Northeast Division Roundup, January 19-26

by Jacob Saltiel
1297368882343_ORIGINAL

Orr Checks Scoreboard, Still Plenty of Time to Dummy Scott
from TorontoSun.com

Based on the data accumulated over the first whole week of NHL hockey this year, all kinds of persuasive data can be extrapolated about the teams in the Northeast division. Actually, that’s completely silly to suggest, so please regard this analysis as a series of general impressions and observations. Read below:

Boston Bruins

After 7 days of NHL hockey, the Bruins have yet to hurt anyone in a way that cynically manipulates the NHL rulebook. Amazing what a team can do when they don’t focus simply on bashing. They started their abbreviated season on fire, taking 3 out of 4 possible points from a strong Rangers team and smothering the Jets and Islanders. It’s early, and 2 of the teams they beat are likely bottom-feeding this year, but they’re a team with a defined identity, a relatively young core, and no obvious weak points. It’s only been a week, but one thing that can point to future troubles ahead is the 4 goals the Rangers put on Rask. They’ll need him to steal a few goals against elite teams if the Bruins are to advance in the playoffs. Even with that potential flag, Dougie Hamilton looks like he can play, which is bad news for the rest of the East.

Buffalo Sabres

Hard to gauge this team, with a narrow win over the Leafs, a victory over the Flyers fueled by Vanek running hog wild, and trading losses with the enigmatic Hurricanes. Their addition of grit over the offseason has been mixed so far. Ott’s been strong and Stafford notably and foolishly fought Hartnell, but John Scott got punked by Orr. John Scott is a dancing bear dressed up in hockey gear whose only purpose is to smash. If he can’t perform his duty against the heavies of the league, he’s a waste of a roster spot. And, besides, it’s not like he can protect wee Gerbe from the referees, can he?

Montreal Canadiens

Subban remains lost in the desert of his indecision, causing angst for everyone in the Montreal area, but Markov’s return has brought up memories of the Canadiens’ vaunted power play of a couple of years ago. There’s a lot of smoke coming out of the Montreal blogosphere about Subban being an elite two-way defenceman, and while he may yet become that, one only has to watch the Canadiens powerplay with Markov at the wheel to see the difference between someone who can and someone who cannot run a powerplay. So long as Therrien’s running Bouillon and Kaberle out there, the Canadiens can still use Subban’s top-notch defensive presence. The shortcomings of Frankie Boo and Kaberle will reveal themselves over time- even in a shortened season. Even so, a disjointed throwaway loss in Toronto and two ‘taking care of business’ wins against ragged Florida and possibly sadsack Washington, and the Habs look good for a team that finished bottom of the conference last year. Tonight, they’ll be taking on the Devils without Pacioretty, who unexpectedly came down with appendicitis and will be out for a month.

Ottawa Senators
The young Senators can score goals, but as the Tampa Bay Lightning showed, they can also end up on the wrong side of some crooked numbers on the scoreboard. While some have pointed to their goaltending as deep, Anderson is as prone to brilliance as he is to mediocrity from one night to the next. Though Bishop is touted as a strong goalie prospect, displays like the one against Tampa reveal that he still has some adjusting to do. Maybe Robin Lehner in the AHL is the longterm answer, but they’ll find out once they unload Anderson or Bishop. They’ll be exciting to watch, and if Turris turns into a point-a-game centre (4 goals and an assist through 4 games as of now), they’ll be regularly chasing other teams’ starting goalies onto the bench.

Toronto Maple Leafs
What the heck is going with this team, right? Screwing with their goalie rotation by playing the crab-like Scrivens over Reimer, starting seemingly half of their farm team and Nazem Flarning Kadri lighting it up, it’s hard to tell which way this team is going. Sources also say that Hercule Poirot is investigating the identity of one ‘Michael Kostka‘. Anyroad, this is a Leafs squad that blows into Pittsburgh and stomps out the Penguins and then gets set ablaze like so many backyard leaf fires in the fall by John Taveres and the Strong Island. Phaneuf’s attempt to combine Tavares’ face with the endboards was an interesting attempt at alchemy, but should have been rewarded with a suspension. Last night, against an elite team likely to finish in the top-half of the East’s playoff ranks, the Leafs crumbled in the 2nd half, losing 5-2 to the Rangers. While they have some young guys who can score, it looks like their team defence couldn’t keep a minifridge out of their net.

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