In Friday's edition of Around the NHL, we discussed the Eastern Conference at the hafway point. Today we will take a look out west. The Anaheim ducks and Chicago Blackhawks are not surprisingly at the top or near the top of their respective divisions. The Nashville Predators being on top of the Central Division is.
Under first year head coach Peter Laviolette, the Predators have exceeded expectations. Nashville has been at the top or near the top of the division all season. They are 28-9-4 (60 points) and were the last team to lose a game in regulation.
Pekka Rinne has been outstanding. The Nashville goalie leads the league with 28 wins. His .930 save percentage puts him third while his 1.98 goals against average is good for second. He is not only the front runner for the Vezina but will garner a lot of Hart Trophy votes if his remarkable play continues.
Rinne has needed to be this good. Nashville leads the central and is tied with Anaheim for the NHL lead in points despite having only two players in the top 50 in the league in scoring.
Another pleasant surprise of the first half are the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets currently hold down the seventh playoff in the conference. Captain Andrew Ladd leads the way.
Ladd is tied for the team lead in goals with 16 and leads the team in points with 35. Blake Wheeler is second in scoring with 33 points and his 21 assists are tops on the team.
Rookie netminder Michael Hutchinson has also been a very pleasant surprise. He is 11-4-2 with a 2.00 goals against average, a .931 save percentage with one shutout.
While Winnipeg has been a surprise team moving up the standings, the Minnesota Wild have fallen well short of expectations. The Wild are currently in last place in the Central Division, seven points out of a playoff spot.
Darcy Keumper's hot start is a very distant memory right now. The Wild have lost three straight games and are a minus 10 in goal differential. They will need a very strong second half if they are to return to the postseason this year.
Unfortunately for Edmonton, the Oilers appear on their way to challenging for the number one pick yet again. Edmonton sits lasts in the NHL at 10-24-9. The Oilers have already made a coaching change and despite having three top picks cannot seem to get it together.
It should be a good finish to the season out west. You can never count out the Kings, San Jose has had an up and down first half but seems poised to make the playoffs and Vancouver has played well with Ryan Miller between the pipes.
Last night prior to the Anaheim game against Winnipeg, the Ducks honored longtime sniper Teemu Selanne. The "finnish flash" had his number 8 sweater sent to the rafters. It is the first Jersey number to be retired by the organization.
Selanne first played in the NHL for the Winnipeg Jets. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1992-93. His 76 goals that season is still the record for most goals by a rookie.
He would play three seasons in San Jose and one in Colorado. His longest tenure was by far in Anaheim. Selanne laced up the skates for the Ducks for 15 seasons.
When it was all said and done he scored 1,457 points in 1,451 regular season games. He scored another 88 points in 130 playoff games. Selanne was a 10 time All-Star, he won the first Richard Trophy, a Masterson Trophy and the 2007 Stanley Cup.
He competed in the Olympics six times for Finland and has the most points in Olympic hockey history with 43. He is also the highest scoring player from Finalnd in NHL history.
Congratulations Teemu on a well deserved honor.
All Star Rosters
The NHL announced the rosters for the January 25th All Star game in Columbus. Chicago had five of the six fan voted starters. Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was the lone player not from Chicago elected as a starter.
Each team will have at least one representative at the game. Teams will be selected in a fantasy format prior to the game by designated captains.
The annual Skills Competition will be held Saturday January 24th.
League Leaders through 1/11/15
Goals – Seguin, Nash (26)
Assists – Voracek (34)
Points – Voracek (50)
Plus/Minus – T. Johnson, Kucherov (+26)
Wins – Rinne (28)
Shutout – Fleury (6)
Bill Minchin is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow Bill on Twitter @wtfd103074