Tampa Bay Lightning: A
The defending champs have not been as flashy or as heavily discussed as their Florida counterpart, but that doesn’t mean that Tampa hasn’t been quietly going about its business.
There really aren’t many numbers for the team that will jump off the page at you, but on an individual level, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman have been fantastic. Stamkos is a top-ten scorer in the NHL with 50 points, while Hedman’s 44 points are second among defensemen.
When a club has won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, the regular season feels less important. The Lightning will simply want to position themselves for another championship run, and they have done that so far.
Toronto Maple Leafs: B+
The Maple Leafs have once again come out strong in the regular season. Toronto is supporting good offense with equally impressive defense to give the club a well-rounded presence on the ice.
Only seven teams in the league have a goal differential that is superior to the +30 that the Leafs boast, which is great, but it seems likely that Toronto will go on the road in the opening round of the playoffs. While this team has been good, it doesn’t feel like they’re on the same level as the Panthers and Lightning.
Still, the Leafs are in a nice position, and there is plenty to like, so I’ll give the team a B+ for their first half of the season.
The story of this division is more diverse than in any other division, as there are four teams with championship expectations and four teams that are trying to find traction. As a result, the second half of the season in the Atlantic will be impactful in many different ways.