In the weeks (and months) leading up to the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, it seems like the game was all that the hockey world was focusing on.  What would the jerseys look like?  Who would be in the Capitals’ goal?  Who will be in the Pittsburgh line-up?  What would the HBO special be like?  Will it rain?  That’s a lot of hype for a regular season game.

It turns out that it may have been worth it.  The game was the most-watched regular season game in the United States since 1975.  However, it was obviously not the only thing happening in hockey.

There are many other exciting storylines in the NHL that we’ll all be able to focus on now that the 2011 Winter Classic is over.

Marty Brodeur & The Devils

It would be an understatement to say that this hasn’t been a great season for Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.  The team that has won the Atlantic Division four times in the last five years is now sitting at the bottom of the league standings.  Their 22 points are by far the lowest total in the league and they’ve allowed 54 more goals than they’ve scored, which is also a league worst.  It’s now been announced that Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg will be splitting time in the New Jersey net.  Brodeur usually plays the vast majority of the Devils’ games, but he’s been struggling this season.  Are we witnessing the end of Marty’s days as an elite goaltender?

Steven, Sidney and the Scoring Race

Two men, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos, are running away from the pack in the league’s scoring race.  While Crosby currently has nine more points than Stamkos, he only has one more goal.  Crosby sits at 32 goals.  Stamkos has 31.  Corey Perry is ranked a distant third with 21 goals.  Crosby and Stamkos shared the Rockey Richard Trophy last year and it looks like they’ll do the same this year.  Instead of focusing on Crosby versus Ovechkin, maybe we should be focusing on Crosby versus Stamkos instead.

Atlanta Thrashers Playoff Hopes?

The Atlanta Thrashers have not had very much playoff success in their history.  In fact, they’ve only made the playoffs once in their history and they’ve never won a playoff game.  However, it looks like this could be their year.  Thanks to several offseason moves, including a huge trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Thrashers look like a legitimate threat this year.  Moving Dustin Byfuglien back to defense seemed like a mistake when it was first proposed, but it’s definitely worked out and Byfuglien could be a Norris candidate.

Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Hopes?

The team on the other end of the Byfuglien trade is facing the opposite problem.  After forty games, the Blackhawks sit in tenth place in the Western Conference.  Key players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and other have all come down with injuries this season.  Will the Blackhawks return to form and be able to defend their 2010 Stanley Cup Championship in the playoffs or will they actually fail to make the postseason?

The World Junior Hockey Championship

Maybe you’ve been busy with the holidays or maybe you’ve been distracted by the Winter Classic.  Maybe you aren’t planning on paying attention until the final.  Whatever your reasons for not watching, you may want to start tuning in right now.  Canada is playing the United States tonight and all signs point to be being a great game.  The other semi-final, Russia versus Sweden, is taking place as we write this post, but there’s no reason to assume it won’t be incredibly entertaining as well.  As usual, hockey’s future is putting on quite the show at the World Juniors.