The first half of the 2011-12 NHL season saw Sidney Crosby come and go as well as other stars on the sidelines with head injuries.
The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks started slowly only to get hot. There also were seven coaching changes made, low times in Montreal and Edmonton and better than expected ones in Ottawa.
Now it's on to the stretch run and the dramatic jockeying for playoff positions. We're two weekends away from the all-star game in Ottawa, six weeks from the trade deadline and three months before the post-season chase for the Stanley Cup begins.
So as we enter the second half of the season, the time has come to review what we have seen and make a few predictions with our midterm report.
See you in May (five legitimate contenders)
1. Boston Bruins
2. Vancouver Canucks
3. New York Rangers
4. San Jose Sharks
5. St. Louis Blues
Five teams that are good but ...
1. Philadelphia Flyers - they still don't have dependable goaltending.
2. Detroit Red Wings - worried about their hunger level.
3. Chicago Blackhawks - see Flyers reason.
4. Florida Panthers - they give up too many goals.
5. Ottawa Senators - will be happy just to make playoffs.
Destined for the draft lottery
1. Columbus Blue Jackets
2. Edmonton Oilers
3. Carolina Hurricanes
4. New York Islanders
5. Anaheim Ducks
The envelope please (first-half trophy winners)
Hart and Lindsay (MVP): Claude Giroux, Flyers
We also like Jonathan Toews and Henrik Sedin in this category.
Norris (defenceman): Zdeno Chara, Bruins
The Boston captain gets in done at both ends of the rink.
Vezina (goalie): Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
Jimmy Howard, Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick deserve praise, too.
Calder (rookie): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers
New Jersey's Adam Henrique has closed the gap in this race.
Comeback: Brian Elliott, Blues
We also need to mention here the impressive turnarounds by the rehabilitated Matt Cooke and scoring sensation known as Eric Nystrom.
Adams (coach): Paul MacLean, Senators
We also could see Ken Hitchcock winning this award.
Top Executive: Dale Tallon, Panthers
Doug Armstrong also deserves kudos for hiring Hitchcock.
Five most pressing issues in the second half
1. Does Sidney Crosby return?
2. How well will the collective bargaining negotiations start off between Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr?
3. How many Canadian teams make the playoffs?
4. Will an owner step up to buy the Phoenix Coyotes or will the team relocate?
5. Can the Nashville Predators re-sign pending unrestricted free-agent Ryan Suter and pending restricted free-agent Shea Weber?
One of the storylines from the first half was that seven teams fired coaches. Here are the before-and-after records as of games played through Friday.
Anaheim 7-13-4 (Randy Carlyle to Bruce Boudreau) 7-9-3
Carolina 8-13-4 (Paul Maurice to Kirk Muller) 7-10-3
Columbus 11-25-5 (Scott Arniel to Todd Richards) 1-1-0
*Los Angeles 13-12-4 (Terry Murray to Darryl Sutter) 6-1-4
Montreal 13-12-7 (Jacques Martin to Randy Cunneyworth) 3-8-0
St. Louis 6-7-0 (Davis Payne to Ken Hitchcock) 19-5-6
Washington 12-9-1 (Bruce Boudreau to Dale Hunter) 11-8-1
*Kings assistant coach John Stevens went 2-2-0 in between Terry Murray's dismissal and Darryl Sutter's arrival.
Checking in at 41
The Bruins and Sharks were the final teams to reach the 41-game or midpoint of the season later on Saturday. Yes, we know some teams have played as many as 45 games already, but here is a look at each team at 41 games. By the way, the Bruins had the best second quarter at 15-5-0. The Oilers checked in with the worst second quarter at 5-14-1.
N.Y. Rangers 27-10-4 - 58 pts
Boston 28-12-1 - 57 pts
Philadelphia 25-12-4 - 54 pts
New Jersey 23-16-2 - 48 pts
Florida 20-13-8 - 48 pts
Ottawa 21-15-5 - 47 pts
Toronto 21-15-5 - 47 pts
Washington 22-17-2 - 46 pts
Pittsburgh 21-16-4 - 46 pts
Winnipeg 20-16-5 - 45 pts
Buffalo 18-18-5 - 41 pts
Montreal 16-18-7 - 39 pts
Tampa Bay 17-20-4 - 38 pts
NY Islanders 15-20-6 - 36 pts
Carolina 13-21-7 - 33 pts
San Jose 25-11-5 - 55 pts
Detroit 26-14-1 - 53 pts
Vancouver 25-13-3 - 53 pts
St. Louis 24-12-5 - 53 pts
Chicago 24-13-4 - 52 pts
Nashville 22-15-4 - 48 pts
Minnesota 21-14-6 - 48 pts
Dallas 23-17-1 - 47 pts
Los Angeles 20-14-7 - 47 pts
Colorado 22-18-1 - 45 pts
Phoenix 19-17-5 - 43 pts
Calgary 18-18-5 - 41 pts
Edmonton 16-22-3 - 35 pts
Anaheim 13-22-6 - 32 pts
Columbus 11-25-5 - 27 pts
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