The division is always changing and yet the pack cannot separate itself at the top. The Atlantic Division is never a dull one. It’s the middle of January, and here’s the latest edition of the Atlantic Division’s “Trail Of Tiers.”
CR is current rank and GD is goal differential for those scoring at home. LW is pretty self-explanatory, and means “Last Week”. Let’s get started, from the top tier to the bottom with a leisurely pace as the All Star Break is upon us.
The Ice Palace (Those LOCKS)
Tampa Bay Lightning (30-14-4, LW: 1, CR: 1, GD: +29)
Tampa just keeps on winning and really, if a team wins all of their games how could you move them down any in the rankings? The Bolts went 3-0 on the week, outscoring their opponents by five as the Steve Stamkos line led the way for a bit while the Tyler Johnson line took a bit of a back seat. At least the top-six is healthy for the most part. That could not be said last week.
Ben Bishop has been playing well and Victor Hedman came back over the weekend, which was a nice boost. However, Matt Carle is going to be out for 6-8 weeks. Along with Radko Gudas being on the shelf for the next 3-4 months, that does leave a hole Tampa will have to fill at some point. In the meantime, the Lightning have a pretty well oiled system and Jon Cooper runs it masterfully. They will be fine.
Add Tampa to the group of contenders that will be looking to add a D-man. Radko Gudas is out long term & they've lose Matt Carle for 6-8 wks
— Michael Augello (@MikeInBuffalo) January 20, 2015
Evgeni Nabokov will have to be dispatched by the first week of March….one can only hope. Tampa’s hold on number one is still a very uneasy one.
Montreal Canadiens (29-13-3, LW: 2, CR: 2. GD: +17)
Montreal has kept on finding a way to defy most experts, going 7-3 in their last ten, including 3-1 last week..
Carey Price has been amazing as he vaults up to the top of the rankings in some Vezina Trophy circles. He was injured and then came back. Some wonder if he is 100%, but his performance against Nashville on Tuesday was jaw dropping and the best of a busy night.
Despite the workload, Price has been able to keep the team in games long enough for the offense to kick in. A couple outbursts and magically the icing plan works.
Is this back and forth idea good enough to win the division? No one really knows. The problem is now Boston is starting to get its act together. That will put a good deal of pressure on these top three teams IF they can sustain their revitalized power play—or winning for that matter.
Detroit Red Wings (27-11-9, LW: 3, CR: 3, GD: +20)
Detroit has injuries and yet they still keep finding ways to win. The Red Wings went 4-0 since we last left them, including a thrilling overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues. It has not always been pretty but Detroit is overachieving so much that they are probably a lock for the playoffs now.
Is this nuts that a team with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk cannot win frequently in overtime or the shootout though? Howard’s save percentage in the shootout is a woeful .267. Currently, it just does not matter. As long as they are winning, the problems are masked. Is it sustainable? The honest answer now is who the heck knows. People are definitely intrigued and Mike Babcock should likely be considered a favorite for the Jack Adams.
Bubbling Up Or Simmering Down?
Boston Bruins (25-16-7, LW: 5 , CR: 4, GD: +5)
The story of the Atlantic is and always will be Boston. They went 2-1-1 last week including a nice win in Dallas and a tough shootout loss in Colorado.
The Bruins have just found a way to improve just enough to keep gaining points. The games are not pretty and Tuukka Rask looks like himself one night and not quite the next. There are still definite inconsistencies.
The B’s still have issues because they have a tougher time holding leads lately. Though they are slowly inching up the standings, they can breathe a bit easier but are not by any means safe. This is a position Boston is really not used to.
Even with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron doing well, Boston’s goal differential is still around even. Something tells me no one in Boston is proud of that and if this keeps up, there will probably be a move or moves come the trade deadline. Boston is at least heading in the right direction. Are they the same team as last year? No! Things are certainly not as dire as they were a month ago though.
Florida Panthers (20-14-10, LW: 4, CR: 5, GD: -15)
Though they have been good the past couple weeks, Florida would be in a never-ending sinkhole if not for Roberto Luongo. Their five-on-five play has deteriorated a little from the defensive side of things as they have the best goals against out of any team. However, special teams at least is less of an issue although again Luongo has been human of late.
Simply put, Florida must get production from all four lines. Jonathan Huberdeau has 22 points in his last 30 games. They have four games in hand on Boston but are now seven points away which means they would have to win all four just to pull ahead. Losing four straight games does not help matters.
Can Florida right the ship after the All-Star Break? If they can, it will make things interesting. However, they are going to need an offensive boost somehow to move up the Atlantic. Where they get that is an even bigger question.
The Bubble (Probably) Popped Here
Ottawa Senators (19-18-9, LW: 7, CR: 6, GD: -2)
This is where Ottawa should be. Granted, they will wind up on the tail end of the bubble and that seems almost predestined. Ottawa is a team that is almost meant to be around .500 and that is that. Is there really anything left to say?
Keep in mind, they have been .500 in the last two weeks just like this season. The goaltending has shown some cracks as has the team as a whole, but they basically keep winning and losing at an even rate. It is what it is. There are not much signs of improvement as the playoffs disappear from the rear view slowly.
They did however go 2-1-1 this week, but really they must concentrate after the All-Star Break where they should have some winnable games that they might be able to string together. Craig Anderson is going to have to keep standing on his head and Erik Karlsson must anchor the defense. Keep an eye on Mike Hoffman. He will be a fun watch with his skill set.
Toronto Maple Leafs (22-23-3 LW: 6, CR: 7, GD: -8)
The Maple Leafs had a nightmarish week, losing five straight but at least they scored three goals against Ottawa. They still lost but throw out the first period and it was the first positive sign anyone has seen from them in weeks.
Yes their advanced numbers are improving but the goaltending must be better. It has to be better. Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer MUST make the saves they have to make and a few they shouldn’t. Phil Kessel has to learn to play with Nazem Kadri and deal with it and apparently all of Toronto needs a big giant pacifier. Next to Buffalo, they have been the Atlantic’s biggest loser. The season is pretty much lost and the management and players have to focus on what comes next.
We Lead Tank Wars! (McDavid and Eichel)
Buffalo Sabres (14-30-3, LW: 8, CR: 8, GD: -78)
The Sabres have now lost 11 games in a row while being outscored by a whopping 32 goals in that span. It really does not matter who is in net or what combinations are put out there, nothing much has worked. They are finally going for McEichel full steam ahead (number one or number two pick). Needless to say, Buffalo will only get worse once they start trading off assets. Then again, you never know. Pittsburgh had a goal differential of -105 and a Corsi around 42% when going after Sidney Crosby. Buffalo is below 38% CF and is on pace for a goal differential of at least -130 or more. Scary isn’t it? The Atlantic basement has been kept warm by the Sabres.
Editor’s Note: Stats are accurate through games played on January 21st.
See you next week Atlantic Division fans!