As the calendar changes to 2020, the start of a new chapter if you may, and for many NHL teams turning over this new leaf may be exactly what they needed coming off the holiday break. The All-Star game later in the month will provide another short break for each of the 31 teams in the league but for now, teams are gearing up for an important playoff run. Regardless, the holidays/All-Star break is the mid-way point in the season and a metaphorical ‘fresh start’ for teams who may have been struggling down the stretch of the season. Let’s check in on the NHL action with our mid-season review.
Last year’s Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues are still a target that other teams are gunning for as they currently sit atop their division with a commanding 6-point lead over the second-place Colorado Avalanche. Interestingly enough, this is a Vladimir Tarasenko-less Blues team who still tallied the best record (9-4-0) in the Western Conference through December. Another team that hasn’t faltered without the help from their superstars in the East are the Pittsburgh Penguins, boasting a league-best 10-2-0 home record in December, keeping their playoff hopes afloat during a year many believed would be an off one. If you remember, it was this point in the season in which the Blues started their epic playoff run last season. Not even a playoff team entering 2019, the Blues turned it on and used this fresh start as a launching point for an unforgettable finish.
Boston and Washington have been the teams to beat in the East through the first half of the 2019-20 season, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. Both squads are playing confident hockey, mixing goal-scoring with a highly physical game and immaculate special teams play. The Bruins obviously have one of the top lines in the league with Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastranak rivaling the likes of McDavid/Draisaitil, Mackinnon/Makar, etc. In the West, an underdog, or in this case a Coyote has revealed itself to be a top contender this year. The Arizona Coyotes acquired Phil Kessel in the off-season and now bring their first true superstar to town. With Taylor Hall arriving in the desert, the Coyotes will now have all of the pieces to make another run in the West and for the Stanley Cup. The Desert Dogs forward attack now has the depth it needs to hopefully take the Pacific Division come January.
From winning streaks to coaching changes to a little bit of everything in between, this stretch of the season at the turn of the decade has not disappointed when it comes to ups and downs.