Center: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)
When I made the decision to pick Sidney Crosby over Steven Stamkos as the Eastern Conference's starting center, I knew that half of the people will agree with me and half of the people will think I'm a Pittsburgh bandwagoner, or whatever else people who acknowledge the Penguins' success are called. If Steven Stamkos, who leads the league in goals, were playing in the Western Conference, he'd be the obvious choice for starting center, but he doesn't play there. The numbers don't lie. Sidney Crosby is back this season and better than ever. Crosby has 12 goals and 33 assists, which give him a league-leading 45 points. Crosby's 33 assists also lead the league, and he is +16. Because of Crosby's play, the Penguins have a comfortable lead in the Atlantic Division race. Sorry Stamkos, but this is the Crosby show.
Are the Buffalo Sabres terrible this season? Yes, but they would be that much worse without Thomas Vanek. To start the season, Vanek exploded offensively, as he lead the league in scoring for a good amount of time before missing a few games due to an injury. At the quarter-point of the season, Vanek was my pick for MVP, but because of his injury, his hot streak appears to have cooled down just a bit. While his hot streak is cooling off, it was still an impressive run, as he basically carried the Buffalo Sabres on his back for the first half of the season. If the Sabres want to make the playoffs, Thomas Vanek is going to have to continue, maybe even improve, his play from the first half of the season.
If you would have told me that Jakub Voracek would be the Flyers' best player through the first half of the season, I would have thought you were crazy. However, with Claude Giroux basically being invisible during much of the first half of the season, Voracek has risen above our expectations of him. Voracek currently has 12 goals and 17 assists this season, giving him 29 points, good enough to tie him for sixth place in league scoring. Voracek's stellar play has been the only positive of the Flyers' season so far, and much like Vanek and the Sabres, he is going to have to maintain or even improve his production in order for the Flyers to make the playoffs.
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin hogging most the attention that comes Pittsburgh's way, Kris Letang is often under-appreciated in what he brings to the team. Letang leads all defenseman in scoring, with 3 goals and 23 assists, giving him 26 points. Since he became an NHL-regular in the 2007-08 season, Letang has progressively emerged as one of the league's elite defenseman. He's a consistent performer, as he is the Penguins' best defenseman night-in and night-out. Look for Letang to be a Norris Trophy candidate for years to come.
After missing his team's first six games of the season due to negotiating his contract, P.K. Subban came back to the Habs with a bang this season, putting home 6 goals and 12 assists, giving him 18 points. With Subban and a healthy Andrei Markov firing on all cylinders this season, Montreal's defenseman have been largely responsible for the team leading the Eastern Conference with 36 points. Subban has been an impact player for Montreal. When he wasn't playing in the beginning of the season, it was very noticeable, and when he is playing, Subban always leaves his mark on the ice. Much like Letang, Subban is going to be a Norris Trophy Candidate for years to come.
Before he went down with a sprained ankle a few weeks ago, Craig Anderson carried the Ottawa Senators on his back, after the team lost center Jason Spezza to a back injury (likely out for most of the season) and defenseman Erik Karlsson to a season-ending achilles heel injury. Even though he's missed a few weeks of action, Anderson's 1.49 goals against average and .952 save percentage still lead the league in their respective statistics by a large margin. Goaltenders Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner have held down the fort nicely for Ottawa, but the Senators will definitely be relieved when Craig Anderson returns to the lineup to continue his Vezina Trophy-worthy season.
Check back tomorrow for my picks for the Western Conference All-Stars.