Midseason Report Cards: Atlantic Division

Atlantic Division; Florida Panthers vs Toronto Maple Leafs
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Welcome to the Midseason Report Card Summary. During the All-Star break, we will be going over each division and bringing you an analysis of how each team in the NHL has faired at the midway point of their season. Today we go over the highly competitive Atlantic Division. For the first installment of the report cards on the Atlantic Division, click here.

NHL Atlantic Division Summary: Midseason Report Cards

1. Florida Panthers 32-10-5 (69 pts) .734 pts%

Current Report Card          Last Report Card

4.14 GF/G (2nd)                          3.7 GF/G (2nd)

2.85 GA/G (15th)                        2.6 GA/G (7th)

20.8 PP% (13th)                          21.3 PP% (13th)

80.1 PK% (17th)                          81.1 PK% (18th)

Overall Grade: A                          Overall Grade: A

The Florida Panthers continue to pace the way in the Atlantic Divison. The Panthers have shown that their hot start to the 2021-22 season was no fluke and they are here to stay. The ‘Cats are powered by a high-octane offence that includes a staggering eight players who’ve scored goals in the double digits this season. Florida has already set a franchise record at home where they are 23-3.  If it weren’t for their suspect goaltending/defensive play and shaky road record (9-6-5) the Panthers would have scored an A+ on this reporting period.

Since the last reporting period, we’ve seen young netminder Spencer Knight struggle. A string of poor starts resulted in the former 13th overall pick being sent down to the minors briefly. Knight found himself bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL, utilizing time in the AHL for some “confidence-building” starts. These are just growing pains for the youngster and luckily veteran Sergei Bobrovsky has continued his resurgence as a top-level goalie to help hold down the fort as Knight finds his rhythm.

Their rookie centre, Anton Lundell, has been a pleasant surprise this first half of the season. As has newcomer Mason Marchment, who, after a six-point explosion the other night, sits just above a point-per-game pace with 23 points in 21 games.

Analysis

It’ll be fun to continue watching the Panthers fill the net night after night. There’s no reason the Panthers should stumble and fall out of a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division. If they can tighten up defensively, they’ll be almost unbeatable.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning 30-10-6 (66 pts) .717 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

3.38 GF/G (7th)                          3.0 GF/G (14th)

3.07 GA/G (21st)                        2.9 GA/G (14th)

20.0 PP% (15th)                         18.4 PP% (17th)

80.9 PK% (15th)                         84.1 PK% (10th)

Overall Grade: A                          Overall Grade: B

The Tampa Bay Lightning have found another gear since their quarter-mark report cards. The back-to-back Stanley Cup champions have shaken their cup hangover and ramped up the pace to chase down the division-leading Florida Panthers. The ‘Bolts have jumped from a .678 pts% to a .711 pts % over the last 31 games.

A big reason for this jump has been the boost in play from their bottom-six forward group. That group was such a non-factor in the first quarter of the season. But players like Corey Perry, Ross Colton, Mathieu Joseph, Pat Maroon, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, have all begun to find a new gear themselves.

There wasn’t much worry in the Tampa Bay camp with the way their depth players were getting involved. This is a resilient team and you don’t become two-time champions without learning how to handle adversity and evolve your game.

Analysis

Tampa Bay knows they can’t afford any hiccups down the road as they battle for the Atlantic Division title. Tampa continues to be an elite offensive team but will benefit greatly from finding more balance in their goaltending. Andrei Vasilevskiy is shouldering the bulk of the starts over his backups, at a 3:1 ratio. Yes, this is a standard start-to-sit ratio for teams with established number one goalies. The only difference here is that those other goalies haven’t made two consecutive deep runs into the spring. That’s a lot of wear and tear on the big man.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs 29-10-3 (61 pts) .726 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

3.51 GF/G (4th)                          2.7 GF/G (23rd)

2.68 GA/G (8th)                         2.6 GA/G (7th)

31.0 PP% (1st)                             25.0 PP% (6th)

83.9 PK% (4th)                           87.2PK% (4th)

Overall Grade: A                         Overall Grade: B+

The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be on cruise control this season. After a minor offensive lull to start their season, the ‘Buds have orchestrated some of the most consistent play, to the tune of a .720 pts%. Good enough for third-best in the league.

The Leafs’ stars struggled out the gate early in the season. A big reason why they only received a B+ grade on the first reporting segment. But since then the Blue Shirts have gotten the elite level of play they’ve come to expect from Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander. Toronto has increased its GF/G from 2.70 to 3.51 over the last 25 games and cemented itself atop the league with the most lethal power play (31.0%).

Making it harder for opposing teams to keep up with the Leafs is the fact that they are incredibly hard to score against. Jack Campbell has been putting in Vezina worthy performances night after night. He’s currently ninth among starting goaltenders in Goals Saved Above Expect (10.2). They also sport the fourth most efficient penalty kill (83.9%).

Travis Yost reported on the underlying numbers for the Leafs and says this team looks much different than in years past. The numbers definitely back that up. And if that’s the case, this could be the breakout season Leafs nation has been hoping for.

Analysis

The Atlantic Division is a tightly contested race and whichever team doesn’t take the first seed, is going to have a nightmare first-round matchup. There’s is a lot on the line for the Maple Leafs to push for a more favourable first-round matchup. They’ll want to avoid yet another stiff test in the first round that could send them packing early.

4. Boston Bruins 26-14-3 (55 pts) .640 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

3.02 GF/G (15th)                          3.1 GF/G (11th)

2.79 GA/G (14th)                          2.8 GA/G (13th)

25.4 PP% (6th)                              25.0 PP% (6th)

82.5 PK% (9th)                             82.9PK% (12th)

Overall Grade: B                          Overall Grade: B

The B’s are marching along this season with incredible consistency. Not much has changed in their performance from the way they started this season to where they are now. The next quarter of their season will be a grind though. 14 of the Bruins’ next 20 games after the All-Star break will be on the road. To add to the grind, their schedule has all those games crammed together. The Bruins will play essentially every other day during that stretch.

Back in the mix is a familiar face for the Bruins crease. Tuukka Rask made his long-awaited return to the ice, coming back from offseason hip surgery. His return has been less than stellar though and he’s already found himself back on the injured list. Coming back from hip surgery is no small task, so expectations should be realistic.

Analysis

This will be a critical month and a half for Boston as they try to climb the Atlantic Division standings. A finish within the top three is probably out of the cards, given how well the three teams ahead of them are playing. But now is the time to further cushion that Wild Card position.

5. Detroit Red Wings 20-20-6 (46 pts) .500 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

2.72 GF/G (24th)                         2.9 GF/G (16th)

3.39 GA/G (26th)                        3.1 GA/G (19th)

16.3 PP% (27th)                           15.4 PP% (24th)

77.0 PK% (22nd)                         75.9 PK% (25th)

Overall Grade: C-                         Overall Grade: C+

The Red Wings had themselves a surprisingly nice start to begin their campaign. Now, the wheels haven’t fallen off, per se, but they have slipped back to where most pundits had predicted them at the start of the year.

Detroit’s special teams have remained the same since the last report card, but we’ve seen both the offence and defence dip. This probably comes as a result that teams were taking the Motor City team lightly to start the year.

Breakout performances by rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider caught the NHL by storm to start the year. The two roommates have put themselves into early Calder candidate discussions with their superb play. And it has gotten Red Wings fans everywhere excited about this teams future.

Detroit is also benefitting from strong campaigns by captain Dylan Larkin and winger Tyler Bertuzzi. The two veterans are both playing just above a point-per-game pace.

The issue for the Red Wings has clearly been on the defensive end. Only defenceman Marc Staal has a plus/minus above zero on the Wings roster. This defensive group is just not getting it done and they constantly leave their goalies hung out to dry night after night. Detroit has the offence to stay in games but will need a major upgrade on their defence if they want to string together some worthy winning streaks.

Analysis

The pieces are all there for Detroit to be a competitive team in the very near future, but if you’re hoping for a second-half resurgence that will catapult them into the playoffs, don’t get your hopes up. The Wings need time to let their youngsters develop and a couple more key pieces to round out their roster. The East is just far too competitive this year for them to make up any ground and get into the playoffs this year.

6. Buffalo Sabres 14-24-7 (35 pts) .388 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

2.57 GF/G (26th)                         3.0 GF/G (14th)

3.43 GA/G (27th)                        3.1 GA/G (19th)

19.7 PP% (17th)                            21.6 PP% (12th)

75.2 PK% (26th)                          82.1 PK% (15th)

Overall Grade: D                          Overall Grade: C-

The Buffalo Sabres are another team that we’re seeing being brought back to earth after a hot start. However, unlike the Red Wings’ quick start, the Sabres’ one wasn’t fooling anyone. This team eeked out some wins to begin the year but even its fans knew that this roster was overperforming.

Since the first reporting period, we have seen the Sabres finally move on from Jack Eichel. Eichel had his talents traded to the Vegas Golden Knights. Now, the return might not have been what Sabres fans hoped for, but they did get some decent assets for their future. The Sabres got prospect Peyton Krebs, who is getting the opportunity to play meaningful minutes with the big club. The former 17th overall pick picked up the first multi-goal game of his career the other night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Sabres fans hope this is a sign of things to come.

Analysis

It’s yet another year of no playoffs for the Buffalo faithful. There is still plenty of rebuilding that needs to be done for this organization. One of the biggest issues in their fall has been the crease. It has been an absolute carousel of goaltenders cycling in and out of their net. Luckily it seems the Sabres have a fix there. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has looked great in his starts and a former third-round pick in the 2019 draft, Erik Portillo, is having himself a nice campaign with the Univerity of Michigan.

7. Ottawa Senators 14-22-4 (32 pts) .400 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

2.77 GF/G (22nd)                        2.4 GF/G (28th)

3.36 GA/G (25th)                        3.5 GA/G (30th)

18.6 PP% (21st)                            17.6 PP% (20th)

81.2 PK% (14th)                           73.8 PK% (28th)

Overall Grade: D+                       Overall Grade: D-

The Ottawa Senators are one of the few non-playoff teams to elevate their level of play from the first report card session to now. Ottawa is a tough nut to crack though. They have so many pieces on their roster that make you think they should be competitive, yet they still find themselves falling well short of expectations.

This really is just a case of being patient with their player’s development. The Sens roster boasts names like Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle, Joshua Norris, and Thomas Chabot. This is a good core but they still need time for their game to grow.

Ottawa needs to figure out their goaltending situation though. The duo of Matt Murray and Anton Forsberg is not it. There’s no point for general manager Pierre Dorion to go out and address that need at the deadline, however, as the Sens are well outside the playoff picture in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa has goaltending prospect Mads Soggard developing down with the Belleville Senators currently. He will probably be the future of the crease for the Sens unless they make a splash in the offseason for a legitimate number one.

Analysis

Sens are still about two years out, at least, from making the playoffs. There is a nice group here that will grow and develop together, but for the remainder of the season, this group will be playing for pride in the Atlantic Division.

8. Montreal Canadiens 8-29-7 (23 pts) .261 pts%

Current Report Card           Last Report Card

2.23 GF/G (31st)                         2.1 GF/G (30th)

3.91 GA/G (32nd)                       3.4 GA/G (27th)

13.9 PP% (31st)                           14.3 PP% (28th)

73.3 PK% (28nth)                        70.7 PK% (29th)

Overall Grade: F                          Overall Grade: D-

The Montreal Canadiens are having themselves a year. A bad year. Historically bad.

The Canadiens started out flat and have only gotten worse from there.

For a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last year, this is not the showing the team or its fans expected. But it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Canadiens were heavily reliant on their goaltending and defence during their run to the cup. There just wasn’t any depth in their forward group to keep up with the offensive juggernauts of the NHL.

And that current offence is still lacklustre. Unfortunately, the Habs don’t have the same back end as they had last year to bail them out. Carey Price continues his journey back to the lineup. Gone is Shea Weber and on the long-term injured reserve and veteran defencemen, David Savard and Joel Edmundson both find themselves on the injured reserve list.

Analysis

Montreal has all but committed to the Shane Wright sweepstakes. Dominique Ducharme remains the head coach for the time being but we’ll see if new general manager Kent Hughes thinks he’s the man for the long term. Hughes recently signed a five-year deal to become the 18th general manager of the storied Montreal franchise. He has his work cut out for him with this roster, however. The Canadiens are in for a major overhaul as they rebuild and try to turn things around quickly in this ultra-competitive Atlantic Division.

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