It may have had a delayed start, but it’s been business as usual in the NHL since the 2020-21 season kicked off on January 3. However, coronavirus restrictions have upturned the traditional race to the Stanley Cup right from the beginning.
In addition to the postponed kick off, there were no permitted preseason games. And then there were restrictions on which games could be played, with the US-Canada border remaining closed when the season began.
But this isn’t the first season affected by Covid regulations, with the Stanley Cup final for 2019-20 eventually taking place last September. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in the much anticipated (and very belated) end to the most unusual season to date.
The current 56 game season is now past the halfway point and is scheduled to end on May 8. From then until July, the top four teams in each division will battle it out in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But while the calendar might have changed, this season is back to normal, with no unprecedented four-month delay between games.
The Season So Far
The season kicked off just over three months after the previous one ended, so it’s no surprise that last year’s victors are still going strong. Tampa Bay Lightning won their second Stanley Cup in 2020, and currently have 50 points in the Discover Central league table.
At the time of writing, they have played 32 games, with 24 wins, 6 losses, and 2 OP/shootout losses. But they can’t get complacent, being placed only five points ahead of second placed Carolina, who have played 31 games to their 32.
Tampa Bay are also in the midst of a five-game winning streak, which will further solidify their place at the top if it continues. Out of all four leagues currently competing separately, they have the strongest performance based on points.
In the MassMutual East league, the NY Islanders are currently top of the table with 46 points. But this is still just a narrow lead, ranking only two points ahead of second placed Washington.
There is reason for the Islanders to be concerned – they’ve played 33 games compared to Washington’s 31, with 21 wins to Washington’s 20. Don’t rule out the leaderboard getting shaken up further as the season continues.
In the Honda West league, Las Vegas Golden Knights are also holding on to a marginal lead. They’ve got 45 points next to second placed Colorado Avalanche with 43, albeit with one less game played.
Finally, in the Scotia North league, the top three ranked teams have 42 points apiece. The Toronto Maple Leafs come out top with 20 wins and 10 losses, compared to the Winnipeg Jets 20 wins and 11 losses.
The Edmonton Oilers outrank both on wins with 21 – but also have more losses, with 13 so far this season, of 34 games played so far.
The season kicked off on January 13 with a 6-3 Philadelphia Flyers home victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. You could probably hear a sigh of relief from hockey fans across the country, as normal business resumed.
One of the star players so far this season has to be the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid. On January 15, he created an early highlight, scoring a hat trick that propelled his team to a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks.
The oilers may only be third in their league, but they have been on top form. On January 31, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scored the most assists by two teammates in a single NHL game since 1993, defeating the Ottawa Senators 8-5.
More recently, the New York Islanders showed why they were top of their league with a stunning goal courtesy of Mathew Barzal. The team have frequently been described as lacking in offence – this between the legs goal reaffirmed why they’re currently number one.
What to Expect for the Rest of the Season
Prior to the start of the season, the smart money was on Colorado Avalanche to take home the cup. And while they’re still in a great position to make it to the final 16, they are second to Las Vegas in the Honda West League.
In the current Stanley Cup Odds, Colorado Avalanche remain clear favorites for the big prize, with the Vegas Golden Knights in third. Defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning are second favorites to defend the title. A lot of Americans now partake in sports betting activities and bet on events like the NHL after the legalization of sports betting in numerous states. Residents living in Michigan for example, can now keep an eye on the latest NHL odds and place a bet on which team they think will be the champions this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins round out the top five. However, with Boston only scraping into fourth place in the MassMutual East league (albeit with fewer games played than the top three), there could be an upset preventing their Stanley Cup qualification.
There is still a lot to play for as the season continues, and the current leaderboard could rapidly change by the final stretch. But right now, it seems the top teams in each league are firmly locked in place.
Check out the latest NHL betting odds.