As the night comes to a close only 4 of the 32 teams in the NHL will not have played 41 games (1/2 the season). At the midpoint of the 2023-2024 NHL campaign there have been some surprises and some expected outcomes.
Expected: The 5 worse teams in the league (I go by point %) are the Sharks, Blackhawks, Ducks, Senators, and Blue Jackets. Sure Sens and Jackets fans would argue that expectations were higher, but it was always razor thin and while they are capable of beating anyone any given matchup, it hasn't gone their way this year. The Sharks, Hawks, and Ducks however.... these were expected outcomes.
Not Expected: In the top 5 this season are the two teams at the top no one saw coming. Two Canadian teams and neither of which are named Edmonton or Toronto. Winnipeg and Vancouver sit atop the league, both with .700+ point percentages. Each team "doubled down" on their core of players and these decisions seem to be paying off so far. The other 3 teams in the top 5 are the Bruins, Avs, and Panthers. The Bruins are another surprise team as most, myself included, thought they'd take a step back as their top 2 centers retired. Coaching, defense, and an excellent goalie tandem has led them back to contention yet again.
Expected: The rookie class has lived up to their billing. A tremendous 9 rookies have scored at least 20 points midway through the year. It's not just Chicago's Connor Bedard this seaosn (currently injured and recovering from a fractured jaw) as many talented defenseman and forwards in both conferences are staking their claim as forces in the NHL from day 1.
Not Expected: Surprise goalies making big impacts for their teams. Not only has Adin Hill lived up to his new contract after winning a Stanley Cup, he is actually leading the league in goals allowed average. Jonathan Quick hasn't just extended his career, he has become an integral part of the Rangers success this season. Sam Ersson has made the Flyers into a relevant and hard to beat team in a year most thought they'd contend for a top 5 pick. So far the play of some lesser know goalies (or less expected to make a big impact) has changed the course of many franchises fortunes.
With an All-Star game in twenty days, a trade deadline yet to pass the season is just beginning for most teams. For fans of the Chicago Blackhawks there are few key focal points to narrow in on; the return and play of franchise center Connor Bedard, the continued development of Kevin Korchinski and Alex Vlasic, and the adjustments of the coaching staff as lines start (hopefully) to solidify.
What has surprised you so far this seaosn half way through (either for the Blackhawks or for the league)?