Canadian Teams on Top of Tight NHL Atlantic Division Race
Last season, for only the second time ever, there were no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This season, there’s a good chance that four will make it to the post season, with two more having a shot as well. In the Western Conference, Edmonton is tied for second place in the Pacific Division and should make it barring a total collapse, and both Calgary and Winnipeg still have a chance. In the Eastern Conference, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto occupy the top three positions in the Atlantic Division, with only five points separating them.
Montreal is on top with 72 points but they have been fading. After a 13-1-1 start, the Canadiens have been embracing mediocrity are 32-20-8 through games of February 21st. Speaking of February, the Canadiens are just 2-6-1 for the month, getting one of those victories on the 21st, a 3-2 shootout win over the New York Rangers. Montreal fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with recently fired Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien on February 14th, and the win over the Rangers was his first after opening his tenure with three losses.
The Ottawa Senators are closing in on the Canadiens, and trail them by just two points. Ottawa kept pace with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on the 21st. Toronto also won on the 21st, beating Winnipeg 5-4 in overtime. The Leafs have 67 points. The Maple Leafs feature exciting rookie Auston Matthews, who leads the team with 52 points. Matthews had three assists in the win over Winnipeg. Playoff appearances have been rare for Toronto in recent years, but perhaps that corner has been turned.
To make the race in the Atlantic even tighter, both the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers have also been playing well and are closing in on the leaders. The Bruins and Panthers both have 66 points.