Welcome back, puckheads! Finals week is over, and now you can concentrate even more on sports, more specifically hockey. We’ve had half a season so far, roughly, and in case you missed a lot of it studying or working, here’s how everyone did. We are giving each team a semester grade, and later in the week we will have predictions on what will happen next.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: Most points in the league as of today, with super strong play by top guys like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, as well as the less known guys like Hampus Lindholm and Nick Bonino. It seems like it’s no longer a possibility for them to lose at the Pond, so far 13-0-2 on home ice. Grade: A

Boston Bruins: Despite a couple of setbacks, and a policing issue, the Bruins seem to be doing fine for themselves. The defense-wins-championships mantra holds very true with the B’s, having let up the 2nd fewest goals in the league, and it adds up to 2nd in the Eastern conference. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: They managed to get great value out of the Thomas Vanek deal, being Matt Moulson (doubt he’s staying) and 2 top draft picks. That’s where the good part stops. Now the only team not to have won a 10th game, and are 19 goals behind 2nd to last in scoring, the Sabres seem like they are investing in ping pong balls for the lottery. Grade: F

Calgary Flames: Young gun Sean Monahan has been a pleasant surprise, with 16 points in 29 games, despite a minor injury. However, they really miss Miikka Kiprusoff in net, having to depend on a couple of guys only hockey experts and Flames fans know, in Reto Berra and Karri Ramo. Their best move, however, was firing GM Jay Feaster. Now, they might actually progress. Grade: C-

Carolina Hurricanes: Mired in the Metropolitan mess, the Canes have quietly had a better season than what people originally predicted. Despite injuries to Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner, they have a NHL .500 record, and are alive and kicking in the playoff race. It won’t be easy, but the Staals have been there before. Grade: C+

Chicago Blackhawks: The defending champs aren’t joking around with the fabled “Cup hangover”. They have far and away the top offense in the league, and if they can keep outscoring any mistakes they make, it will be difficult to beat them on any given night. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: The surprise team of the season has to be the Avs. Led by rookie head coach Patrick Roy, and a multi-headed attack of young dynamic stars, this team has a bright future. Despite trouble with the law, goalie Semyon Varlamov has been solid enough to help the team succeed in the elite Central. Grade: A-

Columbus Blue Jackets: Marian Gaborik was a fantastic pickup, but a broken collarbone will shut him down for a couple of months. Nathan Horton is on his way back, however, and the Metropolitan factor means they are still very much alive in the race. Who would have thought that the 3-7 seeds in that division are 3 points apart? Grade: C

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin has more than a point per game, and the guy he was traded for seems to have a target on his back for cheap shots. Also emerging are Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, giving the Stars a bright future. Grade: B-

Detroit Red Wings: For whatever reason, the old Red Wings can’t play so well in their old barn, just 6-9-6 at the Joe, while 11-3-3 away from home. At least they are getting point in nearly half the games they lose. Grade: B

Edmonton Oilers: I had high hopes for this team coming into this season, predicting them to be a dark horse team in the playoff run. Now, they have Ilya Bryzgalov on their NHL roster. How the possibly mighty have fallen…Grade: F

Florida Panthers: The biggest news out of this team is that Tim Thomas is back, though not quite to his form from his Boston years. Maybe it’s because the Panthers’ D-men aren’t guys like Zdeno Chara. However, the Cats have been playing spoiler the entire season, as everyone thought they would. Grade: C

Los Angeles Kings: Who would have thought that the Kings would be better after Jonathan Quick went down with an injury? Martin Jones, tying an NHL record with winning his first 8 starts, has been the talk of the league since his call-up. Ben Scrivens has been good too, and the Kings have the stingiest defense in the league to boot. This makes for an interesting question; two’s company, but three’s a crowd. Will one of them be traded? Who knows? Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild: At home, they are stellar, 14-3-2. Once they hit the road, they seem to lose their flair, with a paltry 6-10-3 record away from the X. Josh Harding has been excellent for them this season, and a hero to everyone regardless of his record. But we know the Wild aren’t going to get home ice in the playoffs, so they have to solve their road woes in order to succeed. Grade: B+

Montreal Canadiens: A solid hot streak has put them in a good race for tops in the Atlantic, with young guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and PK Subban leading the way. The team has a good mix of young and older, and can be dangerous later in the season. Grade: A-

Nashville Predators: They miss Pekka Rinne, but the guys backing him up seem to be doing alright. Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton combined have a 12-12-3 record, but in a division like the Central, .500 will get you nowhere. All the Seth Jones hype seemed to have died down also. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: The Devils’ injury problems seemed to be a blessing in disguise, when some of their future emerged and started playing well. Reid Boucher and Jon Merrill have been good, but the real story is Eric Gelinas, who is quickly making a name for himself, having one of the hardest slap shots around. Can’t hurt that the golden oldies like Jaromir Jagr are there to show them the way. Grade: B-

New York Islanders: Between November 12 and December 20, they had a grand total of 2 wins, and neither of them were in regulation or overtime. It’s safe to say that something’s gotta change, because their promising future took a massive hit. Grade: D-

New York Rangers: Probably the most inconsistent team in the NHL. There are nights where everything goes right, and nights where they lose to the Islanders. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be fielding a good chunk of the blame, but that’s because he fields a good chunk of the payroll. The lack of a defense-first coaching scheme should get part of it too. Grade: C+

Ottawa Senators: Their great defense from last year seems to have dissipated. The only team to have given up more goals are the Islanders, and the Sens have their regular goalies in net. The fact that they have top defenseman Erik Karlsson says something about the rest of the blue line crew for them. Grade: C-

Philadelphia Flyers: They made a great bounce back after an atrocious start to the season. It’s still a surprise to the hockey world that Steve Mason has a .922 save percentage, as well as a winning record. Claude Giroux also has regained form after a 15 game goal drought to start the year. The Metro division is very convoluted, and the Flyers are right in the middle of it. Grade: C+

Phoenix Coyotes: They had a great start to the year, made a little bit of noise, and then quieted down some. Still a playoff contender, despite a decent difference between them and the 4th place Canucks. It’s still way better than most people in Arizona thought it would be (ehem Seattle). Grade: B

Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby yadda yadda yadda, Fleury regular season blah blah, Malkin when he’s healthy, yeah that too. It’s the same story for the Penguins as it’s been the last few years. Not that that’s a bad thing. Grade: A

San Jose Sharks: A single regulation loss in the Shark Tank confirms that this team is deadly at home. However, they are vulnerable on the road, at 10-7-3. Tomas Hertl has been phenominal so far, but a nasty knee injury could sideline him for the season. If that’s the case, someone else has to step up. Grade: B+

St. Louis Blues: By the numbers, the Blues have the fewest losses (7 regulation, 4 overtime/shootout), best goal differential (+44), in fewer games than almost everyone in the league. Alex Steen became yet another weapon for this team, who is primed for a cup run after years of dreams dying in the playoffs. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning: It was on everyone’s mind, how the Bolts would do after Stamkos got hurt. They have a 10-6-3 record since the injury, and he’s still a couple of months away from returning. They seem to be doing just fine, and just wait until he returns. The question remains, if Ben Bishop can continue playing lights out like he has been. Grade: A-

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite still holding a playoff spot, the Buds aren’t nearly as impressive as last year. Fresh off the free-agent market, David Clarkson has been a massive bust, with just 6 points so far this season. Despite some bright spots, it’s been more of the same for the Leafs, and their fans sure let them hear about itGrade: C

Vancouver Canucks: They are slowly returning to form, despite a sluggish start. Despite still being tied with the Sharks for 3rd in the Pacific, they seem to be holding their own nicely, and are for sure happy about that coaching swap with the Rangers. Grade: B+

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin has been the story, now with 30 goals in 34 games. Many say he might break the 50 in 50 barrier, which has been done by 5 players before (Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Brett Hull), but I have my doubts. Meanwhile, the team is in cruise control for a spot in the Metro playoffs. Grade: B+

Winnipeg Jets: This group can be better, but they just haven’t been playing to their potential. The home ice advantage they seemed to have in their inaugural year seems to have slipped as well. It’s a shame, too, because everyone wants to see a true Winnipeg White-out. Grade: C-

Well, there you have it. This week, we will have predictions for the rest of the year, including some bold ones. Until next time, puck-heads!

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