I know I haven't written enough about the NHL. It's an 82 game season though so that's my excuse. Either way we are at the halfway point and it's time to see where we're at as far as contenders and those that should start thinking about next season. Lets see shall we.
New York Rangers (31-12-4)
There really isn't a more balanced team this season. They have the perfect goalie tandem in Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron. Both have goals against averages under 2.00. Their star player Marian Gaborik is on pace to score 40 goals this season. And the young players are developing at a great pace. To go along with perhaps the best coach in the NHL in John Tortorella who is the right guy for the biggest pressure cooker that is New York.
Philadelphia Flyers (29-14-5)
Claude Giroux has been phenomenal for the Flyers. He and Scott Hartnell are the reasons why the Flyers are still among the top teams in the NHL. Even after all the offseason upheaval with the roster both have taken their games to another level. Kimmo Timonen has done well with the absence of Chris Pronger. And goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has actually been better than Ilya Bryzgalov in net. But they will need Bryzgalov playing better come playoff time.
Boston Bruins (31-14-2)
All those concerns about their Stanley Cup hangover are now a thing of the past. This is still the team to beat. Tyler Seguin and Patric Bergeron are having breakout seasons. They appear to be even better than last years team. Even goalie Tim Thomas is having a Vezina trophy winning type season. Better than last year. And his backup Tuukka Rask would be any other teams best goalie if Boston were to let him part.
Detroit Red Wings (33-16-1)
It's a wonder how Detroit manages to stay afloat when their time appears to be running out. Thanks to the usual suspects, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings are once again atop the Western Conference. Also goalie Jimmy Howard has been easily the best goaltender this entire season. He's a workhorse the likes of which haven't been seen since New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was in his prime.
St. Louis Blues (29-13-7)
The surprise of the NHL and all it took was a coaching change. Since Ken Hitchcock took over the Blues haven't looked back. Young stars David Backes and T.J. Oshie have been properly motivated and Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are becoming a formidable blue line duo. With Jaroslav Halak's struggles seemingly over now in net it's still good to know that they have a great backup in Brian Elliott.
Vancouver Canucks (30-15-4)
Goalie Roberto Luongo isn't having a great season, but now the Canucks know they have a viable backup in Cory Schneider. It also helps that they have the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel still playing at elite levels, but they must be better when the playoffs start. Once again their depth is what got to them to the Stanley Cup finals last year and it might help them get there again.
Above the Crowd
San Jose Sharks (27-14-6)
Their level of consistency is amazing considering they have some new pieces in place this year. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are both playing at elite levels this year. Youngsters Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are both emerging as the next generation of stars in San Jose. Dan Boyle is playing stellar defense and goalie Antti Niemi is having a career year. The Sharks pieces are in place for a deep playoff run.
Nashville Predators (30-16-4)
Pekka Rinne is a big reason why the Predators are among the best teams in the Western Conference. His .924 save percentage is among the best in the entire league. Also defenseman Shea Weber is in line for his first Norris Trophy the way he's playing this year. David Legwand and Martin Erat are both living up to their contracts this year with 30+ points so far this season. Nashville could be in position for a Stanley Cup run.
Chicago Blackhawks (29-15-6)
There is no doubt about the talent that Chicago has in place. What everyone is wondering is if they can keep it up for the playoffs. You'd think that the talent pool would stop with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But then comes Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and now Viktor Stalberg. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are holding down the fort in defense. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are doing an adequate job in net, but a trade might be in the works.
Ottawa Senators (27-19-6)
Craig Anderson isn't having the kind of season he had a few years ago for the young upstart Colorado Avalanche, but he's doing just enough in Ottawa. It also helps that Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek are having bounce back seasons for the Senators. Also Erik Karlsson has become a Norris Trophy candidate almost overnight. These Senators are a rejuvenated bunch going into the stretch run.
Pittsburgh Penguins (28-17-4)
Even without their captain Sidney Crosby the Penguins are a solid hockey team. Evgeni Malkin could be a Hart Trophy candidate this year with his comeback performance. James Neal has provided the necessary scoring with the absence of Crosby. They will need Kris Letang healthy though if they are to compete for the Stanley Cup. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been outstanding in net for Pittsburgh and will need to be well rested for the playoffs.
Middle of the Pack
New Jersey Devils (26-19-3)
A nice resurgent season for New Jersey. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise are having good seasons scoring over 40 points. Patrik Elias is leading the team in scoring and David Clarkson is becoming a great goal scorer. The question will still remain with goalie Martin Brodeur and his stamina. Does he have another playoff run in him? And if not can Johan Hedberg replace him?
Toronto Maple Leafs (25-19-5)
This is the make or break season for the Brian Burke - Ron Wilson era in Toronto. Their success rested in net with goalies James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. They've both been good in net, but one will have to step up for the stretch run. Toronto knows what to expect from Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, but the amazing comeback season from Joffrey Lupul has made the difference in Toronto.
Washington Capitals (26-19-3)
It has been a long season for the Capitals. New head coach Dale Hunter has done a good job in getting them back on track, but Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom haven't regained their elite status yet. That's a good thing considering they are in first place in their division. Health continues to be a problem for them, but their depth will keep them from missing the playoffs altogether. As will goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Florida Panthers (22-15-11)
It looks to be an uphill for the Panthers. They are fortunate to be only a few points behind Washington this late in the season, but Winnipeg is right behind them. Will goalie Jose Theodore keep Florida afloat towards the playoffs? Can they get by with just Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann as their best goal scorers? And will Brian Campbell last playing as much as he does on the blue line? Their future is bright, but they might fall short this year.
Winnipeg Jets (22-22-6)
I didn't have them as the worst team in the NHL. Mainly because their new fan base was going to keep them competitive this year. I didn't expect them to be in playoff contention this late in the year though. Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are becoming the future of this franchise leading the team in points. Considering the circumstances goalie Ondrej Pavelec has done a great job in net for the Jets. The couldn't win 22 games without him being apart of 18.
Minnesota Wild (24-18-7)
They were on top of the NHL for about a month. They have fallen quite a bit, but they're still in contention because of their goalie tandem. Niklas Backstrom has regained his form and Josh Harding has been a great backup. The Wild's offense is much better with Dany Heatley leading the way. Mikko Koivu must stay on the ice though if Minnesota is to make a return to the playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche (26-23-2)
It has been a long season for Colorado. They were off to a good start when the season began, but they have fallen quite a bit in the standings. Their bright young stars Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene have had rough seasons, but rookie Gabriel Landeskog is looking to be a fixture for them. Erik Johnson hasn't panned out in Colorado since he was acquired last year. The only thing keeping the Avs playoff hopes alive is veteran goalie J.S Giguere and his 2.10 goals against average.
Calgary Flames (23-21-6)
Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff can only do so much. He's still going strong with a .919 save percentage, but the Flames need to pick up the scoring output. Acquiring Mike Cammalleri from Montreal helps a little, but they need a healthy Alex Tanguay and a wakeup call from Jay Bouwmeester. Captain Jarome Iginla needs more support.
Los Angeles Kings (24-16-10)
It has been a struggle all year for the Kings to score some goals. They didn't expect at this point of the year that their leading goal scorer would only have 15 goals. The only good thing going for the Kings has been their health. And their defense has been stellar. Goalie Jonathan Quick is the leading contender for the Vezina Trophy. But that Dustin Penner trade is looking more and more awful after every game.
Dallas Stars (25-21-2)
Kari Lehtonen was off to a great start to the season. He has dropped a bit, but he's still the reason why the Stars are in contention. Jamie Benn is becoming a good complement to Loui Eriksson. As is Michael Ryder. Brenden Morrow must become more aggressive on offense for the stretch run if Dallas is to clinch any of the last remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Better Luck Next Year
Anaheim Ducks (18-23-7)
It wasn't exactly what Teemu Selanne had in mind when he decided to return to Anaheim for another season. He will probably end the season as their leading point scorer when Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan had their worst seasons playing on the same line. However, they have brought back some respectability with Bruce Boudreau as their new head coach. But this team lost a lot of luster on defense and with goalie Jonas Hiller.
Phoenix Coyotes (22-20-8)
While they're not out of the playoff race just yet they might want to start thinking about what to do with the trade deadline approaching. Goalie Mike Smith has been great being tasked to replace Ilya Bryzgalov in net. Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata have been the best scoring options for the Coyotes. It would be strange to see Shane Doan play for another team in the playoffs, but Phoenix might just do that this year.
Edmonton Oilers (18-26-5)
The young Oilers are up and coming, but they have a long way to go yet. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins together will be household names in Edmonton so long as the team can keep them there. Like with most young teams though they have relied too much on their veterans to keep them in contention. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin might be dealt to a contender who will need a proven Stanley Cup winner.
Columbus Blue Jackets (13-30-6)
The lowly Blue Jackets got off to a dreadful start this season. It also doesn't help them to know that their franchise goaltender Steve Mason has lost his mojo. They do have some bright spots for the future, but don't be surprised if Rick Nash begins to want out sooner rather than later. Columbus' big offseason acquisitions Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski have been rattled with injuries and their depth has come into question.
Carolina Hurricanes (18-24-9)
Carolina has two bright spots on offense in Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. After that it's hit or miss. Tuomo Ruutu has had a good year and will most likely be dealt before the deadline. Whether the Hurricanes can continue to rely on Cam Ward as their goaltender will be a big question mark going forward with a new coaching staff already in place for next year.
Tampa Bay Lightning (21-23-4)
They had such promise going into this year. Thankfully for them they could turn this around in a weak division, but last years Dwayne Roloson isn't going to show up in net for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis have been playing great hockey. Vincent Lecavalier still has time to heat up. But they have had almost nothing from their blue line other than Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Buffalo Sabres (20-24-5)
They have one of the deepest teams in the NHL, but with all that depth they must all perform at a high level. Other than Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek the Sabres haven't had much else on offense. To top it off their franchise goalie Ryan Miller is having the worst season of his career. It likely won't be the start of a rebuilding project, but the Sabres don't have much time with this current group.
Montreal Canadiens (19-21-9)
There has been no fight in the Canadiens for much of the season. That's what Mike Cammalleri said and was then sent off to Calgary. There is some offense in Montreal. Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty have done their part. Whether Montreal can get anything from their blue line is another matter. Carey Price has done everything he can in net and it still isn't enough.
New York Islanders (19-22-7)
Besides the future of the team being on Long Island fans are growing more concerned with whether or not their star player John Tavares will be around long term. With the team constantly having losing seasons it will start to wane with him. Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau are having career seasons, but it won't be enough. Evgeni Nabokov has done well in net and will most likely be dealt to a contender.