Inside The Box: The MassMutual East Division is an absolute crapshoot

Philadelphia Flyers center Scott Laughton (21). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Flyers center Scott Laughton (21). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s daily news bulletin, covering all the latest news and providing unique analysis and insight, while highlighting the content you need in your lives.

There was always going to be madness in the NHL this year due to the shortened 56-game schedule and the fact that the divisions were mixed up due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the boarder issues with Canada, but we truly are seeing something special with the East Division right now. It is an absolute crapshoot and we are going to delve into that on Inside The Box today.

More from Puck Prose

So, we’re nearly a month into the 2020-21 season and it has to be said that division realignment has panned out perfectly so far, with the fact that teams play the same opponent up to 10 times in a single season making for nightly entertainment and, as we are seeing in the East and in the North Division, the standings are incredibly close.

I mean, you can make a strong argument that the best entertainment value can be found in the all-Canadian Division given that we have 10 Battle of Alberta matchups to look forward to this year, not to mention watching talent-laden teams in the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs face off against each other. And, oh, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are also in that division, so there is that.

The East Division is an absolute wild one and will go right down to the wire

However, the most competitive and intriguing division in the National Hockey League right now is the East Division, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. For starters, the West has a big three in the Colorado Avalanche, the Vegas Golden Knights and the St. Louis Blues with the Minnesota Wild likely to take the final postseason spot, while the Tampa Bay Lightning will end up cruising the Central Division. I have no clue when it comes to the East, though.

Granted, we’re still only a month into the 2020-21 season but in what is a shortened 56-game schedule, we should start to see a bit of a clearer picture when it comes to how things will shake out, as is largely the case in the other three divisions. However, the East is a completely different beast and it is anyone’s guess as to who will win it, let alone who will take the remaining three Playoff berths.

It is the only division to have all of its teams with double digits in points, with the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers both sitting on 10 points despite being at the bottom of the standings, compared to the other divisions where the worst teams are on eight or nine points or, in the case of the Ottawa Senators, five points but that is another story for another day.

So, you get the picture that the East is insanely competitive and packed together, and that will only continue once the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils are allowed to play again with both teams currently shut down due to COVID-19 issues. But both of those franchises have shown flashes of being able to compete with the best in that division, particularly the Devils who were off to a pretty good start at 4-3-2 before being shutdown, while the Sabres boast the likes of Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall and Rasmus Dahlin and could make a big move at the Trade Deadline in order to push themselves closer to a return to the postseason.

You have the Rangers who have seemingly turned the corner in the wake of the Tony DeAngelo drama, winning two straight and they have more than enough talent to be one of the four teams to make it out of the East, while the New York Islanders should only improve and get better after their 4-4-2 start to the season.

Then there’s the ‘Big Four’ in the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are somewhat of a fading force, the Washington Capitals, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins. The Bruins truly look like the cream of the crop right now but there are question marks hovering over those other teams with the Flyers struggling in a lot of metrics despite being 8-3-2, the Capitals have dropped a couple of tough games and look beatable and the Penguins could go either way right now.

Next. Could we see a Evgeni Malkin trade?. dark

With all that in mind, there really is no way to predict how the East Division is currently going to shake out with all teams at .500 or above, and the NHL might even have to use points percentage for the East if the Sabres and the Devils can’t make all their games back up. But, whatever happens, I think the East Division will be one to watch until the very bitter end and I don’t think anything will be decided until the last week, if not the last few days given how insanely unpredictable and competitive it is and it is certainly looking like it will go down as the most entertaining and compelling division in the entire NHL.