With the NHL season halfway over, we’re going to start grading each team in the NHL in our NHL power rankings. First up, we look at the Atlantic Division.
The NHL season is just about halfway over. We’ve seen teams rise against all odds and others take a nosedive. Do performances prior to the All-Star Game actually matter? Can a team rely on a late rally to push them towards the playoffs? Our NHL power rankings take a look at the Atlantic Division and hand out grades for each team.
So far, the Atlantic Division has been a lot closer than anticipated. The Boston Bruins got off to a roaring start, but a slump, plus the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs waking up from slumps of their own, has made the division a lot closer than people thought it would be back in November, or even December.
All stats are as of Jan. 11.
Atlantic Division Grades
Boston Bruins: B+
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The Boston Bruins were coming off a short summer and a game seven loss. Expectations were low for the team coming into the season. Except, they came out surging. It was as if they had a full summer of rest and were ready to win. However, the month of December was not kind to the Bruins.
The rest of their division was finally gaining momentum and they were racking up loser points, which seemed to be every game. Boston has held the lead all season. At one point they had the most point of the league, fumbling to Washington.
Now that Tampa has found its momentum, the Bruins could easily find themselves as the second seed in the Atlantic. If the team stays healthy and finds the momentum from October, they’ll have another solid playoff run. It’s not where you start, but where you finish.
Tampa Bay Lightning: B-
After their disappointing and quick stint in the postseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning were more than likely looking forward to the clean slate. Unfortunately, the majority of the first half looked a lot like the last four games of the 2018-2019 season; loss after loss.
However, they’ve recently turned a corner. As of January 10th, they’ve won 9 of their last 10 games. Consider that corner turned and Tampa Bay a wagon and Boston better watch out.
Toronto Maple Leafs: B-
The Toronto Maple Leafs bobbed throughout the standings the first half of the season. A lot of fans were praying they stayed in third and Boston in first so their first-round exit might have a bit of dignity this year. Head Coach Mike Babcock was fired on November 20th after a 9-10-4 start to the season. It appeared that they turned over a new leaf once Sheldon Keefe took over. As of January 10th, they’re sitting in third with 54 points.
Florida Panthers: C+
I think many people are thoroughly impressed with the rebuild the Florida Panthers have going on. Mike Hoffman, Noel Accairi, Keith Yandle, and, of course, Sergei Bobrovsky, have almost made the Panthers “ a team to watch.”
In prior seasons it appeared that maybe a handful of people would attend the games. If they continue on this path they very well could follow in the path of the Carolina Hurricanes and make southern hockey legit.
Montreal Canadiens: C+
Just like last season, the Montreal Canadiens are fighting for a playoff spot. They started off buzzing and then lost all momentum. Claude Julien still has two seasons left on his contract. Will an extension be in the picture if he doesn’t make the playoffs between now and 2021-22? Adding Ilya Kovalchuck might be looked at as their missing piece. Kovalchuck has 3 points in the 3 games he has played.
Buffalo Sabres: D+
The false hope this team gives its fans for the first month and a half of the season should be expected but it’s never any less heartbreaking. Each year it’s’ “Yeah! This is finally it!” but it never happens. Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofson are out long term, which means the team has big skates to fill. The team needs to spend money but I don’t see them buying at the deadline.
Ottawa Senators: D
Sitting seventh place with 38 points doesn’t leave much room to talk about the positives. Anthony Duclaire has become the new Erik Karlsson in terms of freeing a good player from the organization. Thomas Chabot signing an eight-year extension is something fans can hold on to. Rebuilding around one of the best young defensemen in the league. They should try getting another dog. Dogs fix everything.
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Detroit Red Wings: F
27 points. Twenty Seven points. People claim they can’t take women’s hockey seriously yet they’re a fan of a team who have five fewer wins than the NWHL’s Boston Pride. Much to think about.