NHL First Half Summary: Beware the Sleepers

Matt MarcheskyCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2008

There is great parity in the league today.

One of the reasons for this newfound equanimity may be the revamped point system, in which a team receives a point simply by making it to overtime.

As of January 19, three of the NHL’s six conferences have first-place and last-place teams within 10 points of each other, which should prove to make the second half of the NHL season very competitive.

The most impressive team in the first half of the season in the East is clearly the Ottawa Senators, who have posted 62 points, and have six of the top eight Eastern Conference players in plus-minus through the first 45 games.

As for the West, it is hard to argue with the accomplishments of the Detroit Red Wings, who have racked up 70 points in their first 47 games. Goaltender Chris Osgood leads the league with the only goals-against-average under 2.00, and Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk are two of the top three leaders in the NHL with plus-minus scores of 35 and 31 respectively.

However, there are other teams not to be slept on.

The two hottest teams in the NHL right now are the two teams from Pennsylvania, both playing in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins and Flyers are a combined 16-2-2 in their last 20 games, and the Penguins haven’t lost since before Christmas.

The Anaheim Ducks have won 12 out of their last 15 and have taken over the Pacific Division.

As for our Canadian brethren: Calgary and Vancouver in the West, and Ottawa and Montreal in the East, should all make the playoffs this year.

Every team in the league still has a chance to make the playoffs, and it is likely that the final seeding will not be determined until the end of March.

The simple fact of the matter is that the NHL is back, and better than ever. Sit back and enjoy.