Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Presents for Each Team: Atlantic

Continuing with our divisional look at every team's Christmas wish list, we move over to the Eastern Conference, starting with the Atlantic Division. Here we go: 

Boston Bruins: Health. Quite honestly, the Bruins have been living the good life so far this year. They have had fantastic goaltending, solid offense, and little in the line of losing players, other than Shawn Thornton's 15 game ban. Really the only thing they need is a guarantee they won't lose anyone important, especially Vezina candidate (probably) Tuuka Rask. Other than that, though, the B's are in awesome shape.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos. Despite the injury to star Stamkos, the Bolts are humming right along and playing really well thanks to lights-out goaltending from Ben Bishop. However, without Stamkos, the Lightning are depending on Martin St. Louis and Valtteri Filppula, which is not a bad pair, but would be better with Stammer. The defense could also use an upgrade, but right now Stamkos is more important to this squad, especially if they want to challenge the Bruins. 

Montreal Canadiens: Better Defense. The goaltending has been stellar for the Habs, with Carey Price and Peter Budaj posting save percentages close to or better than .930, and the offensive output has been pretty good too. However, the defense has let them down so far this year, and the best Christmas gift they could have is a better defensive squad shutting down the other team. This is not the extremely defensive team we saw in 2010, but the Habs still have to get back to focusing on defense more than the have been.

Detroit Red Wings: Offensive Consistency. When you think of the Wings, you think of a star-studded team that gets it done no matter what, and is always the best at everything. This year, however, they are simply in the middle of the pack. Their power play: 16th. Their even strength play: 15th. Their defense, although not great, hasn't been bad either, and their goaltenders have been good as well, posting a team save percentage of above .910. What the Wings need more than anything else, other than luck, is some form of consistency, the kind they had in the 90's and early part of the century. Without that, they may not be able to rise to the top of a crowded Atlantic Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Better Defense. And you thought the Caps defense was bad. The Maple Leafs are worst in the league in shots against per game (yes, even worse than the Caps, who sit at 29th). Their goaltenders have been very good, posting save percentages above .920, but when facing that many shots every game, a goalie can't be expected to post shutouts or 1-goal games every day. The Leafs, despite veterans like Dion Phaneuf, newcomers like Morgan Rielly, and other capable D-men to go along with a strong offense, have been losing too many games by giving up too many shots. Toronto's Christmas gift would be along the lines of trading for a good shutdown defenseman.

Ottawa Senators: Defense and Goaltending. In all honesty, there's no reason the Senators should not be top of the division right now. They have good defensemen, Bobby Ryan has been awesome, and they have a goaltender in Craig Anderson who was terrific last year. Instead, the defense has been allowing 34 shots a game (almost as much as the Caps) and Anderson hasn't been helping much, with a save percentage of .901. Robin Lehner, Anderson's backup, has been better, but is not really proven yet. The Senators need to step up their defensive game, and maybe shop around for a new goalie, because without fixing those two aspects, post-Christmas will be a long rest of the season.

Florida Panthers: Better Goaltending. Honestly, this was a tough call, because everything needs to be fixed for this team. They're dead last on the power play, second-last on the penalty kill, there is nobody on their team with more than 9 goals or 19 points, and their defense; well, it hasn't been horrible, but it's not that great either. In the long run, though, I settled on goaltending. They have played three goalies so far this year, none of whom have been doing exceptionally well. Tim Thomas is at a .909, Scott Clemmensen at a .892, and Jacob Markstrom at a .874. Without the goaltending improving, it doesn't matter how well the offense and/or defense is; this team will continue to struggle.

Buffalo Sabres: Young Talent. This team is a train wreck right now. They're almost as bad as the Caps in shots allowed per game, and although the goaltending has been good from Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth, two olympic hopefuls, the offense has nothing to show for it. As a team, they have 66 goals combined, less than the top three individual goal-getters in the league (Alex Ovechkin, Alex Steen, and Patrick Kane) combined by ten goals. Think about that; three players together have ten more goals than one team. To put this into another perspective, Ovechkin's thirty goals are one less than Buffalo's top FIVE goal-scorers COMBINED. Nobody on the team has more than eight goals. This offense is just putrid, the defense is pathetic, and quite honestly they're going nowhere right now. The Sabres are going to have to go aggressively after as many prospects and draft picks they can (which would also be a nice Christmas gift for them; you reading this, Santa?), because otherwise this team is just going down a spiral of doom.

Happy Christmas Eve to all, have a safe Christmas morning, and if you've got time, come back tomorrow for Metro Division gifts. Otherwise, Merry Christmas to all!

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