First Half in the Books
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One Big Thing: First Half in the Books
What’s Happening: We weren’t always sure we’d get here, after COVID delays and related logistical challenges. But we’ve reached the halfway point in the 2020-21 NHL season, which really only began in 2021. There have been some memorable moments in the truncated season, so where are we now? And what is there to look forward to in the second half?
Who’s On Top: From a COVID perspective, the whole league has had a come-up since the start of the season. On February 12, there were 59 players on the COVID-19 protocol list. Just a month later, that list is in the single digits. And we haven’t had any recent COVID-related postponements — wild given the season’s start, when 35 games were postponed due to the virus.
The Florida Panthers could also consider themselves the winners of the season’s first half. Their star talent (Sergei Bobrovsky, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad — not to mention coach Joel Quenneville) needed a moment to find their footing, but now they really seem to be working together.
Bottom of the Barrel: You know who’s not on top of their game? If you’ve been watching, it’s not terribly hard to pick. The Buffalo Sabres have found themselves in a tough spot. They’re on a 12-game losing streak, and they’re scoring a league-worst 2.07 average goals per game. It’s a bit of a puzzler, since Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner, and Eric Staal scored a combined 85 goals last season. This season? Those four have scored just eight goals combined. Just yesterday, Ralph Kreuger was fired as head coach. The Sabres haven’t announced a replacement. Let’s hope, for their sake, that this is their lowest point, and the only direction they can go from here is up.
The Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a category all their own. While they had a slow start to the 2021 season, they’ve been hot lately. After Monday’s victory against the Bruins, the Penguins had won six games in a row, before losing a hard fought battle to those same Bruins Tuesday. Evengi Malkin is also on a streak — in the past nine games, he’s scored 12 points (four goals and eight assists). Malkin also hit his 1,100-career-point milestone on Monday night.
The Big Picture: We’ll be honest, we’re just happy to have hockey to watch. And thank goodness the season is only halfway through, so we have more hockey to go. If we can keep COVID numbers down, more people might even be able to see games in person. It’s hard to complain.
Insider Updates & Analysis
Update: Rangers head coach David Quinn was unable to travel with the team Wednesday due to COVID-19 protocols.
Update: Alex Ovechkin scored his 718th goal Tuesday, moving him to 6th all-time on the NHL goals list.
Update: North Dakota took home the NCHC title Tuesday.
Rumor: Leafs GM Kyle Dubas would be willing to move a top young prospect at the deadline to bolster the team’s roster.
A Question for the Peanut Gallery
How many goals will Alex Ovechkin score this season?