NHL teams look to come out of All Star break strong

Matt Roman

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ovechkin recently surged into the goal leader in the NHL with his hat trick vs. the Los Angeles Kings. He is quickly approaching the 700 goal mark, and continues to move up the scoring list.

The NHL playoff picture is starting to shape up heading into the beginning of February, and things are starting to get interesting.The Washington Capitals are leading the NHL in points, followed closely by the reigning champion St. Louis Blues and the dynamic Boston Bruins. The Detroit Red Wings are dead last in the NHL, with about 15 points separating them and the next lowest teams, making a comeback run like last year’s Blues nearly impossible. The Tampa Bay Lighting and the Colorado Avalanche, who may have the best roster in the NHL, are in the mix as well. In Vegas, the Lightning are given the best odds at 6-1, followed by the Blues and Bruins, each at 8-1.The Capitals, despite having the most points in the league, are tied for fourth with the Avalanche with 10-1 odds.

Each of these teams has players performing among the best in the league in stats. The Bruins’ David Pasternak leads the NHL in goals, followed closely by Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin, who scored eight goals in his last three games before the break. The Caps also have the leading goalie in save percentage with newcomer Ilya Samsonov, and the leading defenseman in points and assists with John Carlson. The Edmonton Oilers have the top two leaders in points in the NHL with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but are still only tied for 6th in Western Conference. This shows that to win games in the NHL, teams need to have depth throughout the roster and not just in their top line.

However, this year has been highlighted by head coach hiring and firings. In the Western Conference, three out of the last four coaches to win the conference have been fired, even though some of these teams are still performing among the best in the league. This includes the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who has been one of the best teams in the league since their formation two years ago, and were one of the top teams this year too. Most of the teams that have fired their coaches have had another coach in line for the job, who could be hired as soon as the next day.

Bill Peters, the first coach to be fired this season, wasn’t fired because of the way his team was playing. Early in the year, it came out that he had been using racial slurs directed towards a specific black hockey player while he was a coach at a lower level. He was fired, but there were other impacts around the hockey community. The impact of racism in hockey became much more clear, and there were discussions about other coaches and players that may have been using this as well. This brought light to part of the reason why the NHL has so few black players. As the other coaches were fired, questions were raised about whether these were for similar reasons, but none of these concerns were ever confirmed by the teams or the league. However, the removal of racist coaches should certainly help the diversification of the NHL in the future.