With the All-Star breaking coming up this weekend, many teams look to head into the break on a good note. Let's take a look back at what has happened so far, talk who is for real and who, won't make it for long.
Let's start with the obvious choice, the Washington Capitals. Behind Alexander Ovechkin the Caps are soaring through another great regular season. With a record of 32-9-6, the best in the league, Washington looks to continue their dominance. When it comes to five-on-five hockey no one in the NHL can hang with them right now. T.J. Oshie has finally started looking like he is comfortable in the system. Nicholas Backstrom is continuing to play like he does, Ovechkin doing Ovechkin things, and Brandon Holtby playing like an animal in the net, the Capitals look like the Golden State Warriors of hockey.
Arguably the hottest team in the NHL right now is the Minnesota Wild. Dating back to December 2nd the Wild has gone 19-3-2, jumping into first place in the Western Conference. Minnesota's speed and versatility has been key thus far in the season for much of their success. Devan Dubnyk in front of the net has been nearly unbeatable posting a 1.91 GAA (Goals Against Average). The only problem is the Wild have a history of putting together great regular seasons only to fall apart in the latter half of the season. So until we see consistency out of the break, don't put too much stock into them.
A surprise team right now is the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference. Much like the Wild, Columbus put together a remarkable winning streak of their own. With a 15 game winning streak in December the Blue Jackets vaulted themselves to the top of the division and the conference only behind, yes, Washington. Sergei Bobrovsky, the goaltender, has been playing his best hockey so far. Currently sitting in the top five in GAA, Save Percentage, and leading the league in wins with 28. Again, much like the Wild in the West, it will be interesting to see whether or not they can continue this play; and, if the situation presents itself, can they give Washington and the ever favorite Pittsburgh.
What seems to be the major similarity between these three teams? Yes, goaltending. Much like the quarterback in football, no team can win without a reliable goaltender. All three of the hottest teams right now have had exceptional goaltending, creating the opportunity to not have to stress for goals. A good example of what a great team without goaltending looks like is the St. Louis Blues. Offensively and defensively, the Blues can hang with just about anyone in the league. But, what sets them back is there is no reliability with either of the tendys.
So, with the All-Star break coming up and the game on the 29th, the infamous Stanley Cup is still up for grabs. Will the Wild and the Blue Jackets continue their great play? Is this finally the Capitals year, or will they fall apart in the playoffs again? One thing is for sure, it's going to be a great remainder of the hockey season.