Every once in a while, I will take a look at the Ottawa Senators’ closest rivals, their divisional foes. If the Senators are going to make the playoffs, they pretty much need to be in the top 4, and in the top 3 to guarantee a playoff berth and not have to worry about the wild card. While there was a wide variety of predictions as to where the Senators would finish, they are off to a great start which is more than they could have said last season.
But while the Senators can control what they do, they can’t control what goes on elsewhere in the division. So with that being said, lets take a look at what is going on elsewhere in the Atlantic Division:
The Boston Bruins were most people’s odds on favorite to walk away with the division once again. The B’s are off to a relatively slow start, having already played 7 games in the first 11 games of the season. They have had a 3 game losing streak and have given 3 points to rival Detroit in 2 games and also have a divisional loss to Montreal. Perhaps cap issues that forced them to let Jarome Iginla walk and forced the trade of Johnny Boychuk are catching up with them. However it is a long season and much too early to write off a team with the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask.
The Montreal Canadiens finally have some size up front, with the likes of P.A. Parenteau as well as the maturing Alex Galchenyuk and the uber-competitive Brendan Gallagher as the new breed of Habs are making their presence felt. P.K. Subban has been dynamic and although Carey Price has not been on top of his game, the Habs are finding a way to win and currently lead the division with 10 points in 6 games. It hasn’t always been pretty, but just like the Senators they have been doing just enough to come out on top in most of their encounters.
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are once again embroiled in goaltending issues. If not a controversy, at least questions as Jonathan Bernier temporarily lost the starting job to James Reimer. Back to back losses to the Detroit Red Wings are just the latest blip in what is now looking like it might be a long season in Leafland, and you have to wonder how long Randy Carlyle will be patrolling behind the bench in T.O.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were expected to be a top 3 team in the division, and so far, so good for the Bolts. Steven Stamkos got out of the gate slowly, but has put up 3 points in 2 of his last 3 games. His breakout game was a dominant 3 goal, 12 shot performance in the Lightning 7-1 win over the Canadiens. Victor Hedman was playing like a Norris Trophy winner until he was hurt in Saturday night’s game in Vancouver, and will miss the next few games at least with the good old upper body injury. The only thing separating the Senators and Lightning 5 games into the season is the Senators shootout win over the Bolts early on.
The Detroit Red Wings have feasted on their Atlantic Division rivals, well at least Boston and Toronto. They have taken 7 of a possible 8 points in games against those two teams, helping not only themselves but the Senators and Lightning as well. Starting goalie Jimmy Howard was put on IR Saturday and Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t played yet this season. Add to that Johan Franzen also missing Saturday with an injury and there has to be some concern going forward. Henrik Zetterberg has put the team on his shoulders, and has points on the Wings’ last 5 goals, all against the Leafs in the home and home sweep.
Those are the 5 teams that will be battling for position and should at least be in the running for a playoff spot as the season rolls on. There are also 2 teams that are embroiled in a battle of their own, and it involves Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
The Florida Panthers have been in all of their games thanks largely to the goaltending of Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya as well as a relatively tight defensive game. Offensively they have been challenged, scoring just 5 goals in 5 games. However, even with that modest production, there is still one Atlantic team standing in their way,…
The Buffalo Sabres have been just as inept, but in a different way. The Panthers’ lone win this season was a 1-0 shutout of the Sabres. Buffalo hasn’t been able to keep the puck out of their own net, and have given up a league high 37.8 shots against per game. The Sabres have been shut out in consecutive games and have also been held to just 1 goal on 2 other occasions in their 6 games played so far.
There is still a lot of hockey to be played, and you can’t make the playoffs in October. However, you can put yourself out of the running and the Senators have put themselves in a good position with a solid start to their season.