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Thursday January 6, 2011 7:17 am

Highs and lows halfway through the NHL season




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, Editorial, NHL

Ilya KovalchukWe’re roughly halfway into the NHL season (the first group of all stars were announced, so it’s fair), which makes it time to take a look at the best and the worst in the league to this point. Who has performed above and below expectations, and who has remained par for the course so far? You have the usual suspects atop the standings, whether it’s Sidney Crosby or his Penguins, but where is Tampa Bay right now if not for Steven Stamkos?

The worst team undoubtedly is the New Jersey Devils. What a tremendous fall they’ve had in 2010. This, of course, is due in no small part to Ilya Kovalchuk, whose 10 goals in 38 games certainly leaves something to be desired – like another 15 goals or so. Kovy wanted to be paid like he was the best player in the game, but there are five rookies playing right now who have more goals than he does; first-overall pick Taylor Hall among them with 12.

The unexpected goal scoring rookie leader isn’t Hall, nor is it Jeff Skinner; two guys vying for the Calder Memorial trophy, it’s Logan Couture of the Sharks, who went ninth overall in the 2007 draft. Sure, he played 25 games in the NHL last season (scoring five times), but he’s still eligible to play as a rookie this year, and his 18 goals aren’t only lighting the lamp, but also the hopes of Sharks fans, that after 12 playoff appearances in 18 seasons, maybe this will finally be the year they win a cup.

What’s probably the most unsurprising is the state of the Canadian teams. While the six franchises are among the most viable as far as revenues go, you’ll find four of them sitting 23rd in the league or worst, and Montreal not far ahead at 17th. This is exactly where these five clubs were expected to be. Vancouver was predicted to do well, but first overall in the league is perhaps a bit better than expected. A rejuvenated Roberto Luongo and solid play from new captain Henrik Sedin are much to thank here. Still with half a season to go, anything can happen in the ever-crazy NHL. Just don’t expect Kovalchuk to win the Hart Memorial.

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