After approximately a quarter of the season the Montreal Canadiens have established a narrow lead atop the conference, on the back of a 12 from 14 wins at home record. Alex Galchenyuk, their 22-year-old Centre has been exceptional with 9 goals and 13 assists, and provided the winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings, in OT, in their most recent action.
First choice goalkeeper, Carey Price, has been a vital cog in the success for Montreal, allowing just 1.66 goals per game on average. Another who has been brilliant for the conference leaders is Russian veteran, Andrei Markov, who has 15 assists to his name and played very well in all 22 games. The first goal for Montreal came via Brendan Gallagher, a budding young Canadian star, while the opening goal came from Justin Abdelkader for Detroit.
The New York Rangers are the closest competitors for the Montreal franchise, and despite losing in their most recent action, are just 3 points adrift. A host of players have heftily contributed to the Rangers to get them to this strong position, including Kevin Hayes and JT Miller a pair of young stars.
Canadian duo Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh have both also enjoyed strong seasons to date, and are doing so on an every game basis. Compared to the Montreal standard of goalkeeping the pair used for New York, are both solid without been brilliant, as Antti Raanta the Finn and Henrik Lundqvist of Sweden, both have an average of over 2 goals conceded.
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One win further behind the Rangers are the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, though the Senators have been more convincing of late as they are on a 4- game unbeaten run. The Penguins edged out the Devils on Saturday in their most recent action, 4-3, needing a shootout to come away with the win. The star of the show was Sidney Crosby, who now has 15 goals on the season and a superb shooting percentage of 25.9%.
Russian Centre, Evgeni Malkin too has been fine, in every game, with 8 goals and 13 assists. Meanwhile, the Senators snuck away with a 2-1 win against the Hurricanes, thanks to a winner from veteran star Kyle Turris. Craig Anderson, the veteran American Keeper has been very solid all year for the Senators.
5 other teams are still entrenched in the conference pennant discussion, and really only the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres fans have significant cause to be pessimistic at this stage of the season. The Columbus Bluejackets have fine peripheral statistics with a +15 record, despite 5 losses and 4 overtime results of late.
Alexander Wennberg a young Swedish star and Connecticut product Cam Atkinson have been 2 of the stars for the Columbus franchise, giving the fans and staff alike plenty of reason for optimism this season. The Tampa Bay Lightning have also been very good and look on target for some postseason action, with a 13-9-1 record, and are just 1 point behind the Capitals. Both the Capitals and the Lightning recorded losses recently, and will look to bounce back with victories to keep their seasons on track. Finally, the Boston Bruins looked very good against Tampa Bay in their latest win, dominating the game to win 4-1, with a 3 goal 2nd period, and a special performance including 30 saves from Finnish keeper Tuuka Rask.
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/la_maschera/7052303845/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/