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Three up Three down: the first half of the NHL season

THREE UP

The Florida Panthers: To almost everyone’s surprise, the Florida Panthers are at the top of the Atlantic Division standings, ahead of the likes of Montréal and Tampa Bay. The Panthers’ success is even more surprising considering 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr is their leading scorer. Jagr, combined with Jonathan Huburdeau and Aleksander Barkov, has been a part of the one the most surprisingly dominant lines in the NHL so far this year. Add that to Roberto Luongo’s Vezina-like play and their position in the standing starts to make a little more sense.

Rookies: After last season featured the impressive debuts of Johnny Gaudreau, Fillip Forsberg, and Aaron Ekblad, this year might have and one of the most potent rookie classes in recent years. Most people expected Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel to be among the most talked about rookies, but a slow start from Eichel and an injury to McDavid have paved the way for Artemi Panarin, Max Domi, and Dylan Larkin to garner attention. Panarin leads all rookies in points, racking up 34 in 39 games, while Larkin sits tied for second in the league with a +21 rating.

Patrick Kane: Patrick Kane is on pace to set a new career high in points with his current 117-point-pace. His play is on another level right now, as he casually put up a 26-game point steak that ended in December and continues to lead the league in scoring. Kane’s career year is much needed as last year’s leading scorer, Jamie Benn, only tallied 87 points, leading to questions about the decline in scoring and if the age of the 100-point player is gone.

THREE DOWN

The Tampa Bay Lightning: Unlike their southern counterparts, the Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit outside of a playoff spot after making the Stanley Cup finals last season. Also, all eyes are on Steven Stamkos’ contract situation as he continues to favourite tweets about him and his hometown team in Toronto with no contract extension in place and the trade-deadline looming ahead. Losing a player like Stamkos would be devastating, but add that to Jonathan Drouin requesting a trade and there are serious question marks about the Lightning.

The Pacific Division: The Pacific division is not what is used to be. The only sure-fire playoff team as of now is the Los Angeles Kings, meanwhile the rest of the division fights it out while being just as close to the making the playoffs as they are to being dead-last in the league. Many predicted teams like Anaheim to be in the finals, or San Jose to at least make the playoffs, but the Ducks are only two points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. There is little doubt the Pacific is the worst division in in the NHL, especially when the Vancouver Canucks currently occupy third place despite having the second most losses out of any team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby: The most prominent face in hockey is on a 63-point-pace, raising questions about his decline and if we’ll ever see the same dominant Sidney Crosby that put up 100-point seasons in the past. Last season was the worst statistical season of Crosby’s career,and he was still over a point-per-game. This season, his slump couldn’t come at a worse time as the Pittsburgh Penguins are in tough to make the playoffs in a strong Metropolitan Division.

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