For the longest time, it seemed like all the best teams in the NHL were n the Western Conference.
Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings, and so on and so forth. These clubs were consistently top notch and always considered Cup contenders.
That is not the case anymore. The Cup has been won by an Eastern Conference team in 2016 (Pittsburgh Penguins), 2017 (Pittsburgh Penguins), and 2018 (Washington Capitals).
While the Penguins and Caps certainly have name recognition, the beast, or shall I say beasts, of the East, are all in the Atlantic Division. In fact, three of the four top teams in the league are in the Atlantic.
As of this writing, the Buffalo Sabres own the NHL’s best record with 36 points. Yes, that can change at any given moment considering that both the Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning are just one point behind them.
With that said, no one can deny just how good the Sabres have been. They have won 10 straight games going into November 29th’s tilt with the Lightning, a game that will be well worth watching because they are the top two clubs in the Eastern Conference.
Sitting right next to the Sabres are the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Leafs also have 36 points. The Leafs were the league’s buzzword during the summer, especially when they went out and signed the top UFA in John Tavares.
They are getting contributions up and down the lineup and are doing so without one of their better offensive players in William Nylander, who is still sitting out without a contract. Should Nylander return to the team, he will bring along additional firepower to a club that is already loaded with it.
Like the Sabres and Leafs, the Lightning are also having a terrific season just like they did last year. As mentioned above, they are sitting just one point behind the Sabres and are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
The Lightning have managed to play well despite being without injured All Star netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy’s replacement, Louis Domingue, hasn’t been great but luckily for the Bolts, they have guys like Nikita Kucherov (33 points) and Brayden Point (32 points) dominating offensively.
The Boston Bruins also cannot be counted out of this unbelievably competitive division. The Bruins currently own the East’s first wild-card spot with 30 points.
The B’s have perhaps the league’s best line in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. These guys are the top three scorers on their team and are doing everything they can to help their club keep pace with the Sabres, Leafs, and Bruins.
What’s great is that not only are these teams so close together, but there is also a ton of hockey left to be played. So much can change in the next several months so come April, it will be interesting to see how this division looks heading into hockey’s second season.
Photo: Toronto Star