The NHL season is well underway, and most teams have settled in to some kind of normalcy with the exception of a few. Keep in mind, teams that are in a playoff position at the end of November are often there come spring time. The percentage of change is quite small.
The Eastern Conference has shaped up the way I figured. The Canadians are off to a quick start like last season with Carey Price remaining healthy. They have upgraded at the back-up position with Al Montoya and Radulov up front has been a nice fit so far. The question for them will remain after a long season, will they have the size and durability for a long playoff run? They have a number of tenacious players but they are going to take a beating up front.
The Panthers I thought would be higher in the standings, but with two of their top six forwards out for a while it will take them some time to rebound. Add Jagr to that list and nobody is surprised where they sit right now.
The Rangers offense has impressed me and you know the King will be there come playoff time. They made some good off-season moves getting younger and quicker which is paying off for them in the early part of this year.
The Islanders are struggling and will continue to struggle I believe after letting Kyle Okposo and Frans Neilson go in free agency. What was G.M Snow thinking?
The pride of the East to me is still the Penguins. Look at how well Crosby has rebounded and the pace at which he is scoring at is quite impressive. They have Matt Murray the goalie of the future and will certainly get something for Marc-Andre Fleury when they decide to move him.
Columbus will make a jump this year and should earn an invite to the spring dance. They are only two points out of a playoff spot right now having played 3 fewer games. This is a good team for coach John Torterella to be guiding. Blue collar players blocking shots and great goaltending.
The Western Conference
This is no longer the stronger of the two divisions. Don’t get me wrong the West is still tough and the Central has the most potential playoff teams, however the East in my opinion is now a harder division.
Chicago has turned things around but will they have the depth to return to NHL glory? The Blues inconsistencies are troubling from a handicappers point of view. Same goes for the Predators. The Edmonton Oilers are off to a good start and haven’t been bitten by the injury bug but they just finished an eastern road trip and were brought back down to earth a bit after their quick start to the season.
Winnipeg has been a tough one to figure out, but with Jacob Trouba back and signed for two years they may settle in to more consistency. The question mark there is, and will remain until they make changes, who is the go to goaltender? Neither of Connor Hellebuyck nor Michael Hutchinson are making a claim for the top spot. This back and forth may get a team into the show but seldom has it worked to win playoff series.
The California teams have settled in but I have a feeling they will all be there come spring time. The Kings look like they have learned to deal without Jonathan Quick. When he comes back healthy and rested they could make a run.
The handicapping early in the season has been a challenge to say the least, especially when teams are still defining their identities. We are only 10-14 games in but things are certainly clearer now than they were at the start of the season, and my record as of late has shown that, winning 14-of my last 20-plays.
I’m not where I want to be yet but so far it’s a lot better than a kick in the ass. I’ve learned plenty about these teams in the early going and we still have a long way to go, which has me pretty fired up.
For those who have bought in, I say thanks. I will continue to work and do my best to make the soundest picks available.
For those who haven’t, don’t wait too long.
Keep your sticks on the ice,