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Slicing the Atlantic Division in Half

February 3, 2022, 12:17 PM ET [12 Comments]
Lucas Neilson
Blogger •Atlantic Division Writer • RSSArchiveCONTACT
After a busy stretch of games the National Hockey League has climbed over that ledge and just like that we are in the second half of the season. It’s been a bit of a nightmare for management trying to shuffle the rosters with players testing positive and or being injured, sick, or whatever the case. It seemed as if the season may be in jeopardy at one point, thankfully a few makeup games will get the job done and we’ve been able to enjoy a much needed season of hockey!

As majority of the league takes some time with friends and family, the players head off to the all-star festivities that take place over the course of the weekend.

When looking at the standings heading into the break, it’s notably a much divided Division and you can slice it in half right after the Boston Bruins. As much as the Red Wings are improved, their simply not good enough at this point to match up against any of Florida, Tampa, Toronto or Boston. The Sabres, Senators and Canadiens have a long way to go before they begin to turn heads.

If the Panthers continue to dominate at home and hold that first seed, they will be a dangerous team come playoffs with that home ice advantage. A spectacular home record of 23-3-0 and all engines purring like a kitten (Panthers) with a league leading and staggering 194 goals for. The Barkov/Huberdeau combination is deadly and it seems as if the subtraction of Yandle from their roster has improved the team in the overall.

It also doesn’t hurt the fact that Mackenzie Weegar has turned into one of the best defenseman the team has seen since drafting Aaron Ekblad first overall back in 2014. Every line for the Panthers is dangerous and it seems a number of players have excelled in this lineup. Anton Lundell leads the breakout on the team and Marchment is right behind him after a hoard of success as of late. Could the two Florida teams be the best in the Atlantic Division?

Not so fast says Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. The Leafs have erupted offensively as of late, scoring goals by the handfuls most nights. The last seven games for the Buds have been outstanding in terms of goal production and many of the Leafs faithful will be thrilled with Marner scoring at the same pace as Matthews. It’s always been a soft and sour spot for fans as Marner has had some ugly goal droughts for the Leafs considering he’s making north of ten million. Nevertheless magic Mitch has scoring in seven straight games and has a juicy eight goals to show for it. Matthews will score the most goals in the NHL is my guess, but he’s got some stiff competition this year so it will likely come right down to the final game.

The Leafs offense is outstanding but if they really want to make some noise in the playoffs they have to improve that defense. They have a good goaltender and great offense, but come playoff time they can’t give up this leads with their feeble play defensively. What will Kyle Dubas have up his sleeve before the deadline?

Don’t count the Bruins out. Bergeron has been somewhat quiet as of late and Marchand just got his first multi-point game in a while, but Boston has no problem playing with any team in the league. The Bruins are 6-3-1 heading into the break and this should be good for Rask getting some time to rest and mentally prepare for the second half of the season.

Pastrnak had a bit of a slower start than his normal productive rate, but he’s really begun to heat up as of late. January was a big month for David who had a few multi goal games as well as a hat trick. The Bruins don’t seem to have the depth they once did, so if they are going to rally into the playoffs and cause some damage they are going to have to rely heavily on the big three of Marchand, Pastrnak and Bergeron.

Shuffle the deck in the top four of the Division and pick your partner, it won’t too long before we see it all unfold down the stretch. The bottom four of the Atlantic will be selling some pieces soon and give a look to some of the younger players to see how their game has progressed.

The Montreal fans, I feel for you. This reminds me of the Leafs before they buried their heads in the sand for a couple of seasons and finally had a barrage of high end picks come their way (Nylander, Marner, Matthews). At this point, there is no point showing any frustration, take it one game at a time and look forward to those ping pong balls bouncing around come draft day, it’s all part of the process.

Have a great day, thanks for reading.
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