Well, folks, we are on to 2018 and the second half of the season. It seems as if it’s going to be a three team race to the division title with Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston just so far out in front of everyone else. With the way the Metropolitan division has played this year, the Eastern Conference playoff picture may only have the three teams from the Atlantic division.
One team that could throw a wrinkle into this now is the Florida Panthers. Their current five-game win streak has them five points out of the wildcard with games in hand. Their defense has come along and have only allowed six goals-against in their streak.
Let’s look back at the week that was by starting with going outside.
Winter Classic In the Big Apple
The Buffalo Sabres took on the New York Rangers in the 10th Winter Classic, held on New Year’s Day. The game was played at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. After going down 2-0 in the first, the Sabres answered with early goals in the second and third periods. Regulation yielded no winner, but JT Miller ended it 2:43 into the overtime period off a rebound.
— NHL (@NHL) January 1, 2018
The season has been one many players on Buffalo will want to forget, but they will all take this experience with them.
Thank you to @BuffaloSabres, @nhl, @NHLonNBCSports, #NYPD & our amazing fans for the great #WinterClassic experience! Wished for a better result, but really proud of our team! pic.twitter.com/ijSYFYft7P
— Phil Housley (@philhousley6) January 2, 2018
Will The Canadiens Pack It In?
The Canadians have lost their last four games and have scored just three goals in that span. Their record now stands at 16-19-4 and eight points out of the last wildcard spot. Now, reports are coming out that they are “actively shopping” their captain, Max Pacioretty. Nick Kypreos reported that GM Marc Bergevin’s “top priority is moving Pacioretty for a top goalscorer”.
They take on the Boston Bruins three times in one week starting January 13th. If things stay the way they are and the Bruins sweep, I believe the Habs will start the “trade deadline frenzy” early.
Boston, Toronto, And Home Ice
The Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs sit between the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have run away with the division all year, and comfortably ahead of the other five teams in the division. As the seasons shifts into the second half, both teams will have their eyes on the standings, keeping track of where the other one stands. Home ice is at stake for a likely first round match up between the two.
As it stands now, each team has 48 points, with the Bruins having three games in hand. They have two games remaining against each other on February 3 and February 24. Four crucial points still up for grabs.
– The Tampa Bay Lightning still sit in the President’s Trophy driver seat. A 2-1-0 week increased their point total to 58, four points ahead of the West leading Vegas Golden Knights. Their current six-game road trip concludes at the end of this week, but not before four division matchups against Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa, and Detroit. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will likely see even more time in that as Peter Budaj landed on the IR with a leg injury.
– The Ottawa Senators’ two-month skid has watched them plummet down the standings in the division. Now, currently seventh. They are just 1-5-0 in their last six games against the division and this last week, they were blown out twice by Boston.