Is the Atlantic Division Getting Better or Worse?
Pointing out the obvious, the Montreal Canadiens have regressed from a team on a Stanley Cup run, to a miserable .265 winning percent after thirty four games. The combination of losing Price and Weber out the gates was too big of a blow to handle.
The Florida Panthers look the most dangerous and dominant after thirty five games, they have an NHL leading 137 goals for. They have had a ton of home games this season and have been magnificent in sunny Florida, sporting an 18-3 record. They haven’t exactly been miracle workers on the road (5-4-5) which shows the importance of winning the Division and facing a wild card team instead of one of Tampa or Toronto. With that said, Boston could be a threat as well, especially if Rask comes back and can get back into form after missing so much time.
With Nikita Kucherov back in action, Tampa Bay is back to being the team to beat and I’d stick them a top the National Hockey League. The Lightning have it all, and Stamkos leads the way with forty one points. Both Killorn and Palat have been playing above their average production as has Corey Perry as of late. Inject a healthy Brayden Point with the return of Kuch and get ready to watch the Bolts start a rampage. This should really tighten things up in the standings as well as make for a good showing as we near the half way point of the season.
The Maple Leafs have a surging William Nylander on their hands whose on pace for 90 points. He and Auston Matthews have been stuffing the stat sheet just about every night the boys hit the ice. But the most impressive player on the Leafs this season is without a doubt the goaltending of Jack Campbell. The addition of Michael Bunting and Ondrej Kase has added some offensive spark to the blue and white, but Kerfoot takes the cake as the breakout player of the season so far. Kerfoot has been ignited; he has eight points in the last three games and just may be hitting a new level of productivity. The faithful of the Buds really don’t care who they matchup against in round one, they just want to win, the opponent matters not. Show me the money.
Is Rask going to come in and take the Bruins to the next level? The Bruins are a handful of games back from just about everyone else, well at least anyone that matters to them on their quest for a playoff spot. It’s been a rat show in Boston this season with Marchand taking care of business in terms of production and on ice antics. He’s got thirty three points in twenty six games and tack on forty nine penalty minutes. As we all know, Marchand is at his best when he’s up to his rat like ways on the ice, pestering the opponent and trying to throw them off their game. Overall McAvoy and Hall have been doing a good job chipping in offensively, but I think the Bruins fans are looking for a bit more from Pastrnak whose only got eleven goals in thirty one games.
Detroit has begun to hit a bit of a reality check, but are still holding a strong 16-16-4 record and have begun to show some progress in their rebuild. The Red Wings are still the most improved team in the Division but without a doubt need to add some more young talent under Steve Yzerman. There is a reason Yzerman was patient when he took over his former team as the General Manager. He needed some time to assess the talent and get all his ducks in a row before he made his splash. The trade for Jakub Vrana was going to be a good boost for the winged wheel but an early injury put the breaks on that front. Which in the end may be for the best as the Wings will want to grab a quality player with their first round pick.
The Sabres came out the gates playing with more confidence as perhaps they felt relieved that the Eichel show was finally over. Unfortunately for Sabres fans, the pain is not over yet. There is still a lot of work to be done in Buffalo and it won’t be long before the Ottawa Senators pass them in rank. They have Tampa on Tuesday and Nashville on Thursday, on top of that they are five games ahead of the Senators who have recalled Matt Murray from the AHL. It’s been an ugly go for both teams and that’s likely the trend line to follow for the Sabres and Senators as they will struggle all season and hope for a bit of luck with the ping pong balls giving them a quality pick. With that said, the Sens should be pleased to see the breakout season from Drake Batherson who leads the team with twenty eight points in twenty four games.
After breaking down the teams in the Atlantic Division I’d have to say in the overall the teams have gotten better and or more experienced.
Florida – improved offense
Tampa – same
Leafs – improved depth/experience
Bruins – slight regress (age)
Detroit – improved every area
Sabres – slight improvement overall
Ottawa – slightly better upfront / worse goaltending
Montreal – control alt delete (ready for next season)
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!