Well folks, it’s time to get you caught up with what’s been going on around the NHL Atlantic division. I am back from Vegas and will get everything back on schedule. The sample size is getting bigger and were starting to see where teams stand, who’s underperforming, and who is for real. Let’s start at the top.
Tampa Bay Lightning: 7-1-1
The Tampa Bay lightning sit atop the division through the first few weeks. Steven Stamkos (3-15-18) and Nikita Kucherov (10-6-16) have not only led their team to this hot start, the duo also lead the league in points. Their past few weeks include multiple wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, a win over the Columbus blue jackets, and an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils in which there starting goaltender had the night off. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been their backbone this year. He’s 7-1, with a 2.38 GAA and stopped 43 of 43 shots against him in a shutout win over Columbus a few nights ago. Their sound all the way around. They have Carolina and Detroit this week before a matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night that I’m sure will have many keeping tabs on the outcome.
Toronto Maple Leafs: 6-2-0
The Maple Leafs stumbled over the weekend against the Ottawa Senators, losing 6-3, but that should not take away from how hot the team has started the season. It is still very much Auston Matthews team as he leads the team in points (7-5-12), but he also just makes everyone around him better. The kid is a superstar and everyone around the league knows that, even Brad Marchand.
At what point do that @MapleLeafs have to start playing Matthews 1 vs 5 to make it fair for other teams??
— Brad Marchand (@Bmarch63) October 20, 2017
I stated a few weeks ago that the Maple Leafs goaltending was something to keep an eye on. Right now, there is no immediate concern, especially the way the offense is performing, but starter Frederick Andersen’s GAA is still up around 3.40. A number I’m sure the team would like to see be lower.
Ottawa Senators: 4-1-3
The Ottawa Senators love to give their fans some free hockey. This season, four of their eight games have gone into overtime. They rose some eyebrows on their three-game West Coast road trip, going 3-0, defeating Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. After that road trip, they returned home to some great news that Erik Karlsson would return to the lineup and he has not disappointed anyone, racking up six points in three games. However, just this past weekend, they were dealt a blow when it was announced Bobby Ryan would miss a month after breaking his right index finger blocking a shot. This just adds to the long list of hand problems Bobby Ryan has dealt with. They have a tough week coming up with the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers coming to town before heading to New Jersey for a game against the Devils.
Detroit Red Wings: 4-4-1
The Detroit Red Wings have hit a rough patch. After starting the season off 4-1, which included wins at Ottawa and Las Vegas, they are 0-3-1 in their last four games. After their most recent 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the team canceled practice and held a meeting instead. They have shown they can win games against good teams, so maybe this is the best way to get out of the funk. They are on the road this week against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and Florida. They better hope they turn around or else head coach Jeff Blashill will be the same at the podium as he was after Vancouver.
Boston Bruins: 3-3-1
Seven games in, does anyone know exactly where the Bruins stand? After a 1-2 road trip against Colorado, Arizona, and Vegas, the Bruins returned home for a four-game stand. They looked like a brand-new team when they beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3. Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup for his season debut and did so by recording a goal and three assists. It was his 900th career game and he passed Ken Hodge for seventh place on the Bruins all time points list with 675. Murph had the breakdown on just how important he is to the team. The team followed up that win with a 5-4 OT loss to the Buffalo Sabres, after being up 4-1. Just a disappointing loss, coming off their best game of the season.
The team has also been ravaged by the injury bug. I don’t know where to begin. Patrice Bergeron just returned after missing the first five games with a lower body injury. David Backes missed the first five games as well with diverticulitis. Ryan Spooner injured his groin in Vegas and is out four – six weeks. Adam McQuaid broke his leg blocking a shot and will be out until mid-December. Tuukka Rask suffered a concussion practice and missed the last two games. Reports are he is progressing well in the concussion protocol. They are off until Thursday, when the San Jose Sharks come to town, so hopefully those who are day-to-day will be back by then.
Florida Panthers: 3-4-0
The Florida Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak when they defeated the Washington Capitals over the weekend. The scoring is balanced upfront but have they found an actual starting goaltender? Both James Reimer and Roberto Luongo have played in four games and both have GAA’s over 3.15. Reimer is however, coming off a 41 save performance in that Washington game so they would be smart to ride with him.
Buffalo Sabres: 2-5-1
The Sabres two wins have come against Anaheim and Boston. Their problem does not lie in the offensive zone. There being led by Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Jason Pominville; all with 11 points. Kyle Okposo needs to pick up his play or his playing time is going to continue to shorten, but their problem is between the pipes. Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson have been struggling to find their game. Both goaltenders have save percentages below .890. The team needs someone to come out and claim that number one spot. The only way that will happen is if they start playing better.
Montréal Canadiens: 1-6-1
By far the most surprising start of any team in the division. All around, nobody is playing well. Through eight games, the team has scored 12 goals. Jonathan Drouin leads the team with a mere five points. Every player on the team has a minus rating. Carey Price has a GAA of 3.95 and a save percentage at .881. Something needs to change or those in the organization will start to find themselves on the hot seat. They have Florida, Los Angeles, and the New York Rangers all at home this week. It’s time for them to put the puck in the net.