No change in the order of these teams when it comes to within the Northeast. Boston secured first while Montreal remained in last. The Ottawa Senators, after a season-long battle with Boston for tops finished second in the division, and backed their way into the playoffs placing 8th and losing their final 3 games. Buffalo couldn’t complete their incredible ascent up the standings, and finished outside the top 8, in 9th. Toronto landed second-last in the Northeast, and third-last in the East.
Leading the League, Positively
All season I commented on the plus-minus of respective players on the Bruins, how the team led in goal differential. Well, that’s how it ended up for the Bruins. The top 5 players in the league in plus-minus were all Bruins. Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand were the top 5. Johnny Boychuk was not far behind in 8th. This really shows how well the Bruins play defensively.
The Stanley Cup hangover seemed to have affected the Bruins early in the season, starting 3-7-0 in October, but they picked it up from there. They won 10 straight and 14 of their next 15, following that slow start in October.
Scoring By Committee
Boston did not a 30-goal scorer on their team. Tyler Seguin came close, with 29, as did Brad Marchand with 28, but no Bruin was able to crack the 30-goal plateau. It just shows the depth the Bruins have, being able to win their division without a bona fide sniper.
The Bruins have 8 unrestricted free agents this offseason, but none of them are core players. The Bruins are looking to make a deep playoff run then re-sign some of the supporting players that are upcoming free agents. Goalie Tuukka Rask is also due for a new deal, as he is a restricted free agent this offseason. With Tim Thomas signed through next year, look for Rask to take a short-term deal at a lower dollar value, then wait until Thomas retires to make big money.
Boston goes into the playoffs as the second-seed in the east, so they will have home ice advantage for much of the playoffs. They face the Washington Capitals in the first round, and so the Obama/Thomas jokes began. Boston was 1-2-1 against Washington this year, and they always seem to have very competitive games against each other. I predict Boston in 6.
Team MVP: Tyler Seguin. He led the team in points, goals, second in plus-minus on a team with a lot of players in the plus, and he scored 7 game-winning goals, leading the team.
Just making the playoffs for this team was amazing, considering many experts slated them to end the season. Not many people very giving them a playoff spot this year, let alone a challenge at the top of the division. The biggest positive for the Sens this year, is Erik Karlsson. He continued on his upward trend in his development. After 13 goals and 50 points last year, he improved even more, netting 19 goals and 78 points this year, by far the most by a defenseman. Probably the biggest improvement is his plus-minus, going from a -30 last year to a +16 this year, demonstrating that his defense has matured with his offense.
Stumbling Into The Playoffs
After a strong season, Ottawa struggled down the stretch. Sitting in 6th heading into the final day, everything went wrong for them, and they ended up in 8th. They lost their last 3 games of the year, and went 4-6 in their final 10. They have to turn it around quickly, as they face the first-place New York Rangers in the first round.
Busy In The Faceoff Dot
Jason Spezza took the most faceoffs of anyone in the NHL this season. He was in the dot 1700 times, 19 ahead of Eric Staal in second. Despite taking the most, Spezza was second in total wins, behind Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron had 973 wins, while Spezza had just 909.
After what I see as being a short playoff run this year, the Sens will look to continue maturing. Ottawa’s core will be together again next year, as the only really big free agent is Karlsson, who is an RFA and will be looking for a large raise after his big year this year. They will still have some cap room after signing Karlsson and could add some more depth players via free agency.
Ottawa slipped to 8th in the conference and will have to face the Rangers. Ottawa was 3-1 against New York this year, but don’t expect that trend to continue in the playoffs. As well as the Sens have played this year, the Rangers have been dominate, led by Vezina-favourite Henrik Lunqvist. I predict the Rangers in 5. But hey, Ottawa has shocked everyone already this year, why can’t they do it again?
Team MVP: Jason Spezza. As good a season as Karlsson had, Spezza did it all. He led the team in points with 84, second in goals with 34, tied for the lead in powerplay goals with 10, and took the most faceoffs in the league.
Coming Back Strong
The Sabres sat in last place on February 18th and it looked like their season was lost. After that they lost just 9 times, and just 5 of those losses being in regulation. Despite that amazing comeback, they couldn’t make it all the way back, finishing 3 points back of 8th.
Not Living Up To Hype
The Sabres had hoped trading for Cody Hodgson at the trade deadline could push their team’s offensive buttons. It seemed to, just not by the doing of Hodgson. He has just 8 points in 22 games with the Sabres. Though, he gets the distinction of being one of just two players to play more than 82 games this season. Hodgson played 83, and Colorado/San Jose’s Daniel Winnik played 84.
With a goal on the final day of the season against Boston, Jason Pominville got his second career 30 goal season. The last time Pominville had at least 30 was back in 2006-07 when he scored 34. Pominville was by far the offensive leader on a team that had only two other players score more than 20 goals (Vanek with 26 and Stafford with 20).
The Sabres’s core will stay intact over the summer. They only have a few free agents, which is good, because they will not have a lot of cap room. They have $57.8 million tied up in just 18 players for next year, with the cap at $64.3 million. They will have to sign Tyler Ennis, who will get a raise on his $875,000 contract now. They don’t have a lot of room to make moves, so look for a similar team next year, that hopes they can start the season much better.
The Sabres were oh-so-close this year, but couldn’t come up with the wins when it mattered in the final two games. Just 3 points out of 8th.
Team MVP: Ryan Miller. He didn’t have the best start to the season, like many of the Sabres, but he really picked it up in the last 30 games of the season. He was a big reason for Buffalo’s big charge at the end of the season and he helped the Sabres survive when they played poorly. He finished the season with a 2.54 GAA and a .916 SV%. While neither of those are career-highs they are solid numbers and pretty consistent with career averages.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Big Guns Up Front
Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul has outstanding season offensively for the Leafs. Kessel finished 6th in league scoring with 82 points in 82 games. Lupul was right there with him, prior to being injured. Kessel has just 11 points in the final 15 games of the season without Lupul.
Yet Another Tease
The team that was 7-3-1 in the month of October, finished the season with a 35-37-10 record. Another disappointing end to a season that began with hope and optimism. This year, it led to the end of Ron Wilson’s tenure with the Leafs and hiring of Randy Carlyle as his replacement.
They Hold A Record!
A stat I’m sure you’ve heard a few times this week. With Florida making the playoffs this year, the Leafs now hold the longest active streak of missing the playoffs. They have not made the playoffs since the year before the lockout, 2004-05.
Toronto needs to clear up the crease situation. Jonas Gustavsson is a UFA, and Ben Scrivens is an RFA this offseason. Many suspect that Gustavsson will be let go, and a veteran backup will be brought in for James Reimer, who was just given an extension last year that expires after the 2013-14 season. If Reimer can get back to the form he showed last year, and early this year, the Leafs could take a run at the playoffs next year. They will also look for a centre to play with Kessel and Lupul.
The Leafs started the season very strong, and held onto a playoff spot as late as Feburary 24th, but after that it all went south. Toronto had some goaltending issues, had trouble stringing together wins, and couldn’t hold onto a playoff spot. Just another year they gave their fans early hope, before losing it late in the season.
Team MVP: Phil Kessel. 37 goals, 82 points in 82 games, 6 game-winning goals. Kessel was Toronto’s offense this season (along with Lupul, who should probably share this with Kessel, as evidenced by Kessel’s drop in production when Lupul was injured).
Putting A Positive Spin
In a year where there wasn’t much going right for Montreal, they did have two players record career years. Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty both set career-highs in goals and points. Pacioretty shattered all his previous marks with 33 goals and 65 points this season. His previous highs had been 17 goals and 32 points. Cole had just his second 30 goals year, potting 35 goals, and tying his career high for points, with 61.
A Season To Forget
Despite Pacioretty and Cole, not much else went right for Montreal. They finished last in the Eastern conference for the first time ever! The fired an assistant coach after the morning skate, traded Mike Cammalleri during a game, and fired their general manager with 6 games remaining. The only thing that could have made it worse, is if their all-star goalie demanded a trade during a game a la Patrick Roy (and luckily for Habs fans, Price seems quite content in Montreal). There’s also next year…
Montreal was in 36 games that were decided by 1 goal. They won just 7 of these, leaving 29 games that they could have won with just a little bit more offense.
Big Hirings Ahead
Looking forward, Montreal must first assess their personnel off the ice. They need to hire a new general manager, followed then by a coach. That will determine where they want to go in the future. They only have 4 unrestricted free agents this offseason, so there won’t be a lot of roster turnover by way of free agency. Their biggest priority should be signing goaltender Carey Price to a big extension, as he is a pending-RFA, and they hope that the mild concussion he suffered at the end of the season won’t be a recurring problem.
Uhh… not much to say.
Team MVP: Erik Cole. I was going to give this to Carey Price, as he played really well on a team that didn’t finish well, but Cole has a great season. He led the team in goals with 35, game-winning goals with 6, and was far and away the leader in powerplay goals on the team with 11. On a team that had its struggles on the powerplay, he really helped it. He was also a plus-11 on a team that didn’t have many plus players.
Who To Watch
– Erik Karlsson. After an outstanding offensive season, can he continue it in the playoffs and lead the Sens offensively in hopes of an upset over the top-seeded Rangers?
– Jason Spezza. After having his best offensive season since 2007-08, can he draw on his playoff experience and lead the Sens into the playoffs?
– Tyler Seguin. The sophmore led the Bruins in points during the season, can he keep up the performance during what I expect to be a deep Bruins run.
– Brad Marchand. A big performer for the Bruins in last year’s playoffs with 11 goals and 19 points in 25 games. Can he repeat this kind of performance as the Bruins try to repeat?
How do you think the Northeast will do in the playoffs? Let me know down below!
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