 points in 40 games).
Alex DeBrincat is the midseason MVP.
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The winger scored 24 goals in 41 games. Brandon Hagel, the team’s next-highest goal scorer with 10 goals, was the only other player in double figures at the halfway mark. This would be DeBrincat’s third time scoring more than 0.50 goals per 60 minutes in his career. He set a career best with 41 goals in 2018-19, and if he doesn’t have a second-half slump, he’ll surpass it.
Dominik Kubalik is a player that need a reset.
His scoring output has dropped dramatically in his third NHL season. In 41 games, the winger has 9 goals and 7 assists. Kubalik has dropped to 1.5 points per 60 minutes after two seasons of averaging 2.6 points per 60 minutes. Kubalik’s lack of scoring consistency is surprising, but he’s not alone in requiring a reset. Kirby Dach, 21, also saw his productivity dip and finished the first half with one point in nine games.
C is the overall grade.
This grade must have a modest incline to it. The Blackhawks have had a turbulent season, and that term doesn’t begin to describe how they’ve felt. After investigators presented their findings on how the club handled sexual assault charges against former video coach Brad Aldrich during the 2010 Stanley Cup run, president of hockey operations Stan Bowman and senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac were fired in October 2021. After a dreadful 1-9-2 start, coach Jeremy Colliton was sacked. Derek King, the team’s interim coach, managed to settle matters by finishing 14-10-5 while aiming to enhance the defensive framework.
There have been standout performances, such as defender Seth Jones and goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury, two offseason signings who were anticipated to help Chicago back to contention. The Blackhawks are still in the race, but their chances of reaching the playoffs are just 8.3 percent, ahead of a summer that might reshape the organization, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews set to enter free agency in 2023.
Nazem Kadri is the midseason MVP.
This is the greatest season of the 31-year-old center’s career thus far. In 36 games, Kadri has 51 points. He’s had success when he’s been paired with the Avalanche’s best players, as well as when he’s been paired with guys farther down the lineup. In numerous games, his rugged and relentless performance has set the tone for them. It’s been a well-deserved All-Star season, and did we mention it’s a contract year?
Colorado’s penalty killers are in need of a reset.
There isn’t a single player who needs to be reset — even goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper has improved after a rough start — but the Avalanche’s penalty kill is 27th in the NHL (74.8 percent ). Through 39 games, they’re 11th in times short-handed per game (3.05) and fourth in power-play goals allowed (30).
A on the whole.
In their first 39 games, the Avalanche had a.756 point % and a plus-47 goal difference. With Nathan MacKinnon missing 10 games, Devon Toews missing 11 games, and Valeri Nichushkin missing 16 games, they were able to achieve this. If this stays true, it will be the franchise’s most successful regular season ever. Colorado’s success or failure in the Stanley Cup playoffs will undoubtedly be scrutinized. However, the Avs have had a fantastic regular season so far, with Norris Trophy candidate Cale Makar (38 points in 35 games) and Mikko Rantanen putting in outstanding performances (21 goals).
Joe Pavelski is the MVP of the second half of the season.
Jason Robertson, who has been an explosive presence and leads the Stars with a 1.23 points-per-game average, may be a contender. He did, however, miss eight games, while Pavelski has yet to miss a game. He leads the squad in points (43) and goals (16), behind only Roope Hintz (17). He has the most goals scored over average for the Stars (12.9). The 37-year-old center’s contract is coming to an end this season.
Anton Khudobin is a player who requires a reset.
While a number of Dallas players would welcome a fresh start — hello, Alex Radulov — none have experienced the kind of fall from grace that Khudobin has. Khudobin has a 3-4-1 record with a.879 save percentage in nine games. He was put through waivers with no takers, and he now works as a cab driver in Dallas.
C is the overall grade.
There’s clear separation between the top four in the DIVISION CENTRAL and the Stars, but Dallas remains in the race for the final wild-card spot in the West. If the Stars make the cut, they’re a veteran team that could make a statement in a short series — provided they get the goaltending. If they don’t, it promises to be an offseason of change, with several key free agents. One of them, defenseman John Klingberg, could be gone well before then if the trade buzz is any indication.
Kirill Kaprizov was named MVP for the second half of the season.
Kirill Kaprizov didn’t score a goal until the eighth game of the season, and many began to worry how he’d follow up his outstanding rookie season. Since then, he’s scored 17 of them and added 30 assists for a total of 47 points in 36 games to lead the Wild. Kirill is still The Thrill, despite his shooting percentage (12.9 percent) being down from previous season.
Cam Talbot is a player who requires a reset.
The Wild’s No. 1 goaltender (24 games) has a 15-8-1 record, but it reflects the squad in front of him more than his own performance. This season, Talbot has a.909 save % and has performed just above replacement level. Kaapo Kahkonen, the backup, has been the better of the two (.922 save percentage).
A on the whole.
The Wild have a .689 points percentage, second only to the mighty Avalanche in the DIVISION CENTRAL. They’re getting strong seasons from players like Mats Zuccarello (36 points), Ryan Hartman (18 goals) and Alex Goligoski, who has quietly put together a comeback offensive season (2.2 points per 60 minutes) as a 36-year-old free-agent addition. Once again, their goaltending has let down the team defense in front of it, but the Wild have made up for it with a top-five offense this season. A real contender in the West.
Juuse Saros is the MVP of the midseason.
The goaltender appeared in 35 of the Predators’ first 43 games, going 22-11-2 with a.925 save percentage. This season, Saros, 26, has 18 goals saved above average and 71 percent of his starts have been strong starts. Although Norris Trophy candidate Roman Josi (42 points), resurgent Matt Duchene (38 points), Filip Forsberg (1.07 points per game), and rookie phenom Tanner Jeannot (25 points) have done their fair share of heavy lifting, he is the basis for everything the Predators have constructed this season.
Philippe Myers is a player who has to be reset.
The 6-foot-5 defenceman was acquired from the Flyers in the Ryan Ellis trade, but he hasn’t had a great start with the Predators. This season, he’s been a regular scratch, appearing in just 19 games with two assists and playing at a replacement level in those games.
B+ on the whole.
The Predators’ .640 points percentage puts them fourth in the DIVISION CENTRAL and right in the thick of it for a playoff berth. Their streakiness can be concerning, but it’s been a season of overall good vibes for coach John Hynes — including the unexpected career turnarounds for Duchene and Ryan Johansen.
Jordan Kyrou was named MVP for the second half of the season.
This is the season the Blues knew Kyrou had in him, and it’s why they refused to sell him despite past trade conversations with other clubs. In his first 36 games of the season, the winger earned 40 points, including 15 goals. He has had success with a number of linemates, but he has a special bond with Robert Thomas, a fellow next-generation striker (31 points).
James Neal is a player who requires a reset.
The veteran winger joined the Blues in the summer on a one-year contract with a budget charge of $750,000 with the hopes of rekindling his career. Instead, he has two goals and two assists in 19 games since being waived and is now riding with the St. Louis taxi squad.
A on the whole.
In 40 games, the Blues have a.662 point percentage. All of GM Doug Armstrong’s offseason decisions have paid out, including the additions of Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad, as well as the retention of Vladimir Tarasenko. They’re a top-five offensive club, a top-third defensive squad, and a physically grueling challenger — if Jordan Binnington or Ville Husso supply the goaltending they need in the playoffs.
Kyle Connor is the midseason MVP.
The winger has 22 goals and 19 assists in 38 games. His 41 points are 12 more than the team’s second-highest scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois. He’s had an impact for the Jets in every scenario he’s been in. There’s a case to be made that Connor Hellebuyck, who won 14 games for the Jets with a.937 save percentage, deserves a mention here. He has, however, enjoyed stronger overall seasons with Winnipeg in the past.
Blake Wheeler is a player that has to be reset.
This season, the 35-year-old winger has only played in 24 games. Injury and a battle with COVID-19 cut short his season, which had started badly with just five points in his first 15 games. He’s showed signs of regaining his footing in recent months, scoring 10 points in a five-game period in December. So far in 2022, he has only played two games.
C is the overall grade.+
The Jets had a 13-11-5 record when coach Paul Maurice stepped down, citing “the law of diminishing returns” as the reason for his departure. Dave Lowry (4-4-2) has taken over as interim coach, heading a club that has a.539 point % through 38 games. The Jets have a 39.5 percent chance of reaching the playoffs right now, but they’ll need a lot more from a few key players to make it, and they’ll need them to remain healthy.
DIVISION OF THE PACIFIC
Troy Terry was named MVP for the second half of the season.
Terry has rightfully received plenty of attention for an all-around fantastic start to the season. He may not have perfected “The Michigan” like colleague Trevor Zegras, but he has deservedly earned plenty of attention for an all-around superb start to the season. Terry scored 22 goals in his first 38 games, had a 24.4 shooting %, and was consistently productive at even strength (26 of his 36 points came at 5-on-5). Sure, Terry has benefited from linemate Ryan Getzlaf’s revival, but he’s also carved out a route for himself in the first half.
Rickard Rakell is a player that need a reset.
Rakell’s productivity has slowed significantly for a guy who has typically scored 40 points or more throughout his career. Despite receiving plenty of playing time (over 17 minutes per game) from coach Dallas Eakins, he only scored 16 points in 32 games to begin the season. Rakell has been a difference-maker for the Ducks in the past. He’s been more of a passenger thus far. Anaheim could need a lot more offensive firepower.
B+ on the whole.
To this far, the Ducks have unquestionably exceeded expectations. Despite the fact that Anaheim is currently in the midst of a rebuild, Eakins has been upfront about how the club manages to remain in the postseason race. There’s a lot to like about the Ducks’ current and future prospects.
Jacob Markstrom is the MVP of the second half of the season.
The Flames have put a lot of pressure on Markstrom, and he’s responded well. With five shutouts in 26 starts, Calgary’s goaltender was in the top five in the NHL in save percentage (.926) and goals-against average (2.18). While the Flames’ high-flying forwards have contributed, it was Markstrom who helped Calgary establish themselves as one of the NHL’s most stingy teams early on. Markstrom will have to remain hot in the Pacific to keep the Flames in contention.
Sean Monahan is a player who has to be reset.
Monahan’s first multi-goal game of the season didn’t come until just before the midway mark of the season. That’s how things are going for Calgary’s center, where his hard effort hasn’t always paid off, with just 18 points in his first 35 games. Fortunately for the Flames, other shooters have risen to the occasion. A increase in productivity (and confidence) from Monahan, on the other hand, would go a long way.
A- on the whole.
Calgary was humming before the COVID-19 break in December, and the club hasn’t been able to replicate that success since returning. This isn’t to say the Flames can’t or won’t return to their past glory. They can’t afford to waste time figuring it out in such a competitive league.
Leon Draisaitl is the MVP of the second half of the season.
I haven’t forgotten about Connor McDavid, believe it or not (clearly). In any Oilers MVP discussion, Draisaitl and McDavid are the first and second choices. Draisaitl wins because of his somewhat higher stats (26 goals and 54 points in 36 games) and because he is one of the NHL’s most unstoppable, thrilling, and consistent players overall. Draisaitl finds ways to make an impact even when the Oilers are struggling (as they have been).
Mikko Koskinen is a player that need a reset.
Koskinen had a period early in the Oilers’ season when everything was going well for him. After then, the wheels came off. Mike Smith’s injury problems increased, coach Dave Tippett made some perplexing public comments about Koskinen’s performance, and the goaltender lost seven consecutive games. Edmonton didn’t anticipate Koskinen to be their top player this season, but that’s where they are now that Smith is out again. In order to pick things up in the second half, he’ll need a lot more help from the organization.
C is the overall grade.+
We’re giving the Oilers a pass since they still have two of the league’s finest players on their roster. But to be out of the postseason picture midway through the season? To have won just two of 15 games over a period of time? To be endowed with so much ability but with so little to show for it? It’s a difficult pill to swallow.
Jonathan Quick is the MVP of the midseason.
Perhaps things haven’t been going so well for Quick (or the Kings) recently. But make no mistake: without Quick, L.A. wouldn’t be in such a great position halfway through the season. Many anticipated Cal Petersen to dethrone Quick as the Kings’ starter at the start of the season, but the 36-year-old was not about to relinquish the job lightly. Quick has more than established his value with a.914 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average over 25 games.
Andreas Athanasiou is a player that need a reset.
This has been a difficult start to the season for a young center like Athanasiou, who is supposed to be in his prime. Injuries have hampered the 27-year-old, who has only made 11 appearances as of mid-January. After signing a one-year, $2.7 million free agency deal last summer, Athanasiou was expecting to make a positive impression. Athanasiou’s major priority now must be staying fit enough to salvage the second half, after a solid performance might have led to an even greater payoff come July.
B+ on the whole.
The Kings are a consistent performer across the board, but they don’t stand out in any one area. However, it is a recipe that is working for them. L.A. has every incentive to keep ascending as long as Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Quick remain on the team.
Timo Meier is the midseason MVP.
Meier scored more goals (five) in one game in mid-January than all but five of his teammates had scored all season. Meier’s efforts have been more important as San Jose has gotten closer to the bottom of the league in goals. He’s also been very consistent up front, having gone 36 games without a point just twice. Overall, the Sharks have been unreliable, but Meier’s play has improved night each night.
Kevin Labanc is a player who has to be reset.
Before being sidelined by a shoulder injury in December, Labanc wasn’t playing the sort of role that a player in the second year of a four-year, $18.9 million contract should be playing. Labanc spent most of his time on the fourth line and has just two even-strength points in 21 games. If Meier was ahead of the attacking curve, Labanc’s early results were woefully underwhelming. Will this alter once he returns to the lineup? San Jose has to hope so, given the enormity of its investment.
B on the whole.
The Sharks are a decent squad on the verge of being great. They’ve also played more games than many of the teams in their division. When the rest of the league catches up to their game played totals, the real test of San Jose’s toughness will be remaining in the playoff picture.
Jared McCann is the MVP of the second half of the season.
At the very least, McCann is enjoying a good year in Seattle. McCann’s club-leading 15 goals in 34 games were also a personal high, and he’s been a consistent performer for a Kraken squad that doesn’t have many. Despite playing fewer games than Seattle’s leading scorer, Jordan Eberle, McCann’s statistics and point-per-game pace outperform practically everyone else on the team. The Kraken have had a difficult start in the NHL, but McCann’s presence and performance must be considered as a plus.
Philipp Grubauer is a player that has to be reset.
Grubauer’s start to the season has been a disaster. Coming off a Vezina Trophy-caliber season in Colorado with a 9-15-4 record,.883 save percentage, and 3.26 goals-against average had to be the worst-case scenario no one saw coming. It’s unclear if Grubauer can turn the tide for himself or the Kraken, but he’s already taken the bulk of the responsibility for Seattle’s lack of competitiveness in its first season.
C is the overall grade.-
It’s tough being the new man. Especially after the Vegas Golden Knights set a precedent for expansion club success that no one wanted to see replicated. Seattle still has work to do in terms of filling in the gaps and realizing its full potential.
Thatcher Demko is the MVP of the midseason.
Bruce Boudreau was apparently not a possibility in this category, so here we are. Demko, on the other hand, is fully worthy of the honor. The Canucks were having a bad first half before Boudreau came on board behind the bench. Even back then, Demko was a guy the club could count on to give it his all every night and give them a chance to win. Demko’s stats remain good despite the Canucks’ struggles in front of him (.917 save percentage, 2.62 goals-against average through 32 starts). Demko’s performance will determine if Vancouver makes it into the playoff picture.
Elias Pettersson is a player who need a reset.
Pettersson is arguably the player who would like to start the season over. After Boudreau took over, his performance improved, but nine goals and two multi-point games in 39 games isn’t the kind of impact Vancouver needs from its top center. Pettersson is slowly rounding into shape, but it’s not quick enough for what the Canucks want up front. The only way ahead now is forward, and Pettersson must be at the vanguard of a Vancouver drive going forward.
C is the overall grade.+
The Boudreau Boost is a genuine thing. Will it, though, be enough to keep the Canucks going in the second half? Is it possible for Pettersson and Brock Boeser to make a comeback? Will the defense become more tenacious? So many inquiries. But there’ll be plenty of time for replies.
Chandler Stephenson is the midseason MVP.
When Vegas was without Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, Stephenson appeared to view it as an opportunity to step up his game. That has maintained the forward through a good first half, in which he has led the club in scoring (38 through 40 games), has a high shooting percentage (20 percent), and has earned playing time in every circumstance. Coach Peter DeBoer has had to patch and paste his roster a lot due to injuries and COVID-19 sickness. Stephenson has been a constant, ready and eager to take on whatever tasks have been assigned to him.
William Karlsson is a player who has to be reset.
This season, one of Vegas’ highest-paid players hasn’t been performing as expected. Karlsson, who earns almost $6 million each season, has just six goals and 13 points in 26 games and has struggled to shine in any part of the court. The center has overcome injury concerns, but despite the investment in his skills, he still seems ordinary. The good news for Karlsson is that he seems to have found the reset button recently by being more offensively engaged with some explosive playmaking.
A- on the whole.
The Golden Knights’ rise to the top of the Pacific Division has been gradual. They’ve done it without some of their finest players (most notably Pacioretty) for most of the first half. The group has terrific chemistry, and with a strong foundation in place, Vegas will be difficult to knock off the top spot.
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