Power Rankings: Atlantic Battles Rage On

Power Rankings: Atlantic Battles Rage On
Chris Wassel

The time dwindles rapidly and there is only a little over three weeks left.. We take a look at the rankings via the Atlantic Division “Trail Of Tiers.”

CR is current rank and GD is goal differential for those scoring at home. LW is pretty self-explanatory as far as meaning “Last Week”. Let’s get started, from the top-tier to the bottom realm.


The Top Bosses! (Good and In)

Montreal Canadiens (44-20-7, LW: 1, CR: 1. GD: +28)

Montreal has been meandering around for almost three weeks now but that has been enough to stay at the top of the Atlantic because other teams have been too (4-4-2 in their last 10). Carey Price has to keep playing at the highest level (nearly a +15 goalie point share) for them to ultimately win the Atlantic. Montreal would be one point from ninth in the East if it were not for him. That is the dilemma for a team that relies so much on one player defensively.

The Montreal Canadiens are just one team of complete conflict that still finds a way to make a run. Their coach flummoxes so many and infuriates many more. Yet, for whatever reasons, they do just enough offensively to find themselves still in good position in the East. I am as amazed as you are. Will Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher stay hot enough to lead them? That is what we are all asking at this point. This is where the battles get even tighter. Talk about one razor close Atlantic.


Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-7, LW: 2, CR: 2, GD: +46)

Tampa went 1-1-1 this week as their schedule spreads out. Please note that it will even more in the next ten days or so. Therefore, the news will be not quite as extensive. However, their are spots where the schedule is quite packed. This is why Andrei Vasilevskiy will see his share of starts — even if he has been a bit inconsistent.

Just think of Tampa as that team lying in wait. They really are. This is where the season gets fun for them and now that they can rest Ben Bishop, the question only becomes how fast can they get healthier. Steven Stamkos has been on fire of late and he really has paced himself so he can make this late season push with Tampa.


Detroit Red Wings (38-19-11, LW: 3, CR: 3, GD: +17)

Detroit got hit with more bad news after another 1-2 week. It was revealed that Pavel Datsyuk will miss at least the next two games with what is believed to either be a leg or groin injury. Either way, this is not what Detroit had in mind when making a run for the division. It is looking more and more likely they will have to just worry about staying where they are at.

That is not the only problem. Jimmy Howard really has been hit or miss (mostly miss) since returning from his groin injury. Something has not been quite right. Petr Mrazek got the only win for Detroit when he stopped 42 shots against Pittsburgh. It is clear Howard cannot handle the full workload but is a split more optimal. Mrazek started Friday but the weekend is more questionable. So are the Red Wings right now.


The Bubble Wars

Boston Bruins (36-23-11, LW: 4 , CR: 4, GD: +8)

The Bruins are this year’s team on the bubble that may drive you more nutty than any in recent memory. It is frightening how it looks like they will pull away one week and then get yanked back in the next. They did go 2-1-1 last week but left the door open potentially. A Thursday night clash this week with Ottawa has told one part of the tale. Now how will the rest be written?

At any rate, the Atlantic bubble battle continues with Tuukka Rask having to carry the weight of Boston on his shoulders. Do not worry about David Krejci yet because he is out until at least the weekend. If there was ever a time for Patrice Bergeron and his line to carry Boston one more time….it is now!


Ottawa Senators (34-24-11, LW: 5, CR: 5, GD: +15)

Ottawa won all four games last week to push within four points of Boston and maybe Boston is not the only team that should worry. Now the fallout from Thursday’s game against Boston will tell us a lot about Ottawa but they have been on such a run for so long. Can it keep going? Teams have done this before. Ottawa figures why not them, right?

Craig Anderson hurt himself yet again as yes the deep bone bruise in the hand is really bothering him. He will miss at least a week which is a nice way of saying, “Andrew Hammond, you’re still on your own”. Hammond has been lights out amazing as he has gone 11-0-1 while not giving up more than two goals in any start. By now, it feels like a broken record because it does. While the offense has sputtered at times, the goalie has not and that gives the Senators and their fans lots of hope. Now they will be tested!

They really have a shot at this.


Florida Panthers (31-25-14, LW: 6, CR: 6, GD: -23)

Florida finally got Roberto Luongo back on Thursday and that is welcome news. However, if the team cannot score despite their unbelievable advanced numbers of late, does it really matter?

All anyone knows is now Florida has virtually zero room for error and they cannot afford a losing streak at all right now. If they do not score on the power play and pucks do not start going in 5 on 5, then the April 12th tee time will be signed, sealed, and delivered.

Now the trick is to keep Jaromir Jagr healthy but more importantly producing. This is not going to be very easy because at this stage Jagr can only hit mini spurts and not sustained bouts of brilliance like he did in New Jersey last season. A year older has made a difference. Still, the Panthers will fight as they battle the puck luck as much as their opponents.


Hoping It Was Not Too Late….BUT…..

Toronto Maple Leafs (27-38-6, LW: 7, CR: 7, GD: -38)

The Maple Leafs lost all three games last week to finally take the 15th spot in the East. It took them long enough but now Nazem Kadri has four more games to think his life over after he hit someone a little dirty and did not get away with it. Little of that matters now as Toronto is just determined to go as far down as they can. They are drawing 4th so far but can they catch Edmonton or Arizona? That may be unlikely even if the Maple Leafs were to lose all their remaining games.

If this is not full on tanking, I got nothing. Toronto is just so awful right now and yet people are weirdly optimistic. Yes the fans have bought in to the tank whether anyone else likes it or cares for that matter.

Toronto is just the Atlantic version of the ultimate Gong Show. At this point, just let it crash and burn then pray for the start of salvation next year. That is all you can do.


Bottom of the Barrel

Buffalo Sabres (20-43-7, LW: 8, CR: 8, GD: -101)

The Atlantic now has a team with a -100+ goal differential in Buffalo. They actually went 1-1-1 this week as they played Boston and Washington of all teams very tough. They were 2-1 on the puck line and that has to mean something. Okay, not really! At least there are only 12 games remaining in the season but Buffalo cannot win too much! The tank wars have a new 2nd place contender and they are hot I mean cold…I mean you get the idea.

The Atlantic basement dwelling is likely ready for next year. Buffalo will be doing some upgrades on that, I am sure.

Editor’s Note: Stats are accurate through games played on March 18th.

See you next week Atlantic Division fans!

Chris Wassel

Never stop learning! That has always been my philosophy in life. It applies to hockey writing so well as new challenges are something to strive for. I have been a fantasy hockey writer way back when it wasn’t quite so cool, covered the Devils for a variety of places and still do, have a small hockey site of my own, and even write about all things NHL, AHL, ECHL, KHL, etc. Usually I am first asked who I don’t write for. For Today’s Slapshot, I will be covering the Atlantic Division.

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