by PuckStopsHere on 03/09/12 at 03:23 PM ET
Currently the first place team in the NHL is the St Louis Blues. They have a 43-25 record with seven regulation tie points. This gives them 93 points, which is a one point lead over the Vancouver Canucks.
St Louis is a surprise first place team. They started off poorly enough that after thirteen games they changed coaches. At that point St Louis was second last in the West Conference. The turnaround under Ken Hitchcock has been tremendous. That is why I pick him as the coach of the year so far.
When we look at the Blues overall talent, they may be a playoff team, but they are not the most talented team in the league. Their goaltending has been very strong this season with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Both are having career best seasons. Elliott is exceeding his past level of play significantly. He had almost played himself out of the league before his shot in St Louis.
Their goaltending numbers have been improved by strong team defensive play. This is a hallmark of any Ken Hitchcock coached team. Alex Pietrangelo is a good young defenceman who is well on his way to becoming an NHL star, but he is yet to appear in an All Star Game or be a contender for any NHL awards. He has the potential that he may get to that level but isn’t there yet. Kevin Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman are good defencemen, but they too are not stars. St Louis has had very good success on their defence this season, but they are not the most talented group of players around. Their young stars show potential, but several teams have better groups of defencemen.
Dave Backes and TJ Oshie are their top scoring forwards. They have 47 points each. They are solid two-way players, but as top scorers on a team they are lacking. Sixty-two players in the league have more points than they do.
St Louis is a disciplined team playing a strong defensive system. The system has been brought in by coach Ken Hitchcock. He has turned this team around this season and is the main reason they are in first place right now. The Blues do not have the talent of a typical first place team. As such, they might be prone for an upset come playoff time.
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