Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Just Focus on Becoming an Atlantic Contender By Waldo1947 OSJ Staff
Is it just me or is the Atlantic (a stupid name, by the way) the most ridiculous division...or conference...or group in the NHL?
Forget the fact that the NHL failed Geography 101. Detroit, Buffalo and Toronto are on Great Lakes (freshwater). Montreal and Ottawa are on rivers (freshwater). Tampa Bay is, wait for it, a bay, and Sunrise Florida is on an Everglade Marsh (The water is a mix of fresh and salt and alligators. Hardly an ocean.) The only team that is actually on the Atlantic is Boston but even they hate the ocean. (They dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbour 246 years ago to dispute tea-taxation. Imagine the British levied a tax on cows? Or Yankees fans?)
Do the Habs have what it takes to compete in their own division?
Tampa Bay is going to realize sooner or later that they are awesome. They are strong in net, on defence and they have some of the most talented top-6 guys in the league. Their coach has the best tan and his salt-and-pepper coiffe is the envy of Claude Julien for sure. (I don’t need Pierre Maguire fake-intel to know that! Actually, Pierre is probably intimidated by Jon Cooper’s hair too!) The Habs are even in net with Tampa Bay, but after that, they are in tough. The Tampa blueline is faster and the Habs cannot outscore the forwards. Dammit! You are still the best, Tampa!
Boston plans their entire season to meet Toronto in the first round so they get a bye to the second round. If Toronto is in 2nd, Boston is in 3rd. If Toronto is in 3rd, Boston automatically gets 2nd. Boston is older and has played a lot of hockey the past 5+ years with all the deep runs. Maybe this is the year they finally get old and brittle? The Habs can definitely skate with the Bruins. In fact, the Habs are faster and younger and as long as they do not get sucked into a physical game, they can handle the Bruins. Over 82 games, the Habs can keep it close.
Toronto is coached by the greatest bench-boss to ever grace an NHL rink (just ask Mike Babcock!). You have to think that once the Leafs get rolling, no one, other than the Lightning, is going to stop them. Yes, the Habs beat them 6-5 already, but over 82 games, can the Habs score like that? Toronto has solid goaltending, a lethal PP, a very mobile and creative blueline, and reliable goaltending. Even the most diehard bleu, blanc, et rouge fans have to admit that Toronto is more talented overall. (Just ask their coach!) Dammit! It pains me to say that the Leafs are better.
Buffalo is the ultimate scary team in this division. You have to figure, sooner or later, their talented roster will put it all together. Even a slight improvement puts them in the running for a top 3 spot or wild card. Last year their 10-game winning streak put the league on notice that they can blow the doors off of you. The Habs always play the Sabres well and I still believe Montreal can finish ahead of them in the standings. It will come down to 3-4 wins in the standings.
Florida is everyone’s favourite fun pick to make the playoffs this year. The only problem is that we always forget they are in the league because even their own fans do not go and watch them. They made a massive improvement in the net and behind the bench. Barkov and his unheralded gang of snipers always keep Florida in games. The Panthers give the Habs fits, especially in Montreal. (I will be at the 200pm Superbowl Saturday game. C’mon Habs. Don’t let my kids down!) Sorry Panthers. Habs are better.
Detroit is not scaring anyone...yet. The Wings are always cooking something up. They go away for a bit and then...whammo! Fork in the eye! They put their youngsters on a rotisserie in Grand Rapids. They keep the temperature steady, add a bit of marinade throughout the cooking process, and when the players are just starting to percolate, they come to The Show and dominate. They are already showing signs of being competitive this year. The Habs can still overpower the Wings (The home-opener notwithstanding!).
Ottawa is the little engine that can’t. They are cute with their “The Kids are Alright” motto. They play in front of crowds that come dressed as empty seats. Their owner is rivalled only by Rachel Phelps, the fictitious owner of the Cleveland Indians from the movie Major League. Rachel Phelps invited a dead guy to tryout in Spring Training. Do not put it past Eugene Melnyk to do the same if it can get him to the salary cap floor. In all seriousness, the Senators are horrible and they are a few years from being relevant. I miss the rivalry of Habs vs Sens. I hope it comes back. Sorry, Ottawa. It will be 80-20 Habs fans in your seats and maybe 20 wins all year.
Given the fact that the Atlantic is so strong this year, is it conceivable that the teams beat up on each other all year and there is only one wild card team? If so, who is out? Based on what we have witnessed thus far:
1. Buffalo 2. Boston 3. Leafs 4. Habs/Wings/Tampa
Pick 2 of these 6 to NOT be in the playoffs!
Here is hoping, Habs fans:
The Leafs' “18-wheeler” hits the skids in January putting them out of the race. Boston sees this and realizes that without playing the Leafs in April, the playoffs are just too hard and they save their energy for 2020. That opens up 2 spots and gets Buffalo, Montreal, Tampa, and Detroit in.
At the very least, we wouldn’t have to witness Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson sob openly on CBC as the Leafs exit early.
- Waldo1947, SWP Sports Journal Habs' contributor