[Updates noted in square brackets.]
Well hasn’t this been the season of surprises in the NHL?
Connor McDavid sits atop Art Ross race, ahead of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. And second-overall pick Patrick Laine has scored more goals than Toronto’s golden child, Auston Matthews, despite the latter notching four in his first NHL game.
But the most surprising stat comes not from an individual, but a team.
If you’ve taken a look at the Eastern Conference standings lately, you’d see the Rangers at the top, followed by Pittsburgh and Columbus. [Dec. 28: Columbus has now overtaken Pittsburgh for first.] Yes, you read that correctly. Columbus is one of the best teams in the league so far this season, and has been on an impressive winning streak as of late. They have one of the best power play percentages, and Sergei Bobrovsky leads all goalies in wins.
In the West, Minnesota has been no slouch either. The Wild have recently strung together a number of wins, and are holding their own in the conference.
Will the Jackets stay hot through the winter weather? Will the Wild be tamed by the West’s best? Will my editor stop inserting terrible puns into this article? (No!) With so many surprises, and more than half the regular season to go, I set the odds on how the rest of the year will play out.
NHL 2016-17 Odds
Over/Under longest winning streak by any team: 10.5 14.5
The NHL record of 17 belongs to the Pittsburgh Penguins and hasn’t been broken in 23 years. The Pens themselves have come close, with 15 straight wins back in the 2012-13 season, but lately, we mostly see teams ride nine to ten game streaks before they are broken. It’s hard to imagine a team coming close this season given the relative parity.
[Dec. 28: Columbus’ win-streak is now at 13 games. With road games against a decent Jets team and the Wild, who sit second in the West, on tap, odds are it comes to an end sooner rather than later. The likelihood that any team bests the Jackets’ current run this season is slim-to-none.]
Over/Under longest losing streak by any team: 9.5
Earlier in the season, we saw the Vancouver Canucks ride a long and painful nine-game losing streak. Colorado was close behind with eight, and Arizona had a similar fate with seven losses in a row. While that’s a long time, it’s nowhere near the record of 17 set by the Washington Capitals in 1974-75. Going that long without a win is rare these days. Again, the NHL is becoming more even throughout, and there’s no Connor McDavid to tank for in next year’s draft.
Odds on which coach will be fired next
Jared Bednar (COL): 13/7
Dave Tippett (ARI): 7/3
Jack Capuano (NYI): 4/1
Willie Desjardins (VAN): 9/1
There aren’t a lot of teams with losing records far this season, but the ones that do have lost bad. As mentioned above, the Canucks, Avs, and Coyotes have all gone through painful skids; it’s likely these coaches will be shown the door if they can’t turn things around by season’s end.
Odds Connor McDavid will win the Art Ross (most points): 1/1
It’s still early, and anything can happen, but this kid has a good shot of finishing the season at the top of at least one list. He’s finally erased the pressure of being Connor McDavid, and has found a way to be comfortable in his own skin. That could only translate into one (or two) things: more goals and more points.
Odds Patrick Laine will finish with more goals than Auston Matthews: 2/3
Laine has more skilled teammates than Matthews to work with, which means Matthews has to be more of a one-pony show. But most of the Leafs’ skill guys are incredibly young and Matthews and company could easily find undiscovered chemistry by the new year. The kid’s got talent, and if it’s not this year, he’ll become one of the league’s best in the next season or two.
Photo credit: Lisa Gansky (Flickr: IMG_6054) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.