The NHL recently had its All-Star game, which means that we are officially into the second half of the 2016-17 season. With just under 30 games left in the season, it is time for every team to step up their game before it is too late. The teams that can finish with a strong second half will have a great chance at making the playoffs. These are the three NHL teams to watch out for the rest of the season.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues have been one of the best teams in the NHL over the last few years, but they have struggled to hold on to one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference all season. The Blues recognized they needed to shake things up with their team, so they recently fired head coach Ken Hitchcock. The shocking firing has the Blues playing much better hockey. St. Louis is currently on a four-game winning streak, which has helped them get up to third place in the Central Division. If St. Louis continues the great play under new coach Mike Yeo, then the Blues will have no problem securing a spot in the playoffs
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are easily outperforming expectations this season, and that should only continue in the second half. The top two leading scorers on the Maple Leafs are rookies, which is virtually unheard of in the NHL. The team’s top defenseman is also a rookie. Despite the lack of experience, Toronto is currently holding on to the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Limiting goals is the only thing that the Maple Leafs have struggled with this season. The young players should only improve their defensive play as they get more experience, so Toronto will be an extremely dangerous the rest of the season. A slight improvement to the team’s defensive play in the second half will give the Toronto Maples Leafs a chance to finish near the top of the Atlantic Division.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders are currently three points out of the final playoff sppt in the Eastern Conference, but it would not be shocking to see them rebound with a strong second half. The Islanders have the benefit of playing in the worst division in the NHL, so it should not be hard to go on a long winning streak late in the season. New York’s -2 goal differential also suggests that the team is playing better than their record. The Islanders have been a great team in Brooklyn, which is very ironic since they are leaving soon, but they have been absolutely horrible on the road. The bad performance on the road seems like a fluke for such a talented team, so they should start finding a way to win road games very soon. Improving the play on the road will be enough to get the New York Islanders back in the playoffs. The Boston Bruins or Ottawa Senators will likely be the team that loses their playoff spot to the surging Islanders.