With the Leafs back in action, and ~30 games left for every team, it’s as good a time as any to look at the standings. Kyle Dubas made a few comments yesterday about not losing focus in a tough division, and it’s clear he’s not wrong about this.
Atlantic Division as of February 10
There’s nothing worse than losing ground on a bye week through no fault of your own, but Tampa has cooperated by not winning all that much lately. But it doesn’t require advanced calculation to see that the Lightning and the Leafs are close enough to be called in a virtual tie at this point.
There’s nothing to say about Boston here, they could have a goaltending regression and still win most of their games, they could have a shooting % trough like the Leafs had early and still win most of their games. They have “it” just like Florida did last year. They’re winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
Of note, the Leafs early shooting woes have them at the lowest goals scored of any serious team in this division. To reduce the equation so much we’ll burn the saucepan: the Leafs are winning on Goals Against. So naturally everyone and their brother Jason has penned an article moaning on about how bad the defence is, and occasionally questioning the need for another goalie.
As of now, the Leafs are shooting in the normal range as a team, and it’s not all that likely that will change.
As expected from very early this season, Buffalo has come on with points to match their play a little more. Florida has been better lately, but is it too late?
Wild Card race in the Eastern Conference
If Florida has no hope, then the Islanders made that Bo Horvat trade for the future, not this season. Which of course is true, but neither team is absolutely cooked right now. Implosions at offence or goalie injuries can derail any team that is in the range of sub .600 in points percentage. That said, it looks like Pittsburgh is in unless they drop themselves out, and the second chair will go to whoever of Buffalo or Washington gets the right mix of luck, schedule strength, skill, hard work and goaltending talent.
Buffalo is in the same position the Leafs were in for Auston Matthews’ first season. They can just put the pedal down, and play as hard as they can. They can’t lose. If they don’t make it, they were valiant in the effort. If they do make it, there are zero expectations from a first round meeting with the Bruins. This is the most glorious and fun time for a team. It all seems possible and you can’t lose. If youth and “wanting it” are really the keys to success, Washington is doomed. The separation between the Capitals and the Penguins and the top three teams in the Metro is significant, so it’s the Wild Card or nothing for them.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the glaringly obvious fact that Montréal is just dreadful and it’s not clear their coach knows they’re tanking. Columbus knows though, and it’s time to pick the bones of the Blue Jackets for whatever is left.
Kyle Dubas was right. The fight with Tampa for home-ice advantage will go on to the final games. Absolutely no one should laugh at the Buffalo Sabres, though, lest the gods notice and decide to have some fun with your emotions.