Montreal Canadiens Still On Top Of The NHL: Atlantic Division Recap – Week 8
The Montreal Canadiens continued their dominance of the NHL (even if they stumbled a bit on Sunday night) and in particular the Atlantic Division this week as they remain not only first in the division and the Eastern Conference, but the NHL as well.
With that said, let’s take a look at all the action that took place in the Atlantic this past week while taking a brief peek into what the future and what it may hold for these guys.
As always teams are listed in order of their current standing within the division.
Record: 16-6-1 (33 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? The Canadiens continually make a case for themselves to be one of the better all-around teams in the NHL week-in and week-out even if their power-play is only effective against the Boston Bruins. They have size, speed, skill, defense, depth and above all great goaltending courtesy of Carey Price. With their hot start still rolling, they have many believing this could in fact be Montreal’s year and with a light schedule on tap this week (just a home and home versus the Buffalo Sabres) the Canadiens should keep right on trucking.
Who’s hot? This past offseason center Tomas Plekanec became the NHL’s poster boy for embellishment and apparently he wasn’t too fond of it as he’s cleaned up his game and now has 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 23 games for the Canadiens this season. He is showing that when he’s focused on the game and not his antics, he can be a very valuable player for Montreal.
Who’s not? After getting off to a great start with the Canadiens, veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar was brought in to help spark Montreal’s power-play but both have slowed down and Montreal’s power-play continues to struggle as they’re currently ranked 26th in the league.
Upcoming schedule this week: Friday 11/28 at Buffalo Sabres and Saturday 11/29 vs. Buffalo Sabres
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Record: 14-6-2 (30 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? Since the start of the year the Tampa Bay Lightning have been proving me right when I said they’d be one of the better teams in the Atlantic this season. They just keep right on rolling along and are doing everything they can to keep pace with the Montreal Canadiens. Now, after playing a handful of games in a short amount of time the Lightning have a light schedule this week and should have some time to get some much needed rest for what have to be some sore bodies.
Who’s hot? Veteran winger Ryan Callahan is off to a solid start for the white-hot Lightning and he even punched in two goals versus his former team (New York Rangers) this past week. Callahan now has 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) in 17 games this season and will continue to be an integral piece in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.
Who’s not? Backup goaltender Evgeni Nabokov’s struggles continue after he lost his only start last week. He’s been a severe disappointment for a team who had thought they’d found their backup goalie and would be able to rest starter Ben Bishop more frequently.
Upcoming schedule this week: Wednesday 11/26 vs. New York Rangers and Saturday vs. Ottawa Senators
Record: 13-9-0 (26 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? Just like last week, the Providence — err I mean Boston Bruins continue to be held together by scotch tape and while they aren’t playing the prettiest hockey in the world at the moment, they’re doing enough to keep the ship afloat until reinforcements arrive. However, doing just enough may not be enough for long if the Bruins can’t find some offense from somewhere and start stringing together wins.
Who’s hot? 18-year old 2014 1st round pick David Pastrnak has been lighting the AHL on fire and now thanks to a rash of injuries and a complete lack of offense, he’ll get his shot with the big club as he was called up to Boston on Monday morning. He’s expected to make his debut Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Who’s not? Winger Reilly Smith was expected to produce a little more offense for the Bruins than he has so far (10 points in 22 games) and with all the injuries he could’ve really stepped up and helped filled the void. Instead he’s struggled and at the moment has gone ice cold at one of the worst possible times for Boston.
Upcoming schedule this week: Monday 11/24 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins and Friday 11/28 vs. Winnipeg Jets
DETROIT RED WINGS
Record: 10-5-5 (26 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? As they’ve done for every week so far this season, the Detroit Red Wings just keep doing enough to stay competitive and stay in the playoff picture. With an aging cast of veterans mixed in with some youth, the Red Wings are who they are at this point and I’d expect them to stay right in the playoff picture all the way through the season. Maybe having a 3-game home stand this week will allow the Red Wings to string together a few W’s.
Who’s hot? Justin Abdelkader may have finally developed into the power-forward many thought he would be when he was drafted back in 2005. Playing on the top line in Detroit he now has 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 20 games to go with 18 penalty minutes and a +5 rating.
Who’s not? Much maligned veteran center Stephen Weiss was once again sent to the AHL for “conditioning” and continues to just be an absolute bust for the Detroit Red Wings as he can’t even crack the lineup or stay on the ice.
Upcoming schedule this week: Monday 11/24 vs. Ottawa Senators, Wednesday 11/26 vs. Philadelphia Flyers and Sunday 11/30 vs. Vancouver Canucks
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Record: 11-8-2 (24 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? The Maple Leafs once again continued their Jekyll and Hyde ways, looking fantastic in one game and then like an absolute train wreck the next. Their was even an ugly incident where they snubbed their fans after a win because earlier in the week Leafs fan threw their jerseys and other paraphernalia on the ice after a Leafs loss. With that behind them, Toronto has now won two games in a row and will look to keep it rolling when they head to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Who’s hot? James Van Reimsdyk is a very streaky player but he’s on fire right now and has 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) on the season. JVR is a big bodied forward who can skate and score, when he’s on his game he’s nearly unstoppable and right now the combo of JVR, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel is one of the deadliest lines in the NHL.
Who’s not? Nazem Kadri has 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) so far this season and at times has found himself losing second line center duties to Peter Holland, yes you heard that right, Peter Holland. Kadri needs to be better but then again according to him he’s just as good as John Tavares, except he says Tavares just simply works harder.
Upcoming schedule this week: Wednesday 11/26 at Pittsburgh Penguins and Saturday 11/29 vs. Washington Capitals
Record: 9-6-4 (22 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? Neither, the Senators are playing .500 hockey at the moment and that’s right about where I’d expect them to stay for the season. They have a solid system in place and play a blue-collar brand of hockey, however they don’t have much in the way of offensive weapons and their blue-line is relatively thin. If it wasn’t for the goaltending of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner this team could be in a lot worse shape than they are.
Who’s hot? The aforementioned Anderson has been an absolute wall for the Senators and in 11 games he has a 5-3-3 record with 2 shutouts and a 2.23 goals against average to go with a stellar .935 save percentage. He is definitely pulling his weight and then some.
Who’s not? Considering the Senators don’t have many offensive weapons, the ones they do have need to really shine and so far veteran winger Milan Michalek has just been one of the guys while contributing 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 19 games. Michalek is a player that can score 20-30 goals a season and right now he is nowhere near that pace.
Upcoming schedule this week: Monday 11/24 at Detroit Red Wings, Tuesday, 11/25 at St. Louis Blues, Friday 11/28 at Florida Panthers and Saturday 11/29 at Tampa Bay Lightning.
Record: 7-5-6 (20 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? The Florida Panthers are playing their system while staying competitive and developing their younger talent. It may not pay dividends this season but if I was a Panthers fan I would be very excited about the future as this team is loaded with young talent that continues to improve every week and even if they aren’t winning many games, they are certainly competing and it makes the Panthers one of the harder teams to play against on a nightly basis.
Who’s hot? Second year forward Nick Bjugstad has been on an absolute tear recently and now has 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists) in 18 games to go with a +4 rating, he’s also fired an impressive 53 shots on net in that span. A 1st round pick of the Panthers back in 2010, Bjugstad appears to be finding his way while making quite the name for himself as he’s fastly becoming a star right in front of our eyes.
Who’s not? Even if he’s been battling an injury, Aleksander Barkov just hasn’t been producing for the Panthers and at this point it has to be a cause for concern. He’s got a pathetic 3 points in 15 games this season to go with an unsightly -5 rating and has only managed to get 23 shots on net. Barkov is too talented and too important to the Panthers as their #1 center to be playing like he is.
Upcoming schedule this week: Monday 11/24 vs. Minnesota Wild, Wednesday 11/26 vs. Carolina Hurricanes and Friday 11/28 vs. Ottawa Senators
Record: 6-13-2 (14 points)
Are they on the rise or the fall? Don’t look now, but the Buffalo Sabres are officially on a winning streak after winning 3 games in a row this past week. I guess pigs really can fly.
Who’s hot? Despite upwards of 60+ inches of snow falling in the area, the Buffalo Sabres as a team were able to string together 3 wins in a row and for all the crap I’ve given them so far this season, the entire organization deserves a tap of the stick from me for how they’ve been playing of late. Now get back to losing so you can lock up Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
Who’s not? Poor Patrick Kaleta missed out on the fun as he ended up getting snowed in this past week and was unable to make it to the arena for one of the games. To be perfectly honest it was probably a good thing for the Sabres as Kaleta stinks and is usually only good for a cheap shot or dumb penalty.
Upcoming schedule this week: Wednesday 11/26 vs. Winnipeg Jets, Friday 11/28 vs. Montreal Canadiens and Saturday 11/29 at Montreal Canadiens