Weren't the Detroit Red Wings supposed to fall back eventually?
As we head to the midway point, the Winged Wheel is rolling over everybody -- on pace for another 120-plus point season. And you can't pin the Red Wings' success on their weak division, either. They are perfect against Eastern Conference foes and have obliterated the other two Western divisions, while going sub-.500 against fellow Central Division clubs on their way to the huge lead they enjoy today.
However, this season has been somewhat topsy-turvy out West.
Dallas was supposed to finally fall out of the picture, but it's the Stars leading the way in the Pacific, a collection that boasts a defending Stanley Cup championship team in Anaheim that foundered until Scott Niedermayer ended his hiatus in the middle of December and a San Jose squad that can't win at home but nearly is unbeatable on the road.
As for Phoenix, the Coyotes' time is coming down the road, while Los Angeles is already in next-year country.
Edmonton is in the same boat as the young Coyotes, a couple of years away, but the rest of the Northwest is making for a great battle. Vancouver continues to ride the outstanding goaltending of Roberto Luongo, while the Colorado Avalanche is holding fine -- although that will be put to the test with Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth out for the bulk of the remaining season.
Minnesota continues to hold its own while the Flames appear to have rebounded from a dreadful first two months by losing once in regulation in December (9-1-4) to pull back into the race and give the Northwest four teams that sit in playoff positions.
As for the rest of the Central after Detroit, a trio of teams are poised to push for the playoffs after some painful recent history.
Both St. Louis and Chicago have games in hand on the bulk of the conference, and are capable of jumping into the post-season dance.
Chicago's young dynamic duo of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews is keeping the perennial doormats in the hunt, while St. Louis -- which has won three of five meetings with Detroit -- is doing it with defence and the rebirth of goaltender Manny Legace.
Speaking of goaltending, the surprise of the year has to be Columbus netminder Pascal Leclaire. He has pitched a league-best seven shutouts and sits second in goals-against average for Blue Jackets team in the hunt for their first ever playoff berth.