Grades for Every NHL Team at the Midway Point of the 2015-16 Season

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 22, 2016

Grades for Every NHL Team at the Midway Point of the 2015-16 Season

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The NHL is now a little past the halfway point of the season, with its 30 member teams having all played between 45 and 50 games of their 82 games. With the All-Star break almost upon us, now is a good time to sit back and examine what has gone right and what has gone wrong for those teams.

    The following slideshow evaluates offence, defence, goaltending and overall performance, with the grades in each area determined by goal differential rather than standings points.

    Teams with a lot of goals for get high grades offensively. Teams with a low number of goals against get high grades defensively and in net, with the exact split determined mostly by the save percentage of the goalies involved. Clubs that score far more goals than they allow end up with a strong overall grade.

    There are two caveats worth noting. The first is goals for and goals against matter equally to the overall grade, so the grade for offence carries as much weight as the grades for defence and goaltending combined. Additionally, goal differential and the standings line up pretty closely, but where they don't (such as in the case of the St. Louis Blues) we have defaulted to goals rather than standings points for these grades. 

    Read on to see where your team ranks.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Offence: F. The Anaheim Ducks are the only team in the league that have averaged under two goals per game this season. Ryan Getzlaf has all of three goals, Corey Perry is the team leader with 29 points overall and, after the top line, only one forward has even 15 points. This has been a total disaster. 

    Defence: A. Head coach Bruce Boudreau has his club focused on the defensive zone, and it has paid off in a lot of ways. Hampus Lindholm anchors one excellent pairing, Sami Vatanen brings the offence and injuries to Cam Fowler, Simon Despres and Clayton Stoner haven't been insurmountable. 

    Goaltending: B-. John Gibson has been great when he's played and seems to have taken the No. 1 job away from Frederik Andersen, who is himself a competent starter. Anton Khudobin gives the club a competent backup in the third-stringer role.  

    Overall Grade: C-. The ship is slowly being righted after an awful start, and the playoffs are still a real possibility.

Arizona Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Offence: B. Though not known for offence, the Arizona Coyotes have been getting scoring by committee this year, and it's worked nicely. The arrival of two excellent offensive rookies in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, along with some veteran additions in the summer, has given Arizona three lines capable of helping and a fourth that can occasionally surprise.

    Defence: D. Oliver Ekman-Larsson plays more than 25 minutes per game, partner Michael Stone plays just under 22 and head coach Dave Tippett rotates the rest, trying to avoid displaying weakness. It's a bad group with one brilliantly shining gem. 

    Goaltending: D. The only reason this position doesn't get a failing mark is because Louis Domingue has taken advantage of an opportunity and looks like a guy who can actually play. The duo the team started the year with—Mike Smith and Anders Lindback—had been inexcusably bad.  

    Overall Grade: C. The first half started badly, but if Domingue is for real, this is a team that could make some noise down the stretch.

Boston Bruins

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Offence: A-. The Boston Bruins sit third in the NHL in offensive production, though there's a big jump needed to catch the Dallas Stars in second place. The one-two-three punch of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Ryan Spooner has been superb, and Loui Eriksson is having a great year. The power play is also unbelievably hot

    Defence: B-. Zdeno Chara could use a step back but still gives the Bruins a lot. Combine that with some good performances from unexpected places and a veteran corps of forwards, and Boston's team-wide performance on the defensive side of the puck has been commendable. 

    Goaltending: C+. Tuukka Rask has rebounded from a shaky start, and Jonas Gustavsson has been remarkably competent as his backup. This is a position with the potential to drive real improvement in the second half of the campaign. 

    Overall Grade: B+. Boston has the leading goal differential in the Atlantic Division, plus-18, but the team is still on the playoff bubble.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Offence: D. Outside of Ryan O'Reilly and high-profile youngsters Jack Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen, offence has been hard to come by, with the Buffalo Sabres outscoring only three other NHL teams. Evander Kane hasn't helped as much as hoped, and Matt Moulson has only four goals on the year. 

    Defence: C-. There is promise here, but the Sabres are leaning heavily on a lot of young defenceman, and it's only natural there are growing pains. Ristolainen is averaging 25 minutes per game, and although he's scoring nicely, he's probably not truly ready for that kind of two-way responsibility at five-on-five just yet. 

    Goaltending: C+. Robin Lehner's early injury could have been a season-killer, but it wasn't. Unremarkable veteran Chad Johnson stepped nicely into the breach and was pushed by rookie sensation Linus Ullmark. The Sabres now have three competent goalies fighting for starts.  

    Overall Grade: D. This is a work in progress, and the standings reflect that. Still, the Sabres have taken a big step forward from last season.

Calgary Flames

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Offence: B-. Johnny Gaudreau has been magical, putting up 46 points for a team on which nobody else—even his linemates—has managed even 30. However, while the Calgary Flames have lacked a second impact scorer, they've had offensive contributions from the back end and have three reasonably capable lines. 

    Defence: C. T.J. Brodie is a special player, and after tough starts both Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton have come around nicely. The forwards could help more than they do, and the bottom end of the blue-line depth chart has some issues. 

    Goaltending: F. Karri Ramo is swimming hard for daylight, and that's been a big part of Calgary's recent resurgence. However, Ramo had a lousy start, and neither Jonas Hiller nor Joni Ortio has been anything else this season. 

    Overall Grade: C-. The Flames are pushing and are not yet out of the playoff race, but they need to make up ground quickly.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Offence: D. The Carolina Hurricanes have six remotely competent scorers and nobody who drives the offence the way they would undoubtedly like. Things will get worse if Eric Staal ends up getting dealt before he hits free agency in the summer.

    Defence: B. Justin Faulk carries an awfully heavy load with grace, and the Hurricanes have some underrated veterans and promising young players supporting him. Given the team's lack of talent both up front and in net, it's perhaps not surprising a great deal of focus has gone to preventing shots against.

    Goaltending: F. Cam Ward has been bad for years, so it's not surprising he has played poorly again this season. Eddie Lack was a train wreck out of the gate, but he has improved lately, though his save percentage is still on the wrong side of 0.900. 

    Overall Grade: C-. The roster here is incredibly unimpressive. The coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for keeping this collection of mismatched parts in the playoff race. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Offence: B+. Patrick Kane has 72 points in 50 games, Artemi Panarin has turned into a major asset as a rookie and Jonathan Toews is back after a tepid start to the year. Who cares if the Chicago Blackhawks only have seven forwards who can score?

    Defence: A-. The trio of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook is putting in its customarily excellent performance. Add in a healthy Trevor van Riemsdyk and the discovery of Erik Gustafsson, and it's no surprise the Hawks do such a good job of limiting shots against. 

    Goaltending: A+. Corey Crawford is having a career year, the kind of year that should earn him serious Vezina Trophy consideration. Forget about John Scott, the real travesty of the All-Star game is that Crawford and his 0.931 save percentage are sitting at home while Pekka Rinne and his 0.903 represent the Central.

    Overall Grade: A. A Cup contender once again.

Colorado Avalanche

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Offence: B. Linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene are doing the offensive heavy lifting and promise to be one of the league's most formidable duos for years to come, but they aren't the only story here. The Colorado Avalanche have good depth up front too and a nice mix of youth and more experienced hands. 

    Defence: D. The bottom end of the defensive rotation is an unholy mess, but there is at least some quality here. Erik Johnson is a veteran hand, and the addition of Francois Beauchemin in the summer has taken some of the load off his shoulders. Tyson Barrie is always a threat to score. 

    Goaltending: C+. Semyon Varlamov started poorly but went nuts in December to reclaim his starting job and force back Reto Berra and Calvin Pickard, both of whom were pushing for more playing time. This is a position of depth for Colorado.

    Overall Grade: C+. The Avs have won two in a row and climbed back into the black on the goal differential front, and not coincidentally into the final wild card slot in the West.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Offence: C. If there has been a bright point to the Columbus Blue Jackets' terrible year, it has been offensively, where they're roughly an average team, though the recent loss of Ryan Johansen will hurt there. Five forwards have at least 10 goals on the year, with Scott Hartnell, Brandon Saad and Boone Jenner all tied for the team lead on 16.

    Defence: F. There's a reason Seth Jones went from being Nashville's third option on the right side to playing more than 24 minutes per game in Columbus. The blue line is a total disaster. 

    Goaltending: F. Sergei Bobrovsky, when healthy, has been OK to just south of OK. Backup Curtis McElhinney has probably played his way out of the NHL, and the third- and fourth-stringers who have gotten starts, such as Joonas Korpisalo, haven't been anything to write home about. 

    Overall Grade: F. This has been an utterly disastrous campaign for the Blue Jackets. If general manager Jarmo Kekalainen were fired tomorrow, it's doubtful the hockey world would even bat an eyelid.

Dallas Stars

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Offence: A+. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are a nice place to start. Building a second line around Jason Spezza doesn't hurt, either. The Dallas Stars are one of only two teams in the league to be averaging more than three goals per night. 

    Defence: C+. The Stars surrender a lot of goals, though there's no denying the blue line has improved this season. Jason Demers was a savvy addition, and veteran Johnny Oduya has bounced back from a difficult final campaign in Chicago, though the leader on the blue line is clearly John Klingberg. 

    Goaltending: C. The decision to run with two pricey goalies hasn't really paid off all that well for the Stars. Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have each just been OK. 

    Overall Grade: A. It's been a fine campaign in Texas; this is the season we pundits expected the Stars to have a year ago.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Offence: C-. Dylan Larkin was a great find and helped stem the bleeding early in the year. The return of Pavel Datsyuk from injured reserve has done a lot to bolster the Detroit Red Wings in all areas of the game too. Even so, the Wings are a bottom-third NHL team in terms of goals per game. 

    Defence: B-. The Red Wings are allowing just 2.5 goals per game, a figure that just narrowly misses out on the top-third of the league. There's a polished group of forwards and a team-wide commitment to defence that has helped to offset a by-committee blue line. 

    Goaltending: A-. Petr Mrazek has been superb, notching a 0.931 save percentage on the season. His strong work has relegated Jimmy Howard into the backup slot as the 31-year-old goaltender fights through another tough season. 

    Overall Grade: C. Detroit's minus-six goal differential is a touch below average, but the team is four points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Offence: C-. If Connor McDavid were healthy, this might be a better grade. If the power play worked, this might be a better grade. Even so, the duo of Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl has impressed, and when injury isn't decimating the lineup, the top 12 up front looks pretty good. 

    Defence: D. This was already Edmonton's weakest position, and a long-term injury to Oscar Klefbom has not helped at all. The veterans are middling, and the Oilers are leaning too heavily on youth.

    Goaltending: C-. Cam Talbot started poorly but has since come around and settled into the No. 1 role. Anders Nilsson started brilliantly but has since collapsed and may not hold onto an NHL job beyond this year. On balance, it hasn't been a great duo, but Talbot's finding his legs is the most positive development in Edmonton's net since Devan Dubnyk supplanted Nikolai Khabibulin in 2012-13.

    Overall Grade: D. Edmonton is an improved team from last year. It still isn't a good team. 

Florida Panthers

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Offence: C. Jaromir Jagr leads the Florida Panthers in points with 32, which is both impressive and a little disappointing in that a reasonably impressive cadre of young players has not yet supplanted him. Still, the Panthers have a competent top six and, when everyone's healthy, can run three good lines. 

    Defence: B+. The Aaron Ekblad-Brian Campbell partnership has been lethal, and head coach Gerard Gallant has kept his team's focus squarely on goal prevention. Ekblad hasn't played since January 10 after taking a hard hit from Edmonton's Matt Hendricks; Florida needs him back desperately. 

    Goaltending: A+. Roberto Luongo has been brilliant, justifying the Panthers' faith in him, and backup Al Montoya has matched him save for save.

    Overall Grade: B+. Florida's 12-game winning streak moved them into first in the Atlantic and made an otherwise disappointing first half a real success.

Los Angeles Kings

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Offence: B-. At 2.59 goals per game, the Los Angeles Kings are scoring a touch more than the average NHL team, the Winnipeg Jets at 2.55, though that's a little misleading as there's a steep drop-off before the bottom third. Anze Kopitar is threatening the point-per-game mark, and two productive lines are carrying most of the load. 

    Defence: A+. The Kings have been the NHL's best defensive team over the last half-decade, and they haven't forgotten how to take care of business in their own end. On the blue line, Drew Doughty is playing almost 28 minutes per game and is a strong Norris Trophy contender.

    Goaltending: A. Jonathan Quick has been quite good and is logging his usual heavy workload. Backup Jhonas Enroth has proved to be a reliable deputy, posting a 0.930 save percentage over eight games for the Kings. 

    Overall Grade: A-. Another deep playoff run seems inevitable; it's hard to imagine the Kings dropping a seven-game series to any Pacific Division opponent.

Minnesota Wild

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Offence: C. The Minnesota Wild have good scoring depth with three dangerous lines but lack top-end scoring talent. Mikko Koivu leads the club with 34 points, and Zach Parise leads scoring with 17 goals. A high-end centre is the dream here; one imagines Minnesota would have loved to have landed Ryan Johansen.

    Defence: A-. The Wild haven't totally left behind the commitment to defence that characterized the club under Jacques Lemaire for so many years. At least as importantly, Ryan Suter is having a fantastic season—one good enough to deserve Norris consideration.

    Goaltending: A-. There have been two pieces of good news for Minnesota this season. First, Devan Dubnyk has continued to play extremely well and shown an ability to handle a ton of minutes. Second, Darcy Kuemper has stepped in without missing a beat when called for and has rightly solidified his status as a quality backup option.

    Overall Grade: B-. It hasn't been a great year for the Wild, and they aren't totally safe. But the team has handled things pretty well in the Central, the league's toughest division.

Montreal Canadiens

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Offence: B-. Believe it or not, the Montreal Canadiens are still a top-10 team in the league in terms of goals per game, though the drought over the last 20 games or so has been ugly. At their best, the Habs run a deep and competent forward group, though a real offensive difference-maker is conspicuous by his absence. Max Pacioretty leads the team in goals and points, and Brendan Gallagher was sorely missed when an injury cost him a long block of games before the turn of the year. 

    Defence: B+. The Canadiens still aren't surrendering a ton of goals; conceding 2.57 per game, they're above the NHL's average teams, the Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers on 2.60, in terms of goals against despite what we could charitably call concerns in net. Andrei Markov has struggled of late, but the personnel on the back end are pretty solid overall, and the forwards play a responsible game as a rule. 

    Goaltending: C-. Well, Carey Price was extremely good. Mike Condon has had his moments but hasn't been strong overall. The less said about Ben Scrivens and Dustin Tokarski, the better. 

    Overall Grade: B-. Montreal earned an A+ with a 19-4-3 start, which included a plus-33 goal differential; if this were a first-quarter review, that would be the grade. The Canadiens have gone 4-16-1 and minus-26 since, which is an F-level performance. We're basically sawing off the difference here, but if things don't change really soon, the end-of-year mark is going to be ugly.

Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Offence: C. Ryan Johansen is probably the best centre who has ever played in his prime for the Nashville Predators, and he has nine points in his seven games since arriving from Columbus. The team needs him badly; in the first half, Nashville struggled to score goals by committee.

    Defence: A-. The Preds have one of the best collections of top-four defencemen in the league even sans Seth Jones, so it's no surprise the team's traditional strength has remained strong over the first half of 2015-16. 

    Goaltending: F. Not nearly enough attention has been focused on Pekka Rinne this year. He's been a total train wreck; his 0.903 save percentage is more what one would expect from a third-string goalie than a starter. He's almost single-handedly pushed Nashville out of a playoff spot. 

    Overall Grade: C. The Predators have a good team, particularly with Johansen bringing an each-way element to the top line. But if the goaltending isn't fixed somehow, it'll drag the whole club down. 

New Jersey Devils

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Offence: D. Lee Stempniak and Kyle Palmieri have been welcome additions and have worked out wonderfully. Unfortunately, that still leaves the New Jersey Devils with only five forwards on pace for at least 20 points. The bottom six in New Jersey is terrifying, though some recent recalls hold promise. 

    Defence: B+. Only five teams in the league have surrendered fewer than the 2.31 goals per game the Devils have given up, a testament to the club's continued devotion to five-man defensive play. Andy Greene is awesome, and that doesn't get said nearly enough. Adam Larsson is coming into his own. 

    Goaltending: A-. Cory Schneider has been great. He is the league's most underappreciated elite goaltender. The only reason this mark isn't higher is because Keith Kinkaid has not been good, but fortunately for the Devils, he doesn't play much. 

    Overall Grade: C. If this team could score, it might be really scary. As is, though, the Devils are surprisingly in the playoff mix. 

New York Islanders

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Offence: B-. If the New York Islanders had scored two more goals than the 120 they managed in their first 45 games, they'd be a top-nine team in the NHL in goals per game, and this is despite the well-publicized struggles of franchise centre John Tavares. Eleven forwards are on pace for 20-plus points, and if Tavares finds a higher gear, this team could be special in the back half of the season.

    Defence: C+. It hasn't been an easy year for the Islanders blue line. Depth has been an issue for much of the campaign, and the problem was exacerbated by injuries. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk have both had ups and downs. Still, the Isles are at least competent on a team-wide basis. 

    Goaltending: A. It doesn't matter whether Jaroslav Halak or Thomas Greiss starts; with either player in net, the Islanders have been blessed with strong performances. 

    Overall Grade: B. It hasn't exactly been a disappointing season for the Islanders. It just hasn't been the smashing success that might have been hoped for.

New York Rangers

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Offence: B+. The New York Rangers rank sixth in the NHL in terms of goals per game, 2.83, despite not having any one player enjoying a glorious offensive season. Depth has been the club's salvation once again; 16 different skaters are in double digits in points.

    Defence: C+. Dan Girardi, somehow, is still averaging better than 20 minutes per game on the season despite having underlying numbers reminiscent of Andrew MacDonald. The Rangers' traditional strength in this department has not been obvious this season, particularly on the penalty kill. 

    Goaltending: B-. Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been uniformly great all season, but he's still posting a 0.921 save percentage, and it's tough to complain too loudly about that. Antti Raanta has been competent in the backup role. 

    Overall Grade: B. New York seems to have come out of a troubling recent slump and sits second in the Met.

Ottawa Senators

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Offence: B. Offence has been the Ottawa Senators' salvation this season. Erik Karlsson is obviously a unique talent, but Ottawa also has six forwards in double digits in goals, including the wonderful Mike Hoffman, who is on pace to challenge for 40. 

    Defence: D. Karlsson is having a good season once again and playing massive minutes. When he's on the ice, the Sens are 50/50 in terms of Fenwick; when he's off, the ratio shifts to getting hammered 58-42. The bottom four of the blue line has been a disaster, starting with No. 3 defenceman Cody Ceci, who seems to keep getting minutes no matter how badly he performs. 

    Goaltending: C-. A strength for the Senators in the last few years, the goaltending has not been as good this time around. Craig Anderson has been a touch below average as a starter, and Andrew Hammond's numbers have moved pretty much in lockstep with his. 

    Overall Grade: C-. The Senators are still in the playoff picture, but they are 15 goals in the red through the first half of the year. 

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Offence: D. Only the Ducks have been a worse offensive team than the Philadelphia Flyers this year; things are so bad they have to look up to see the Devils. Claude Giroux has 37 points in 45 games, and Sean Couturier has been hot of late, but finding even six capable forwards for scoring roles has been a challenge.  

    Defence: C-. Realistically, Philly is getting all it can out of a pretty motley collection of defencemen. Michael Del Zotto is playing 24 minutes per game as the club's No. 1 defenceman, while Mark Streit is still being asked to carry a heavy load at age 38. 

    Goaltending: A. Michal Neuvirth is a more than respectable 10-5-2, which is the sort of thing that happens—even on a bad team—when a goalie puts up a 0.936 save percentage. Steve Mason has been less impressive on the season but has been good since overcoming a slow start. 

    Overall Grade: C-. The door hasn't closed on the playoffs just yet. Philadelphia is five points back of the East's final wild-card slot and has three games in hand on New Jersey.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Offence: C-. The Pittsburgh Penguins' total incompetence in the offensive zone cost Mike Johnston his job in December, and things have improved since that point, though there's still work to be done. The power play has improved, and Sidney Crosby is finally scoring like Sidney Crosby.

    Defence: C-. The blue line has struggled to move the puck all year, which is part of the reason the offence has had issues. There are some decent pieces to work with here, though, most notably Kris Letang and Olli Maatta.  

    Goaltending: A. Marc-Andre Fleury has been great for the Penguins this season, and the picture has been almost as rosy when his backups play. Jeff Zatkoff sports a 0.918 save percentage, while 21-year-old third-stringer Matt Murray was spectacular in a four-game cameo in December.

    Overall Grade: C+. The Pens are right on the playoff bubble. New head coach Mike Sullivan was put in a tough spot, but he's improved some things, and if the team keeps trending upward, he can look forward to a postseason berth.

San Jose Sharks

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Offence: B+. The San Jose Sharks are the fifth highest-scoring team in the NHL by goals per game, averaging 2.84. Joe Pavelski has been great, and defenceman Brent Burns has been unreal offensively. Even with Logan Couture sidelined for most of the first half, San Jose was scary; the club should be even more intimidating going forward. 

    Defence: B-. Paul Martin has been a nice addition to a strong top four. The group also features Justin Braun and polar opposites Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, each of whom is effective in his own way.

    Goaltending: D. Martin Jones has been fine in the starting role, posting a respectable 0.915 save percentage. Backup Alex Stalock has been a disaster; he's six games under 0.500 in just nine decisions and has a sub-0.900 save percentage.

    Overall Grade: B. The No. 2 team in the Pacific has bounced back well from a slow start and is on a nice little run.

St. Louis Blues

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Offence: C+. The St. Louis Blues are a marginally superior offensive team to the Blue Jackets. That's not a great place to be. Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen are both having good seasons, but there's a steep drop-off after that duo. A healthy Patrik Berglund should help stabilize a weak bottom six.  

    Defence: B+. The Blues have both good depth and quality top-end pieces on defence, though the shutdown tandem of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester has had issues this season. Having Ken Hitchcock as coach doesn't hurt here. 

    Goaltending: A-. Both Jake Allen and Brian Elliott have been excellent; the former has a 0.924 save percentage while the latter sits one point back at 0.923. That gives the Blues the luxury of keeping both fresh and being confident of a quality performance from either. 

    Overall Grade: B-. St. Louis is in good shape points-wise, but with just a plus-four goal differential, it's hard to see them as being on the same level as divisional rivals Dallas and Chicago. 

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Offence: B-. The Tampa Bay Lightning's high-octane offence hasn't been in evidence for much of the season, as players such as Tyler Johnson, Ryan Callahan and Ondrej Palat have all been hurt or struggled mightily. Things have turned around of late, with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov taking leading roles.

    Defence: A. The Lightning are one of the NHL's top teams at preventing goals this season. The top duo of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman has been very good, though the team could use some help for Jason Garrison on the second unit. 

    Goaltending: B+. Ben Bishop has been good, with a 19-13-3 record and a 0.928 save percentage. His heir apparent, Andrei Vasilevskiy, evidently needs more time, though; he has just a 0.905 save percentage on the year. 

    Overall Grade: B+. Tampa Bay has won seven straight games and is a whisker away from taking first in the Atlantic. After a slow start, things are going well.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Offence: C-. Goals have not come easily for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year, which isn't a big surprise given the lack of top-tier talent up front. Having said that, Toronto has benefited from surprisingly good performances from players such as Leo Komarov and P.A. Parenteau. One red flag: Many of the top producers are pending free agents, so the back half of the year could get rough if the Leafs become sellers. 

    Defence: C+. Aside from his weird love for Matt Hunwick, head coach Mike Babcock has done a lot of good on the defensive side of the puck for the Leafs. That includes the defensive work done by the forwards, as well as strong seasons from Dion Phaneuf and Morgan Rielly. 

    Goaltending: C+. James Reimer has been brilliant. Jonathan Bernier has been terrible. The good news is the former is healthy once again and the latter is slowly trending upward after burning most of the first three months of the year.

    Overall Grade: C. Given Toronto is in the middle of a rebuild, the first half of 2015-16 was remarkably respectable.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Offence: C-. The Sedin, Daniel and Henrik, twins have been great this year. Sometime linemates Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata have chipped in. Other than that, the offence has pretty much consisted of whatever Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi can do. An already top-heavy team took it on the chin when Brandon Sutter got hurt in November. 

    Defence: C-. The top trio on the blue line—Alex Edler, Chris Tanev and Dan Hamhuis—has been pretty good when all were healthy, but the long-term loss of Hamhuis was a heavy blow for the Canucks. Only seven teams are allowing more goals than the Canucks' average of 2.71.

    Goaltending: B-. There have been some ups and downs in net, particularly during a stretch where Jacob Markstrom got hurt, but on the whole the performances have been good. Ryan Miller has a 0.915 save percentage over 31 starts, while Markstrom is finally living up to years of hype with a 0.923 save percentage.

    Overall Grade: C-. The Canucks have heated up of late and climbed into a playoff spot in the Pacific, though the team's goal differential, minus-17, is still tied for second-worst in the West.

Washington Capitals

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Offence: A+. The NHL's best offensive team, the Washington Capitals have taken advantage of Evgeny Kuznetsov's ridiculous season to put together two absolutely lethal scoring lines. Newcomers T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams have both fit in beautifully too. It's not just Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom—not by a long shot.

    Defence: A. Even with Brooks Orpik on the shelf for most of the first half, the Capitals didn't miss a beat. the trio of Matt Niskanen, John Carlson and Karl Alzner has been superb, while Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov are awfully nice players to have at the bottom of the depth chart.

    Goaltending: A+. Braden Holtby has been awesome. If the Vezina vote were held today, I'm confident he'd run away with the award; it's hard to ignore a 30-5-2 record and 0.930 save percentage. Backup Philipp Grubauer has looked good, too.

    Overall Grade: A+. The NHL's best team in the first half is gearing up for a Stanley Cup run. This is a complete team with top-end talent and quality depth at every position.

Winnipeg Jets

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    Hannah Foslien/Associated Press

    Offence: C+. With an goals-per-game average of 2.55, the Winnipeg Jets are the median team offensively. Blake Wheeler is having a great year, and the top two lines are both capable, but things drop off pretty sharply after that. 

    Defence: C-. Winnipeg started the year well but has slumped badly since, and the biggest reason is it has had trouble keeping the puck out of the net. This is despite a respectable assembly of blue-line talent, a list that includes three decent right-shot rearguards.

    Goaltending: C-. Connor Hellebuyck has been great, with a 0.930 save percentage over 20 starts. However, he started the year behind Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson, both of whom have been pretty bad. Winnipeg is 11-8-1 with Hellebuyck and just 10-15-2 with the other two.

    Overall Grade: C-. No team in the West is truly outside the playoff picture, but only the Oilers sit below the Jets in the standings.


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