Welcome back to the Hockey Roundup! After a bit of a hiatus, the THUNDERBLOG’s hockey coverage is finally back in time for the final quarter of the season. Today will be a quick run-through of the Eastern Conference to reset where everyone sits as we’re eight days from the Trade Deadline. The West should up tomorrow. Let’s get to it!
With Montreal in a tailspin right now (2-7-1 in their last ten games), the Atlantic Division has the smallest margin between its leader (Montreal with 70 points) and its bottom feeder (Detroit with 58). The Senators have consistently sat a few games above .500 which is good enough for 2nd in this weaker division but they’re being pursued by two of the hottest teams in the league at the moment. At 66 points, the Florida Panthers have won five-straight while the Boston Bruins have won four-straight. Two of the Bruins’ wins came against the San Jose Sharks who own of the better road records in the league (6-3 Bruins win on Feb 9th) and are one of the best home teams when they’re at the Shark Tank (2-1 Bruins overtime win Sunday night). The Bruins barely missed out on the playoffs last season and when it looked like this season could have a even worse result, they fired long-time head coach Claude Julien (he was signed on to coach Montreal a week later). From there, the streak began and they don’t look like they’re slowing down at the moment. Toronto is only other squad in the Atlantic with a realistic shot at making the playoffs. The Leafs have one of the most exciting young teams in the league. Buffalo is getting closer and the fact that they are sitting four points out of the playoffs through 60 games is indicative of that. They’ll need a few more pieces to put around Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Tampa Bay has been one of the more disappointing stories of the season and it’s a real head-scratcher as for the reason why. I don’t think either team should sell but of course, we’ll need to see what the buyers are offering up. Finally, there has been one constant thoughout my life: the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs. I don’t know what the world is like when the Wings don’t play in the postseason, but we’ll find out pretty soon.
The best division in hockey. The top four teams in the Met would be leading the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions and would be in second in the Central. Washington and Pittsburgh seem to be on another collision course for a second round matchup (and thus validating the NHL’s playoff format). Columbus has been good since their record streak in December but have certainly been on the downtrend. It’ll be tough for them to not make the postseason considering they are 13 points ahead of the second wild card but Torts’ crew will need to play better than .500 puck to get any favoritism in an electric division. The Rangers once again are subtly one of the most deadly teams around but like last year, their first round opponent could hurt them. The Isles have been on the uptick recently but they’re awful away from home so it’s tough to say if they’ll crack into the playoffs. The Flyers look like they’ll be selling for the first time in the Hextall era as they could never really maintain a consistent level of play once 2017 began. I could go on, but I’ll save that for another time. New Jersey is also in “sell” mode but both teams should be careful not to sell too much. The youth of both teams could be the leaders of the division in a few seasons; well, at least up there with Ovi and Crosby. Carolina is in last place in the East and will likely stay there. The Hurricanes have a lot of work to do.
Montreal (ATL #1) vs. Columbus (WC)
Florida (ATL #2) vs. Boston (ATL #3)
Washington (MET #1) vs. Toronto (WC)
Pittsburgh (MET #2) vs. NY Rangers (MET #3)
Disagree with my playoff picks? Let me know in the comments…