4 Games That Will Be Huge In the 2nd Half of the NHL Season
We got not one, not two, but three NHL All-Star Games tomorrow, with the stars of each division taking each other on before a winner takes all final. But we're already set for the second half the season, with the standings ever so tight (except for the Avalanche!) and big games ahead on the calendar. There are over a hundred games left to play on the slate in total, but here are four we think you should single out.
2/8: Blackhawks @ Wild
The Minnesota Wild are finally reaping the benefits of their big spending in 2012 that netted them Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They currently stand at 32-11-5, the 69 points topping the Western Conference. The Chicago Blackhawks are five points behind them, still used to their spot of power. On several occasion, they have faced the new-look Wild, and have gotten the best of them in the playoffs. If the Wild want to prove that they're really for real, beating the Blackhawks and their mini-dynasty would be a tremendous way to prove so.
2/19: Capitals @ Rangers
The Capitals and the Rangers have faced off with each other several times in some classic playoff matchups and they very well could face off in another this spring. The Metropolitan rivals have faced off only once thus far this season, all the way back in October, before either team, though more the Capitals, had hit their stride. With Henrik Lundqvist and Alex Ovechkin reaching the forms we've grown accustomed to seeing them in, it'll be a wild trio of match between these two to close out the year, the first being this nationally televised showdown at Madison Square Garden.
2/26: Flyers @ Penguins
One of the NHL's most consistently hot rivalries takes it outside, as Heinz Field will host its second hockey game, the first being the 2011 Winter Classic. The Penguins, defending Stanley Cup champions, find themselves embroiled in a tight Metropolitan Division title race with Columbus, Washington, and the Rangers. The Flyers were in that conversation before a 3-6-3 stretch forced them to the outskirts of the wild card. A lot will be on the line on this national stage, and it'll be a joy to watch.
3/30: Oilers @ Sharks
The San Jose Sharks ended a long streak of playoff futility last season, winning the Western Conference en route to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. The Edmonton Oilers are looking to end the futility of simply not making the playoffs, having not done so since a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2006. Both San Jose and Edmonton are in good position to reach the Western Conference playoffs, but each one would love to win the Pacific Division. This will be the first of two late meetings in the season, meetings that could decide that title. For a change, it might not come down to Los Angeles and Anaheim in the Pacific, so let's enjoy it.
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