This is part two of a four part post. To read part one, click here. Over the next couple of days we will cover the Central and Pacific Divisions.
Although the Bruins are in a wild card spot, the next few weeks will be difficult. Their omnipresent star center Patrice Bergeron, and shutdown defenseman Zdeno Chara, will miss the next month due to injury. Those are definite causes for unthankfulness. Also, David Backes is on pace to collect four points this season. For a player earning 6 million against the salary cap that’s not good value. It’s kind of like paying a kid $150 to mow your lawn, and he whipper-snippers your flower garden instead.
At the time of writing this article, Buffalo is sitting second in the division and third overall in the league. I’ll give you a moment to process that sentence. For around half a decade, Buffalo has been the laughing stock of the league. But, times have changed and now the Sabres potentially have a 60 goal scorer as Jeff Skinner on pace to score 60 goals. The one thing to be unthankful for would be the fact that the forward group is not generating offense outside of the top line of Jack Eichel, Jason Pominville, and the aforementioned Jeff Skinner. Buffalo fans have been through a lot and they deserve a competitive team.
Detroit Red Wings
Despite winning nine of their last twelve games, the Red Wings are still five points outside of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit fans can be unthankful for an atrocious start to the season prior to this run. Goals have been hard to come by this season, Detroit sits fourth last in the league in goals scored. Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek have two apiece, and two-time 20+ goal scorer Frans Nielsen has zero, which puts him on pace to score as many goals as me this season. Uh, Frans, that’s not good.
In a division that includes the Ottawa Senators, the Florida Panthers are in last place. If that isn’t embarrassing enough, consider many pre-season predictions had Florida as a playoff team. There’s a lot of options as to where you could pin the tail of blame on this donkey, but let’s go with General Manager Dale Tallon. Trading Reilly Smith to Vegas at the expansion draft and then leaving Jonathan Marchessault unprotected for Vegas to select wasn’t a case of a school bully (Vegas) taking a quiet student’s (Florida) lunch money. It was more like said student seeking out and asking the bully to please take his lunch money, and also voluntarily handing over the keys to his parents’ luxury vehicle.
Carey Price is the highest paid goalie in the league. He’s earning 10.5 million dollars each year over the next eight seasons, and he’s 31 years old. These are facts. Montreal has allowed the third most goals in the league, and Price has a GAA of 3.17, and a save percentage of .896. Those numbers aren’t good, heck, they aren’t even mediocre, at this point fans can only dream of mediocrity. The same can be said for their power play, ranked 28th in the league. The good news is that despite all of this, Montreal still finds itself clinging to the last wildcard spot.
Congratulations to the first team in the league to allow 100 goals. They are on pace to allow 356 goals this season. To put that into context, the last team to score more than 300 goals in a season was the 2009-10 Washington Capitals with 318. To find a team that scored more than 356 goals in a season, you have to go all the way back to the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins who scored 362. So Ottawa is making every team that plays them look like the 1995-96 Penguins juggernaut with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and Petr Nedved. Well done Ottawa, this overshadows Eugene Melnyk’s antics, and a league worst penalty kill. Your 2018-19 Ottawa Senators, in the words of their GM Pierre Dorion, they’re ‘a team’.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s foot. After breaking his foot, the star goaltender is out indefinitely for the Lightning. Despite this, Tampa Bay should be fine. They have a top five power play league wide, and have lit the lamp more than any other team with 86 goals. Maybe you could ask for more than seven goals from Steven Stamkos, but that’s being picky. Let’s face it, being angry with this team because of that would be like being frustrated with the bus fare on your way to collecting your Powerball winnings. Speaking of frustration…
Toronto Maple Leafs
What to choose, an unsigned William Nylander? Auston Matthews’ shoulder? The media creating trade proposals sending away Nylander for every depth forward, salary dump and depth defenseman in the league? I’ll take all three thanks. In a season that should be full of joy and optimism with Toronto solidly in a playoff spot, and leading the entire league at points this season, the focus has instead been away from the standings. This should come as no surprise. Before the ink dried on the contract that brought Toronto the biggest free agent signing in the salary cap era in John Tavares, sections of the media tried to push the narrative that incumbent star Auston Matthews was displeased. I know years of despair has jaded you Leafs fans, but hang in there. Good things can happen.
Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck