This is my rendition of how the fifteen teams in the Eastern Conference fared in the first half of the 2008-09 NHL season.
I measure my grade based on overall performance and weather or not the team has failed, met, or gone beyond expectations put on them at the start of the season.
1. Atlanta Thrashers
Well, what can you say about the Thrashers? Have they failed to meet expectations, or have they done exactly what we all thought they would do?
They are doing what I thought they would do, simply blamed on Kari Lehtonen.
This "starting" goalie has allowed four or more goals nine times this season. Nine times! The Sharks haven't even lost nine games, neither have the Bruins.
Simply put, without a goalie, you're not going to win in this league. Maybe Atlanta should move to the KHL.
2. Boston Bruins
This team's first half can be summed up by one word: Wow!
Who in the world predicted this start for the Bruins? I know I sure didn't.
The B's have benefited from the emergence of players like Lucic, Wheeler, Kreiji, Kessler, and Thomas. Put these players along side guys like Chara, Savard and Bregeron, then the result is wins—and a whole bunch of them at that.
3. Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are quite a hard hockey team to figure out. On one hand, they can put together a string of brutal outings and lose three or four games in a row. On the other, they look like the team that won the Presidents trophy two years ago.
They have a top-five penalty kill, and a top-five goalie. With Derek Roy and Tim Connolly starting to heat up look for the Sabres to solidify a playoff spot and challenge for home-ice advantage.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are a team playing up to their potential. Sitting right around eighth in the conference, Carolina will battle the rest of the season for the final spot. Cam Ward is having a better season than last, but players like Stall and Brind'amour are not.
The biggest reason for the Hurricanes struggles this season is their power play, which is ranked 23rd overall. And with a penalty kill like Carolina has, no team could make it to the playoffs not named the Detroit Red Wings.
5. Florida Panthers
When the Panthers lost Olli Jokinen in the off season, nobody gave this team a chance. Look at them now! Sitting in eighth place in the conference, and I bet there isn't a non-Florida fan out there who can name their starting goalie.
The Panthers are where they are because they play as a team—oh yeah, and David Booth. Already a 20-goal scorer this season the Panthers are looking good for a playoff run. I don't think they will make is simply because of their goaltending.
6. Montreal Canadiens
The Habs are doing exactly what most people thought they would do. They are sitting pretty in east, they have home ice advantage as it stands right now, and they are one of the best home teams in the league. With everyone on the team providing scoring, and Carey Price having an almost Vezina kind of year.
The only place this team needs to improve is on the power play. If they retain home ice until the playoffs, the road to the Stanley Cup will most definitely go through Montreal.
7.New Jersey Devils
Who thought that when Brodeur went down at the start of the season the Devils had no chance? Well, they are the second-best team in the East without the best goalie in the world—and they have a top-five leading scorer in the NHL.
Yes, Zack Parise is having a season that no devil has had in quite sometime. With Clemenson and Weekes between the pipes getting them a record that they have, this team is scary good on D and upfront. Its frightening to think how good this team could and will be when Mr. Brodeur returns to action.
8. New York Islanders
I don't have too much to say about the Isles. This team is bad. they are last place in the NHL by six points behind the KHL-worthy Thrashers. The goalie sucks, they have no defense and hardly any scoring up front. Simply put, this team fails.
9. New York Rangers
Steady as she goes on Broadway. Fourth in the East, King Henrik playing as usual, their defense is getting better every week and scoring upfront is balanced. A brutal powerplay is offset by the number-one penalty kill.
This team is doing what everyone thought they would do and haven't really surprised anybody. The power play woes affect the grade slightly, but not too much. Grade: C+
10. Ottawa Senators
It almost hurts watching this team. I think that the on-ice product is a direct reflection of the front-office business. Something doesn't seem right in Ottawa and a big shake up seems to be in order. Until then this team will not improve.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
The number-two power play and number-seven penalty kill are the reasons why the Flyers are where they are. Sitting in sixth place in the East is a slight disappointment for this team, who had high expectations this season.
They are doing it for the most part without the services of Daniel Briere. Martin Biron is having an okay season, but is in general proving why he is the best back-up goalie in the NHL, I say this because I don't believe he has proven otherwise.
The Flyers will be playing in the playoffs, but for how long is anybody's guess.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins
Wow! What has happened to the Pens? They own the top-two point getter's in the NHL, and yet are sitting out of the playoffs. I think that its the fact the special teams have let them down all season—23rd on the power play and 22nd on the penalty kill.
Crosby's injuries can not be used as an excuse simply because Malkin plays better when Sid is not in the line-up. A big reason why they are slacking is the goaltending, almost letting in on average three goals a game.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
With the Bolts, it all depends weather you thought the offseason moves would improve the team or not. I had a feeling it wouldn't—and for once I was right. This is because bringing in a whole bunch of new players, a new coach, and having un-realistic expectations on a rookie is a recipe for disaster. Disaster is what has happened in Tampa. Steve Stamkos is over rated, and I know this from watching him in the OHL (go ice dogs). All the Vinny trade talk doesn't really help the cause either.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
Now here is a team that is doing exactly what everyone knew they would do. SUCK. The leafs are bad, the goalie is bad, their D is bad, the offense is bad, heck even the farm team is bad.
Thank god for Leaf fans there is a light at the end of the tunnel. His name is Tavares.
15. Washington Capitals
The Capitals have somewhat surprised me this year, simply because I didn't think their goaltending would hold up. Well it has, and the Caps are thriving. They are fifth in the entire league and have a neat 2.84 goals-against average. Ovechkin is staying healthy and scoring goals to nobody surprise.
The power play is good, but the penalty killing is bad. They are getting lots of secondary scoring from Semin, Backstrom Green, and to a lesser extent, Kozlov. The Caps are dangerous and one of the best teams at home in the NHL.
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