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5 Storylines to Look ahead to the 2nd Half of the 2023-2024 NHL Season

5 Storylines to Watch for the 2nd Half of the 2023-2024 NHL Season 0 of 5 Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Justin Berl/Getty Images Welcome back to the 2023-24 NHL season. All-Star Weekend in Toronto was one for the books, with Connor McDavid winning the revamped skills competition for $1 million, players loving the new

5 Storylines to Look ahead to the 2nd Half of the 2023-2024 NHL Season

5 Storylines to Look ahead to the 2nd Half of the 2023-2024 NHL Season

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    Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.

    Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.Justin Berl/Getty Photographs

    Welcome again to the 2023-24 NHL season. All-Star Weekend in Toronto was one for the books, with Connor McDavid successful the revamped abilities competitors for $1 million, gamers loving the brand new points-based format, and a reasonably electrical end in Saturday’s sport from workforce Auston Matthews/Justin Bieber and all of the hometown youngsters.

    It is time to get reacquainted with the NHL as we ease into the extra critical a part of the season, although. McDavid and the Oilers will look to tie historical past as they go for his or her seventeenth consecutive win Tuesday night time, a file set by the 1992-93 Penguins. The sport may have even larger implications contemplating the Oilers are proper on the heels of the Golden Knights for No. 2 within the Pacific.

    Ah, sure. Significant hockey. We’re so again.

    There are many different questions that groups in any respect levels will begin to reply because the second half begins. Will the Bruins win the Presidents’ Trophy, and can it matter? Will Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov proceed to battle it out each single night time for the Hart? Does Montreal have to actively worsen?

    Let’s dive proper again in.

Will the Bruins Win the Presidents’ Trophy Once more, and Will It Matter?

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    Brad Marchand.

    Brad Marchand.Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Photographs

    Is the curse of the Presidents’ Trophy actual? Is the blessing of successful it after which occurring a deep run the following yr actual? What occurs should you win it twice in a row?

    These are all questions the Bruins search to reply as they kick off their second half. They presently sit at No. 1 within the East with 71 factors, tied for first total with the Western-leading Canucks.

    This yr has felt totally different, in fact, with out two perennial comforts in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejčí. However the success has additionally felt much less flukey. Their greatest gamers are stepping up—David Pastrňáokay is No. 3 in factors leaguewide, Brad Marchand is placing collectively a profession yr in his first as captain, and Jeremy Swayman is betting on himself in internet and taking a notable leap ahead (and maybe the No. 1 spot within the rotation).

    No matter occurs with the Bruins, it’s going to be an fascinating case examine on the impression of one thing type of intangible like “adversity.” Will they be extra battle-tested headed into the playoffs this yr, and once more, will it matter?

The Edmonton Oilers. What Are They?

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    Connor McDavid, Evan Bouchard and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

    Connor McDavid, Evan Bouchard and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.Andy Devlin/NHLI by way of Getty Photographs

    If I advised you earlier than the season that the Oilers would have one of many worst begins within the NHL, would you’ve got believed me?

    Would you imagine me if I then advised you those self same Oilers at the moment are driving a 16-game win streak and have an opportunity to tie the NHL file for the longest successful streak Tuesday vs. the Golden Knights?

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    How did this turnaround occur, and what ought to we make of it because the second half of the season begins?

    Edmonton (29-15-1) has not misplaced a sport in 2024 and has received 24 of its previous 27 video games. The Oilers have climbed to No. 3 within the Pacific Division, 5 factors behind Vegas with 5 video games in hand.

    McDavid has scored 9 targets and 29 factors in 16 video games, heating up after a slower (and barely injured) begin to the season by his requirements. However maybe this streak has been extra concerning the workforce stepping up round one of the best participant on the planet. Zach Hyman has led the workforce with 12 targets within the span, and goaltender Stuart Skinner has stolen the present with a 12-0-0 file, a .950 save proportion, and a 1.41 goals-against common.

    Contemplating the teaching change with new bench boss Kris Knoblauch coming in and making an instantaneous impression and the newfound well-roundedness of the workforce, possibly we’ll look again and see that the early-season adversity was what lastly led the Oilers to a deep playoff run.

The Race for the Hart Trophy

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    Connor McDavid poses with the Hart Trophy.

    Connor McDavid poses with the Hart Trophy.Bruce Bennett/Getty Photographs

    Within the weeks main as much as the All-Star break, the race for the Hart Trophy grew to become extra fascinating than it has been in years.

    You’ve got bought Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov buying and selling the No. 1 scoring spot each different night time, they usually’re doing it in several methods. MacKinnon, who’s bought 32 targets and 85 factors in 50 video games, has put collectively probably the most menacing play of his profession throughout. He is making issues occur all around the ice, whether or not that is an help resulting from one among his highly effective zone entries, a second-period game-tying aim, or one among his many game-winners. He is crushing an sincere sport at even power.

    You then’ve bought the uber-competitive Kucherov, who’s holding the Lightning related within the Cup contender dialog. He is bought an similar 32-53-85 stat line, and he is maintaining his status as among the best to ever do it on the person benefit. The literal interpretation of the Hart is the participant most dear to his workforce, and considering of the Avalanche and the Lightning with out MacKinnon and Kucherov is nearly unattainable.

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    Look, there’s nonetheless a second half of a season of hockey to play, and McDavid has entered the chat with an opportunity to make historical past instantly upon coming back from the break. David Pastrňáokay deserves a nod for holding the Bruins regular by way of the previous years of modifications and solely seeming to get higher and higher as an elite sniper. Artemi Panarin has carried the Rangers offensively all through the primary half. And when all is claimed and performed, the place will the Jets find yourself—and the place would they’ve ended up with out Connor Hellebuyck?

    It will be fascinating to observe this race down the stretch.

The Race to the Backside

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    Tomáš Hertl and Seth Jones.

    Tomáš Hertl and Seth Jones.Patrick McDermott/Getty Photographs

    The idea of tanking will be humorous, and I really feel like I alter my thoughts on the morality of all of it each different day. Final yr was one other instance of why I finally imagine it is high-quality—you possibly can actively be the worst workforce by far and the Chicago Blackhawks can nonetheless bounce from No. 3 to No. 1 to steal Connor Bedard. Apart from, it is enjoyable once we can type of break the fourth wall and be actual.

    The Sharks and their social media workforce have performed numerous fourth-wall breaking as they began their season with a number of 10-goal losses, they usually’re nonetheless at it because the workforce sits in final within the Pacific with 33 factors.

    San Jose Sharks @SanJoseSharks

    let’s not.

    However with Bedard out of the lineup lately, the Blackhawks are faring simply as brutally. They didn’t file a aim in 4 of their final six video games headed into the break, shedding 5 of the six, they usually’ve bought three fewer factors than the Sharks with 30 on the backside of the Central.

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    The East has been extra aggressive, and most notably the Canadiens are in a tough scenario the place the workforce is not as brutally terrible as anticipated—how dare they!—and the Senators are unexpectedly terrible. In fact, the Habs should not be penalized for being respectable, however what are you gonna do? In the meantime, the Blue Jackets are citing the rear with a season cursed from the beginning.

    It is likely to be enjoyable to observe them attempt to be worse because the second half kicks off. Inspirational stuff.

Will the Penguins Soar or Fall Flat on Their Faces?

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    Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

    Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Photographs

    The Penguins are in an analogous spot to the place they have been final yr, battling within the sometimes aggressive Metropolitan Division, on the fringes of a playoff spot and hanging on to their 17-year-strong core.

    Proper now, Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh (51 factors) are seven factors out of a wild-card spot and 5 factors behind the Flyers for the ultimate playoff spot within the Metropolitan Division.

    The Penguins noticed this go awry final yr, when one late-season loss in opposition to the Blackhawks decided their destiny, because the Panthers performed the Cinderella function and surged into the playoffs.

    This yr, might the Penguins be that surging workforce? Crosby is taking part in like he desires that to be the case, however he all the time does. They will want reinforcements throughout, and a relentless reminder of final yr’s nightmare ought to maintain them motivated.

    If they do not get it collectively, they’re going to need to reply uncomfortable questions on pending free agent Jake Guentzel’s future. Normal supervisor Kyle Dubas can get a large haul for the winger, and he is a confirmed playoff performer. However a Guentzel commerce is basically waving the white flag for the season and places the highlight on 87’s future.

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    No strain!

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