Tampa Bay Lightning, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov have combined for 34 points this season, the Lightning are 7-1-1 and just beat the defending Stanley Cup champs in a blowout fashion. What is the ceiling on this team, are they shoe-ins for the Atlantic and possible Stanley Cup contenders? They missed the chance to capture two Stanley Cups back to back years and with the emergence of Kucherov being a top player in the league. This team is due and they have a ton of depth on the forward end. It’s early and anything can happen and this may not sound crazy but they would be my favorites for the Stanley Cup.
New Jersey Devils goalie situation right now bring them back down to earth? Well, Kyle Palmeri just went out with an injury in practice, Brian Boyle is back and Corey Schneider is sidelined for indefinitely. They have a ton of tools on the front end, but stuff seems too good to be true in New Jersey right now. Jesper Bratt and Brian Coleman were definitely once a month performances that will not last the whole season. Plus this d-core will be exposed eventually, give it about one more month or so until the Devils come back down to earth.
Montreal Canadiens, what is the deal with them? Something needs to be addressed there in the front office, they have lost seven straight games and are struggling to score goals. They did indeed throw 40 shots on net the other net vs Anaheim but they still let in five goals. Is it Carey Price or the defense to blame? A mix of both. Price has shown his frustrations early on and this team continues to fall down a slippery slope. Claude Jullien needs to be on the hot seat as well, without a doubt.
Toronto Maple Leafs the real deal? I mean why the heck not, the Atlantic will be fun to watch two teams, Toronto and Tampa Bay. Both will make the playoffs and meet each other for a chance to play in the Stanley Cup. But I mean Auston Matthews has shown his absolutely goal-scoring ability, I don’t know if there is anyone better than him at finding the back of the net. They have a young core group with solid veterans, six very capable NHL defenseman and a goalie when on, looks among the top of the league. this may sound obvious but Toronto is a shoe-in for the playoffs and honestly a top three Stanley Cup contender.
New York Rangers, they stop the bleeding with a win vs Nashville but they had only 15 shots on goal, yikes. The Rangers have looked miserable at times this season but also have shown periods of good play. Now obviously the big talk is will Alain Vigneault be out of New York come the All-Star break or earlier, well that all depends on the Rangers performance up until this point. My guess is the Rangers will eventually turn it around but not soon enough, the struggles and inconsistency will continue for another month or so, I would not be surprised the Rangers miss the postseason this year, and Vigneault fired after the All-Star break.
Pittsburgh Penguins Matt Murray has looked bad and don’t even try and say he has not. Murray in six starts has a 3.35 GAA and a .896 save percentage. This could be a sign the young goaltender is not capable of handling full-time duties or it is just a slow start. Either way, I would be concerned as a Penguins fan a lot is riding on this kid and with a no name back up goaltender the Penguins need Murray to be ready to go night in and night out. The Penguins also themselves have not looked amazing either, they are definitely a top team in the NHL but any team is capable of beating them. My guess is Penguins make the playoffs but out in the first round.
New York Islanders, ok now so I am not fully opposed to believing the Islanders can squeak into the playoffs but I just do not see it with how competitive that Metropolitan division is going to be. It’s really between the Islanders, Rangers, and Flyers for the wild card spots in my opinion. The Islanders have some scoring depth but after there top six it does worry me a little bit plus they have a very young hopeful roster that I just do not see ready to make that leap into the playoffs, I don’t know why but this is my gut feeling. Plus that defense is not deep and or skilled at all, aside from Nick Leddy the Islanders defense is not capable of holding off top lines all season.
Moving out West…
Los Angeles Kings holy moly, what the heck is going on, they are hands down the biggest surprise of the year. They just knocked off a hot Columbus team and a Columbus team that is regarded as a top NHL team. They did not just beat them but they hung with them and answered on every goal Columbus scored. The Kings with Jonathan Quick back look like a totally different team and this goes to show why Quick is one of the most valuable goalies in the league. The Kings able to hold onto this? Well, see they play Toronto tomorrow. But aside from that, I think come All-Star break time this team will be a wildcard team, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar have surprised us all early on and I don’t think Brown is capable of this production for 82-games.
San Jose Sharks, early write off here. I don’t want to spend much time on them here because it is a waste of time. Nobody actually thinks this team can make the playoffs. They look awful and that game against the Islanders last night was a clear indication. The Shark Tank is dead.
Vegas Golden Knights, I am not fully aboard with this team. Yeah, they beat St. Louis last night and have won six of seven games. But I really don’t care I’m sorry, Malcolm Subban went down and now Oscar Danks and it is only seven games in. The Golden Knights will be back down to earth once they hit that first bump in the road.