Believe it or not, and I personally don't, because I've been so damn busy lately that I've hardly seen any hockey, we have now reached the half-way point of the DHL season.
So what are the story lines we're seeing?
The Panzer Div continue their near-perfect season, sitting at a tidy 10-1 after 11 weeks. The Hellboys aren't far behind, though, just one game will do it. The Panzer play the Horror over this shortened week, and after recently surprising the Bombers, the Horror hope to sneak a quick win with their rebuilt squad. A must win for the Panzer if they would like to keep their divisional lead, as the Hellboys will face the hapless Pandas this week. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the formerly-mighty Lottobotz are still struggling. 11 weeks in, they have a shameful 0-11 record and sit points behind their division leader in the scoring race. I'll have to check, but I think we're getting close to record territory here.
The belle of the ball, the Killers remain the DHL's only undefeated team. At 11-0, they hold a comfortable 7-point lead over the nearest team, the Norsemen. I guess demotion is motivation for some. The Killers will face a tough match-up this week if they want to make it to twelve, as they have drawn the defending champion B-52 Bombers. Big teams, few man-games, who knows? The Thunder and the Rampage have their own little battle going for second place in the Gold, while the Horror is floating around playing spoiler. In the division's basement, the Pandas are doing their best Lottobotz impression, and are still without a win on the year. A single tie point is all that separates them from the goose egg.
The Booze Aroos are riding the strength of their new acquisitions and have taken a three-point lead in the Silver standings, but there are four teams within 4 points of them. The Silver looks to be the tightest division this year so far, with the exception of the Steelworkers, whose two wins have them well out of the race and looking sadly down at the Bronze. The Booze will have to fight hard to hold their lead with a tough match against the Bronze-leading Caffeine.
The aforementioned Caffeine are holding off the hard-chasing Quasars, the Caffeine sitting atop the division thanks to a very solid 9-1-1 record. The addition of Roman Josi to solidify their defense corps in time for this coming week should help them hold their course. The Imperial Troopers have been scoring well, but will need to string together some wins if they hope to catch up to the top two. Down in the league basement, the slowly rebuilding Blue Demons have usurped the Spartans' usual position in 24th of 24. Two wins separate the Demons, Spartans and Vikings, as they all vie for the right to draft the next-next-next-next one, Connor McDavid.
MATCH-UP of the WEEK
The past two Howitzer Cup champs face off for a shortened Christmas week matchup. The Killers have a perfect record and lead the Gold, the Bombers sit in third in the Howitzer. 15 points separate them in scoring. Can the Killers hold on to their perfect season? Or will the Bombers use this as an opportunity to pull away from the Devilfish and make up some ground on the division leaders? This week, the Bombers are lucky to have three man-games out of both money men, Patrick Kane and Nicklas Backstrom, as well as from their goalie Tuukka Rask. The Killers will only have two games out of sniper Stamkos, but don't have any of the single-game weeks that the Bombers will have to play through. Last week, the Bombers put up a massive 37 points on the back of a 9-point week from the previously dormant Anze Kopitar. Each money man chipped in for a solid 6. They will need that to continue, and will have to hope Boston can string some wins together for Rask. Claude Giroux paced the Killers last week with 8 points, while the Killer defense only chipped in 2 points altogether. There is some concern that the Killers' goalie, Jimmy Howard, may be unavailable, as he left Friday's game and is considered day to day. Will that be the difference?