Some Monday morning musings from the NHL and the rest of the hockey world to prepare you for the upcoming week:
Favourite 1st-half storylines
Here are five other narratives that caught our eye in the first half:
1. The play of Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 14 months ago. The 29-year-old from Regina has played the best hockey of his career. Although he recently has hit a bit a rough patch as he deals with changes to his medication, he still leads the league in goals-against average at 1.65 and has the fourth-best save percentage at .933.
2. Harding played a role in our second storyline -- backup goaltending. A career backup, Harding earned No. 1 status with his play this season. Other backups who have been solid include: Cam Talbot (New York Rangers), Al Montoya (Winnipeg), Jonas Gustavsson (Detroit), Brian Elliott (St. Louis), Fredrik Andersen (Anaheim), Eddie Lack (Vancouver), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Colorado), Chad Johnson (Boston), Anton Khudobin (Carolina), Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens (Los Angeles).
3. The influence of Nik Lidstrom is alive and well. There has been a bevy of young Swedish blue-liners age 23 and under who have impressed, beginning with Erik Karlsson (Ottawa), Jonas Brodin (Minnesota) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Phoenix). Others include: Hampus Lindholm (Anaheim), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Adam Larsson (New Jersey), Alexander Urbom (Washington) and Mattias Ekholm (Nashville).
4. A late bloomer, it took Patrick Sharp a while before he received a call to play for Canada at the world championships. Now, at age 32, it looks like he'll make the Canadian Olympic team thanks to his 25 goals in 45 games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
5. The perseverance of 32-year-old Vancouver native Bracken Kearns. The University of Calgary economics graduate and son of former Canucks defenceman Dennis Kearns played a combined 624 minor-league regular-season and playoff games and another 14 NHL regular-season and playoff contests before he scored his first NHL goal. Then he scored in the next game and the next game for the San Jose Sharks.
Tampa Bay: In coach Jon Cooper's first full season, the Lightning have played well, even without Steven Stamkos.
Anaheim: The Ducks had a good season spoiled with a first-round playoff exit last spring, but they're back among the West's best again this year.
Colorado: Patrick Roy has made quite an impact in Denver in his rookie season.
Ottawa: A slow start has the Senators needing a strong second half to make the playoffs. Their four-game win streak is a stride in the right direction.
Winnipeg: The Jets haven't made much headway in terms of challenging for a playoff berth in their third season back in Manitoba.
Edmonton: The Oilers' kids haven't come of age under new bench boss Dallas Eakins.
Winner: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh).
Winner: Duncan Keith (Chicago).
Winner: Tuukka Rask (Boston).
Winner: Hampus Lindholm (Anaheim).
Jack Adams Award
Winner: Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay).
Honourable mention: Bruce Boudreau (Anaheim), Patrick Roy (Colorado).
The final handful of clubs hit the halfway mark with their 41st game over the weekend. Here are the second-quarter, 21-game records for each team.
Pittsburgh 17-3-1 (35 points).
Boston 14-6-1 (29).
Montreal 13-6-2 (28).
Philadelphia 12-7-2 (26).
Tampa Bay 11-6-4 (26).
Florida 11-6-4 (26).
Columbus 11-9-1 (23).
New Jersey 10-8-3 (23).
Washington 9-7-5 (25).
N.Y. Rangers 10-9-2 (22).
Detroit 9-9-3 (21).
Carolina 8-8-5 (21).
Toronto 8-9-4 (20).
Ottawa 8-10-3 (19).
Buffalo 7-11-3 (17).
N.Y. Islanders 6-11-4 (16).
St. Louis 15-4-2 (32 points).
Chicago 14-4-3 (31).
Anaheim 13-4-4 (30).
Vancouver 12-4-5 (29).
San Jose 13-7-1 (27).
Los Angeles 12-6-3 (27).
Colorado 11-6-4 (26).
Dallas 9-7-5 (23).
Nashville 9-9-3 (21).
Winnipeg 9-9-3 (21).
Edmonton 9-10-2 (20).
Phoenix 7-8-6 (20).
Calgary 8-10-3 (19).
Minnesota 8-12-1 (17).
Canadian Olympic goalies
Each week we have ranked the contenders for the three goalkeeper spots on the Canadian Olympic team based on their play to date. Here's our final list:
1. Carey Price (Montreal): He has been the most consistent among the Canadian contingent and has gone 3-0-2 in his last five outings.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh): He leads all Canadian goalies with 24 victories, but remains a long shot because he's only won one playoff series in the last four years.
4. Corey Crawford (Chicago): After missing nearly a month with a lower-body injury, the Stanley Cup-winning goalie returned to action last week.
5. Mike Smith (Phoenix): He seemed to be predetermined as the third goalie on the Canadian Olympic team, but hasn't won in his last five outings and was pulled in one of those games.
By the Numbers
4: Players -- Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Tyler Seguin (Dallas), Jeff Skinner (Carolina) and Patrick Sharp (Chicago) -- who have registered two hat tricks this season.
101: Games, of the 642 (15.73 per cent) played so far this season, that have been decided in a shootout.
184: Games, or 14.96 per cent, that ended in a shootout in 2009-10 -- the most since the penalty shot competition was added in 2005-06.
500: Career AHL points for Chicago Wolves forward Mark Mancari when he picked up two assists on Saturday. The 28-year-old native of London, Ont., became the 87th AHLer to reach the milestone.
1,000: NHL regular-season games as a head coach for the Los Angeles Kings' Darryl Sutter, who on Saturday became the 21st man in NHL history to accomplish the feat.
1,783: Games for Sutter if you include his NHL regular-season and playoff total as a player (457), IHL regular-season and playoff games coached (187) and Stanley Cup playoff games coached (139).
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