Canadiens, Blackhawks Emerge as Surprises While Panthers, Capitals Disappoint in First Half of NHL Season

Patrick Kane, Nick Leddy, Brandon SaadWith the Boston Bruins wrapping up their 24th game of the season on Tuesday, every team in the NHL has now reached or passed the halfway point of the 2013 NHL season. That means it’s time for a little reflection.

Let’s have a look and see what teams have surprised us, what teams have disappointed us and what’s gone according to plan.

The Canadiens and Blackhawks are both atop their respective conferences and both have surprised in their own ways.

The Canadiens were the worst team in the Eastern Conference last season and although they didn’t make any major offseason roster changes, they now find themselves in first place after an incredible turnaround. They were a preseason long shot to win the Stanley Cup, but now they’re just at 14-1 on the NHL futures at Bovada and only two teams — Boston and Pittsburgh — have shorter odds.

The Blackhawks have been quite impressive in their own right. More people would have believed that they would be in first place at this time, but nobody foresaw their record-setting start. It took them until their 25th game to lose in regulation. While teams like Vancouver, Philadelphia and Nashville have fallen off, the Blackhawks have emerged as the clear-cut Stanley Cup favorite at 9-2.

On the other hand, the Panthers ended a 12-year playoff drought last season and entered the 2013 campaign with some promise. Fast forward to the middle of March and the Panthers have their sights set on the top pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Florida has just 20 points this season and is the only team with less than nine wins. They’ve allowed 101 goals this season, which is astronomical considering no other team has yet to even give up 90.

As for the Capitals, they are just one point better than the lowly Panthers. Washington had high hopes heading into the 2013 campaign — especially after pushing the New York Rangers to their limits in the second round of the playoffs last season. This year, all signs point to the Capitals watching the playoffs from home.

Not much that the public expected has come to fruition in this shortened season, but two teams that have stayed true have been the Bruins and Penguins.

Pittsburgh has been an offensive juggernaut as their 100 goals lead the league — no other team has more than 88 — and they’re now the Cup favorites in the East at 6-1.

As for Boston, they aren’t getting much media attention with Montreal leading the Northeast Division but they’ve been very impressive. They’ve allowed a league-low 53 goals this season and are just three points behind Montreal for the Eastern Conference lead. However, they have played four less games.

Hockey’s brightest stars have their eyes on the prize in the second half of the season. It’s time to shoot and score with NHL Props at Bovada.

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