NHL Second Half: Important Games, Key Dates, and More

Goodbye, San Jose. Hello, second half of the 2018-19 NHL season.

Following last weekend’s All Star Game in Northern California, all eyes now turn to what should be some tight playoff races in each of the league’s four divisions. First, though, teams vying for those final post-season spots will be looking to bolster their roster via additional, often proven players, prior the NHL Trade Deadline on February 25th.

All Star Weekend was a fitting way to mark the midway point of the season. As in years past, it featured a Fan Fest – where hockey crazed supporters could get up close and personal with current stars and legends of the past; as well as play dozens of puck-related games and take pictures with various league trophies, which are handed out at the NHL Awards in June. Also on tap over All Star Weekend was the Skills Competition, which was comprised of six separate events. Winners in each category are listed below:

Fastest skater – Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) — 13.378 seconds
Puck control – Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) — 27.045 seconds
Save Streak — Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) — 12 consecutive saves
Premier Passer – Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) — 1:09.088 seconds
Hardest Shot — John Carlson (Washington Capitals) — 102.8 mph
Accuracy Shooting — David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) — 11.309 seconds

As for the main event on Saturday evening, things started out with the Central Division eliminating the Pacific 10-4. Then, in the middle ‘game,’ it was the Metropolitan 7-4 over the Atlantic Division. Everything concluded with a 10-6 victory for the Metropolitan group. Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby took home MVP honors and a new car.

Looking ahead, Tampa Bay is running away from the league, sitting atop the standings and well on their way to the end of the regular season President’s Trophy. With Calgary sitting in second place overall, perhaps the most intriguing game remaining on the Lightning’s schedule is a match-up in Florida on February 12th between the two powerhouses.

At the Western Conference level, those Calgary Flames have a comfortable lead over the Winnipeg Jets. However, the two clubs will faceoff on March 16th in Manitoba, with just a few weeks remaining in the regular season. That should give people a good idea how each team is looking heading in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

One of the closer division races finds a four team heat in the Metro Division, as Columbus, Washington, Pittsburgh, and the New York Islanders are separated by the narrowest of margins. The Blue Jackets visit the home of last year’s Stanley Cup champion Capitals on February 12th. They also face the Penguins three times over a two-week period beginning on February 26th – just one day after the aforementioned Trade Deadline. Meanwhile, the Capitals and Islanders will play twice more before the regular season ends, once each in the other team’s home arena.

Out west, it’s all about the Wild Card race, where at least seven teams can argue they have a legitimate shot at one of the final two playoff spots up for grabs. Division rivals Dallas and Colorado pace the field, and they’ll meet up in ultra-important games on March 7th and March 21st.

Vancouver, Anaheim, and Arizona are part of the pack right behind the leaders. Naturally, there will be several important games played between the trio over the next three months – perhaps none more important than three scheduled between the Canucks and Ducks, with the first one slated for mid-February.

Many hockey fans enjoy placing a little wager on the games and a convenient place to get started with those hockey bets can be found at this link.

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