The Atlantic Division is wide open…. well, expect for first.
The Montreal Canadiens went one-tenth of their season without winning a game, but winning two of their next three was enough to put them in second place in their division. This is obviously good news for the Habs and their fans, but it showcases just how terrible the Atlantic Division is this year.
Well, aside from the Boston Bruins. The Bruins might clinch a 2020 division title in the year 2019 at this rate. In 29 games they have only lost three in regulation. Their 46 points in 29 games has them on pace for 130 at season’s end. We haven’t seen anything like that since, well the Tampa Bay Lightning literally last year, but we haven’t seen anything else like this since the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins have won 20 of their 29 games so far and no one else in the division has won more than half of their games.
Last season, the Canadiens had 96 points and missed the playoffs altogether. The Bruins, Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs all had more than 100 points and the Atlantic was seen as a very tough division.
At their current pace, the Habs are on pace to finish with just 87 points. Sounds abysmal, doesn’t it? Well, just look around the rest of the division. The Florida Panthers are on pace for 94. The Maple Leafs are on pace for 82. The Buffalo Sabres: 88, the Lightning: 91, the Ottawa Senators: 71, the Detroit Red Wings have 17 right now and they may finish the season there.
That means, at the glacier type pace that has been set through the first third of the season in the Atlantic, 91 points would be enough for a playoff spot. Now, two teams could catch fire and increase that number a bit, but someone is heading to the playoffs from this division with less than 96 points. Also, one of the teams that could catch fire and improve that number is the Montreal Canadiens.
How could they do that? Well, look no further than the highest paid goaltender finding his game once again.