Some thoughts as you brace for four days with no NHL action:
*Quick power ranking of the four division teams: 1. Central; 2. Atlantic; 3. Metro; 4. Pacific.
*With that said, don’t be surprised to see the Pacific repeat as champs as Connor McDavid, Drew Doughty, and Brent Burns lead the way. Goaltending could be suspect, however.
*Good to see Cam Atkinson added to the Metro team after Evgeni Malkin had to pull out due to a lower-body injury. Atkinson has been the best player on what has been a breakout Columbus team and was good enough to make the team from the onset as opposed to being a replacement. Of course, it’s important to note the six forwards named alongside Malkin, initially, was Sidney Crosby, Taylor Hall, Alex Ovechkin, Wayne Simmonds, and John Tavares. Not the worst guys to be picked behind.
*Islanders have to feel good about themselves going into the break, 4-0-1 in their last five with Thursday’s win against Montreal. The Isles sit five points out of a playoff spot.
*Two goals for Andrew Ladd, who was pointless in six straight coming into Thursday.
*Thomas Greiss with six goals allowed in his last five games to go along with a .959 save percentage. Greiss is right!
*Sean Monahan finishes off the unofficial first half of the season with what might be the nicest goal of the season to date.
*In other Flames-related news, a good piece by Pierre LeBrun on Matthew Tkachuk. You may have of heard of his father, Keith.
*Just two teams that aren’t within seven points of a playoff spot at the all-star break, in Arizona and Colorado.
*Some great all-star break reading: An oral history of the 1974-75 Capitals that went 8-67-5, squeaking out a measly 21 points. Spoiler: they weren’t very good.
*Someone who is very good is Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 548th career goal in Thursday’s 5-2 for Washington against New Jersey to tie Michel Goulet for 28th on the all-time list. His next goal will tie Ron Francis for 27th.
*Washington has won five straight at the Prudential Center and is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games against New Jersey.
*Anze Kopitar has 11 points in his last 11 games after beginning the year with 16 points in 32 contests.
*Big pickup for the Canadiens, acquiring Nikita Nesterov from Tampa Bay. A talented, young defenseman that plays both sides, he’ll add depth to what was already a strong Montreal blue line.
*The Oilers are the real deal. Closed out the pre-all-star slate with a 4-1 win against a San Jose team that was rolling, coming into Thursday having won six straight. Edmonton is tied with the Sharks for first place in the Pacific, San Jose holding the tiebreaker because it has a game in hand.
*The race for the Art Ross Trophy between Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid will be one of the leading storylines of the second half.
*Four points in two games for Brad Marchand to close out the first half, and now has 21 goals and 49 points through 52 games. He has 11 goals in his last 11 games.
*Nice 3-1 win for Wisconsin on Thursday night at No. 8 Ohio State. Don’t sleep on the Badgers in the second half.
*Some intriguing college hockey over the weekend: North Star College Cup features three ranked teams in No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 6 Minnesota, and No. 20 Bemidji State. The four-team tournament is rounded out by St. Cloud State, which is among the best of the unranked.
*The win streak for Owen Sound is now 15 after a 3-2 overtime win against Barrie. It was Petrus Palmu coming up big, as he has all season for the Attack, 1:51 into overtime with his 27th goal of the season. London is on deck.
*Tyler Boland had his third four-point night of the month in Rimouski’s 5-3 win over Baie-Comeau on Thursday. He has 19 points in his last eight games and leads the QMJHL with 75 points in 48 contests.