Well, the month’s almost over, so let’s check in on the neighbors and see how we feel after one month of NHL action
First Place: Buffalo Sabres
Games Played: 13
Leading Goalscorer: Tied between Jeff Skinner and Jack Eicher, both with 7
The October Sabres are back! Just in time for their 50th year of operation! It might be completely untenable but who cares? They’re in first, baby!
I understand if you’re not interested in breaking out streamers and party favors for this revelation.
So yeah, another early season start for the boys in upstate NY. Unlike last year, the Sabres don’t really have the benefit of a 10 straight win streak that said “Look at us! We’re not terrible anymore!”; their schedule to start the season was light, and fans are probably more than a little skeptical that this could last after being burned so badly. That said, they haven’t lost in regulation at home yet, so if nothing else, Keybank Center is becoming a hell of a place to play.
Speaking of teams who haven’t lost in regulation at home...
Second Place: Your Boston Bruins!
Games Played: 11
Leading Goalscorer: David Pastrnak, with 11
Oh if only one of those OTLs went the other way...
A lot of Boston’s problems from last year still plague the team; injuries to key positions, calling up AHL guys to see if they can hold the fort to moderate success, plenty of hand wringing about secondary scoring either being non-existant at worst or inconsistent at best, and the near constant hunt for a 2nd line Right Wing.
Thankfully, one of the early season problems from last year did not come back: Goaltending controversy. Halak and Rask’s tag team deployment has paid dividends for a team whose positives once again have come back in force: it’s absolutely dominant first line. Pastrnak leads the league in goals, they had a real cute moment of solidarity in getting Patrice Bergeron his 5th career hat trick (who is once again just a 200ft game cheat code), and Brad Marchand is picking up enough apples to qualify for orchard subsidies. Combine that with Torey Krug seemingly being the beating heart and soul of the league’s 2nd most successful power play (and only topped by the Oilers by .8%, if that), and you have a team once again in the top 5 of the league heading into Halloween! Fun times!
Tied for Third: Florida Panthers
Games Played: 11
Leading Goalscorer: Evgenii Dadonov, with 6
Blowout loss to the Canucks last night aside, you have to give Joel Quenneville some credit in that he has a hallmark skill of any truly great coach: He can make do with the parts he has.
And make do he has in spades! The Panthers ability to score goals is nothing to sneeze at, with the top 2 lines being arguably just as dangerous as they were last year, and even in most of their losing efforts have managed to keep their games close.
...But a big part of the reason they’re as close as they are is that Sergei Bobrovsky is not playing up to his exorbitant contract at all. Indeed, their defense and goal-tending couldn’t stop a beach ball right now and a big part of their success is that they’re very difficult to stop on offense thanks to their shooting talent and Sasha Barkov...Or hanging on just long enough to get a loser point in overtime. It might not be the recipe for sustained success, but it’s working for the Panthers so far after another another long stretch of mediocrity.
And hey! $5 beer thursdays! Panthers know how to keep a inconsistent season going down smooth!
Also tied for 3rd: Toronto Maple Leafs
Games Played: 13
Leading Goalscorer: Auston Matthews, with 9
The funny thing about PDO (the fancystat that tracks “Luck”, essentially), is that there are two states of luckyness: Being lucky, and being unlucky.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are firmly unlucky right now. Do fans care? Not really. If anything, they’re panicking.
And part of this is that while their forward corps is generally pretty world-class in the attacking end, it’s becoming abundantly clear that cheaping out on defense both systematically and by getting replacement-level talent to replace their previously replacement level talent...has only resulted in replacement level play. Compounding this is a brutal schedule that had no less than 4 back to backs, including many games that had upwards of a single day in Toronto before having to get back on the plane, if that.
Regardless, it’s created a lot of hand-wringing for the team in blue and white. There are clear signs of a good team in there somewhere, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they have to start making some wholesale changes in order to get the good team out.
You truly, absolutely, hate to see it.
But we know that it doesn’t matter what happens because Boston and Toronto are seemingly fated by blood and birth to face each other in the first round so... Let’s just move on.
Tied for 4th: Tampa Bay Lightning
Games Played: 10
Leading Goalscorer: Steven Stamkos, with 5
There’s a point to be had on what happens when you get shocked so badly in the first round and make no changes. On one hand, the team you have is so good on paper that it seems impossible to come up with any major concrete changes other than “play better and don’t get rattled, stupid.”
But unfortunately for the Lightning, it’s clear that the few things they did change aren’t paying the dividends that they’d hoped. Mathieu Joseph has stalled out as 1st line RW, the 4th line is an abject disaster, and at least so far, Andrei Vasilievskiy’s performance in goal has been pretty disappointing.
But this has an enormous asterisk next to all of it, as Tampa is still above five hundred (if you don’t count OTLs), still loaded to the gills with goalscorers, and most importantly, the team whose played the least amount of games so far in division. Given the talent they do have, I am expecting this to merely be a case of starting slow.
I would prefer to be wrong.
Also Tied for 4th: Montreal Canadiens
Games Played: 11
Leading Goalscorer: Joel Armia, with 6
At the risk of having blood vessels in my brain explode from having to say something nice about the Habs, It’s odd to think that a team with as much promise as this could be having so much inconsistency
Now that I’ve gone and fainted on the floor, the Habs are a team of feast or famine. The feast is in that players like Jonathan Drouin are at long last showing the promise they had that got them traded there, Tomas Tatar looks like he’s rounded back into form, Joel Armia is punching way above his weight in terms of converting shots into goals, and Victor Mete appears to be the guy on defense from now on for Montreal.
On the other hand, Nick Suzuki is strapped to a boat anchor fourth line, Artturi Lehkonen has been underperforming, the defense as a whole has been spotty, and their penalty kill is absolutely atrocious. Worse still is that Carey Price’s season has been fairly poor so far, only being just under league average...which isn’t good right now.
And their PDO suggests that with the exception of Armia...this is just who they are now. And whether or not they succeed is based entirely on how they figure out both Price’s starts, and their ghastly special teams discrepancy.
7th: Ottawa Senators
Games Played: 11
Leading Goalscorer: Vladislav Namestnikov, with 4
There are four players worth mentioning on Ottawa right now:
Thomas Chabot, who is good. Erik Brannstrom, who is annoying and sick, Brady Tkachuk, who has name value and is also good, and Vlad Namestnikov, who has been reaping the benefits of a 20% Shooting percentage, and will likely be one of the very few bits of trade fodder the Sens have by Christmas.
Rest of the team? Trashmania X-Seven.
Dead Last: Detroit Red Wings
Games Played: 12
Leading Goalscorer: Anthony Mantha, with 7
They got one line, one quarter of a defense pairing, and zero goaltending.
The only thing that separates them from the Sens was a game against them on . They lost 5-2 on four unanswered goals. One was short-handed.
Alexis Lafreniere better be brushing up on Lions trivia while he’s torching defenses in the Q.
With that done, let’s do a poll, who do you think will win the Division?
Who will win the Atlantic Division?
This poll is closed
A freak storm buries most of the northeast and Ottawa somehow comes out the winner by default
Societal collapse and Detroit wins on the terms of having more skulls strapped to the roof of Little Caesar’s arena.