SportsPulse: NHL insider Kevin Allen breaks down the first half of the season and gives us his picks for best story line, MVP and rookie of the year.
USA TODAY Sports
The NHL passed the halfway point of 2017-18 NHL this past weekend.
Here is USA TODAY Sports’ midseason review:
Kevin Allen: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. Has been the most dominant player on the NHL’s best team since the season began. Kucherov has 24 even-strength goals and he’s on a 115-point pace. Nobody has finished with that many points since Sidney Crosby had 120 in 2006-07.
Jimmy Hascup: Kucherov. He’s tied for the league lead with 27 goals and leads with 59 points. Steven Stamkos and Andrei Vasilevskiy have had strong seasons, but Kucherov has been the best player on the No. 1 team.
Mike Brehm: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Kucherov has been great, but Tampa Bay was expected to be this good and he finished fifth in scoring last season. The Avalanche have come out of nowhere to match last year’s win total. MacKinnon, who struggled and finished 81st in scoring last season, is second in the race (52 points) and one point behind last year’s total. His strong play allowed Colorado to trade Matt Duchene and shore up other areas.
Allen: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay. You could also make a case for Vasilevskiy for MVP. He’s 26-6-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. He’s given up no goals or one goal in 15 of his 34 starts.
Hascup: Vasilevskiy. Multiple Lightning players are having noteworthy seasons. But this team wouldn’t have the NHL’s best goal differential (+52) without sterling goaltending. Vasilevskiy has recorded the top save percentage among starters while facing the fifth-most shots against.
Brehm: Vasilevskiy. Leads in wins and shutouts and has the best goals-against average and save percentage among goalies with at least 20 starts.
Allen: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings. Exceptional group to choose from. Alex Pietrangelo and Victor Hedman are worthy candidates, but Doughty averages more than 27 minutes of strong two-way hockey for the NHL’s No. 1 goals-against team.
Hascup: John Klingberg, Dallas Stars. Klingberg has taken his…