The first half of the 2013-14 season is history.
Four of the NHL's top five regular-season teams from 2012-13 reached the midway point on top of their divisions. That included each Stanley Cup Finalists, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. The three California teams were piling up victories, several of which came at the expense of the three teams in the New York Metropolitan area (none of which reached the halfway mark owning a playoff berth).
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, who were 28th and 29th in the overall standings last season, were on target for a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The New York Islanders, a surprise postseason participant last spring, are among the 2013 playoff teams that may not qualify this season after a poor first half.
Here are 13 numbers and statistics that defined the first half of the 2013-14 season:
59 by 87
The Pittsburgh Penguins have endured a parade of injuries that would have decimated a lesser team, yet they finished the first half on top of the Eastern Conference while running away with first place in the Metropolitan Division. A lot of credit goes to Dan Bylsma's coaching and the deep roster assembled by general manager Ray Shero. But the one constant among all the injuries has been the brilliance of Sidney Crosby, the League's scoring leader at the midway point.
Crosby's 59 points were six more than runner-up Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and 14 more than any other player in the Eastern Conference. He scored or assisted on 46.1 percent of the Penguins' 128 non-shootout goals.
31 (and heading for 60?)
Alex Ovechkin won the goal-scoring title last season with 32 goals in a 48-game season. He's on his way to a repeat, but with a lot more goals.
Ovechkin reached the halfway point of the season with 31 goals, seven more than runner-up Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues (who's out with an injury). Ovechkin is on track for the second 60-goal season of his career. (he had 65 in 2007-08). He's also 19 goals away from reaching 50 for the first time since 2009-10.
99 (or one in six)
This is the eighth season that the League has used the shootout to settle games tied after regulation, and we're on a pace for the most tiebreakers ever. Through the first half of the season, 99 games had gone to the shootout, two more than in all of the 720 games played during the 2012-13 season.
In all, 16.1 percent -- just under one of every six games during the first half of the season -- had to be decided in a tiebreaker. Projected over the course of a full season, there would be 198 shootouts, easily exceeding the record of 184 set in 2009-10.
The biggest crowd ever to see an NHL game saw the 99th and final first-half shootout, the Toronto Maple Leafs' 3-2 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 1 in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. The previous record was 71,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the 2008 Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and Penguins.
8-4 vs. 0-6
The Washington Capitals ended the first half with 12 victories in regulation or overtime; the New Jersey Devils had 17. So why were the Devils playing catch-up in the race for a playoff berth? Because the Capitals won eight of their 12 shootouts and the Devils were 0-for-6. The Capitals were tops in the League in shootout wins; the Devils and Nashville Predators (0-4) were the only teams without a win in the tiebreaker.
36.4 (but over .500)
The Maple Leafs reached the midway point of the season holding down a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference despite making life incredibly difficult for their goaltenders. Toronto allowed an average of 36.4 shots per game; over a full season, that would be the most allowed by any team in more than 15 years. The 2005-06 Capitals are the last team to allow more than 35 shots per game, and that team was outshot by 5.3 shots per game. Toronto was outshot by an average of 9.1 shots through the first half; no team in the past two decades has made the playoffs with a shot differential anywhere close to that figure.
The Western Conference has had a winning record against the East in every season with inter-conference play since the shootout was adopted in 2005-06 (there were no East-West games last season). But Western teams are on their way to unprecedented dominance; they won 136 of the 234 inter-conference games played during the first half. The Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers, who were in last place in their respective divisions, were the only Western Conference teams below .500 against the East.
3 in 328
It's 328 miles from San Jose to Anaheim, a distance that covers the top three teams in the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks showed last season's first-place finish was no fluke by holding the top spot in the division at the halfway mark. They were five points ahead of the San Jose Sharks and nine ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, all but assuring that two of the three teams will meet in an opening-round playoff series that should be a classic.
10 and 0
The Ducks set a franchise record during the first half by winning 10 consecutive games, the longest by any team in the first half. That streak took place in December, beginning about six weeks after Anaheim had tied a franchise mark by winning seven in a row in October.
The Ducks were also the only team to get at least one point in all of their first-half home games. Anaheim went 15-0-2 at Honda Center in the first half, becoming the third team in 25 years to start a season by getting points in 17 or more consecutive home games, joining the 2008-09 Sharks (20 wins, two overtime/shootout losses) and the 1988-89 Calgary Flames (14 wins, three ties).
The Ducks aren't the only California team that's been dominant at home. The San Jose Sharks ended the first half with a 15-1-3 record at SAP Center, while the Los Angeles Kings were "only" 13-5-2 at Staples Center. That figures to be a good omen for the Kings when they host the Ducks at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25 in the first of the four Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games. The Kings are 3-0-1 against their in-state rivals, including a shootout win at Anaheim last month.
6 under 2.00
Thirty years ago, a goaltender with a goals-against average under 3.00 was a rarity. Halfway through this season, six goalies had a GAA of less than 2.00. But most of them weren't the names you'd expect; only Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins (1.99) has enjoyed any kind of sustained success in the League. Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild led all goaltenders at 1.65.
6.7 (and going down)
The average number of power plays per game tends to decline as the season goes on, and 2013-14 is no different. There was an average of 6.7 power plays per game during the first half, a number that was down sharply from 7.2 per game through October. It matched the full-season figure for 2012-13, which was the lowest since the late 1970s.
67 (a record-setting pace)
Crosby was involved in only eight fewer goals than the entire Sabres roster, which scored 67 non-shootout goals and ended the first half last in the overall standings with 26 points. The Sabres were on a pace that would result in 134 non-shootout goals; the fewest scored in a season of 70 or more games is 133 by the 1953-54 Blackhawks and the fewest in an 82-game season is 151 by the 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning.
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