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Around the East: Should we be worried about Pittsburgh?

Should the Bolts be worried about anyone?

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals
Dec 19, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) yells at Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) in the first period at Capital One Arena.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If Patrik Berglund can flush $14 million down the toilet, you can forgive yourself for buying outdoor lights for your Christmas tree.

A lot of weird things happened this week. Let’s explore it all in the latest edition of the unofficial Power Rankings.

Week 11

1. Tampa Bay Lightning 26-7-2 (Points per game: 1.543) +0

There’s not much to complain about in Bolts Land. They faced two extremely tough tested against the Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, and found a way to take three of four points against the second- and third-best teams in the league. Now, the team is on the Western Canadian roadtrip and about to face their toughest task in the Calgary Flames. And I mean “toughest” in relative terms. Do Bolts fans feel intimidated by anyone anymore? We shouldn’t.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs 22-10-2 (Points per game: 1.353) +0

The Leafs lost four of five to DET, BOS, TBL, and FLA and it seriously looked like Toronto was going to sink into Lake Ontario. Seriously, someone give Leafs fans a valium pill or something. Play your new mobile game! The sky isn’t falling. The team is above 29 others in the NHL. It’s okay!

3. Washington Capitals 20-10-3 (Points per game: 1.303) +0

The Caps had a 2-1-0 week, but they won both their games in the shootout and their loss came against the Penguins. I wouldn’t be feeling super confident about my team that just did that, even if they are third in the East.

Speaking of the Penguins, I’m sure everyone has seen the Wilson v. Oleksiak fight. Here’s what Wilson had to say after the game. It’s crazy how easily he can put on that remorseful face nowadays.

4. Buffalo Sabres 20-10-5 (Points per game: 1.286) +0

What the heck is going on with Patrik Berglund? If you haven’t heard, Berglund was suspended without pay by the Sabres for failing to report, and is now on unconditional waivers. Berglund played in 23 games before being taken out of the lineup a little over four weeks ago. This situation is similar to the Jake Dotchin breach of contract at the beginning of the season. If you can survive the auto-play videos, this Yahoo article outlines the situation well.

But let me walk back just for a second, because there is something really important in this whole situation that is baffling me. He just quit the Sabres (the sixth-best team in the league), agreeing to forfeit $14.55 MILLION?! That’s over 75% of the contract he agreed to just under two years ago. Was that really the smartest move in the world? He’s made $23.55 million since entry-level and could’ve made at least half that again during his current contract. Instead, he just decided to give it up out of... spite? Is that what this is?

5. Columbus Blue Jackets 18-12-3 (Points per game: 1.181) +3

The Blue Jackets had the Kings, Ducks, and Golden Knights visit them at home this week, and promptly took five out of six points from the Pacific Division teams. After a terrible run of games where he was a sub .900 SV% goalie in six of eight games, Sergei Bobrovsky is back. In those three games against the Pacific, Bob put up a .962 SV%, including a shut out.

6. Boston Bruins 18-12-4 (Points per game: 1.176) -1

Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara are close to making their long-awaited/dreaded returns to the Bruins lineup. According to an NHL report, the 33-year-old center might be back as soon as the weekend. The 41-year-old defenseman, however, is going to need at least one practice more practice before he’s ready to go.

7. New York Islanders 17-12-4 (Points per game: 1.151) +1

The Islanders have won three and a row, and it’s catapulted them, well, nowhere. The Penguins are still nipping at their heels, and a hot week from the Blue Jackets have put them out of reach for second in the Metro. Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson have found some great chemistry offensively and their 30 combined goals this season has been a big reason for why the team is in a playoff spot.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins 16-12-6 (Points per game: 1.117) +1

Don’t look now, but the Penguins are marching. Sidney Crosby has 16 goals (38 points) in 31 games, including a goal and assist against the Capitals on Wednesday night. Oh, rivalry night, you never disappoint.

9. Montreal Canadiens 17-13-5 (Points per game: 1.114) -3

The Habs went 2-2-0 this week, but big weeks from CBJ (2-0-1), NYI (3-1-0), and PIT (3-1-0) have them falling from sixth to ninth. Nevertheless, Habs fans have been having a great time because their feared bottom-feeder team is surprisingly league-average. Max Domi’s 33 points in 35 games, and Carey Price’s .902 SV% have both been positively mediocre enough to put the Canadiens “all the way up” to 15th in the NHL. Congrats?

BTW, Habs fans, Miro Heiskanen is a rookie this year. And a defenseman.

10. New York Rangers 15-13-5 (Points per game: 1.060) +1

The Rangers have been an amazing 11-4-3 at home this season. They’ve used the ability to line-match and shelter their hoard of young players to great effect, and either won, or forced overtime against some pretty good teams. They beat the Ducks 3-1, surrendering only 11 shots all game in the process. To be fair, that probably says more about the Ducks than the Rangers.

All the while, they’ve been stock-piling some great picks and prospects for the next run at the Cup down the line.

11. Carolina Hurricanes 14-13-5 (Points per game: 1.031) -1

When Sebastian Aho doesn’t score, no one does, and that’s a problem because he’s leading the team with only 12 goals. Only Arizona and LA have scored fewer goals this season. As we’ve said a million times, the team has been at the top of the charts in terms of shots generated, but have no shooting talent to help them get to the scoring areas and put up points. Anyway, here’s a chart that outlines players with good finishing ability.

12. Florida Panthers 13-13-6 (Points per game: 1.000) +1

The Panthers are near the bottom of the East, but part of me continues to worry that they’re about to go on a hot streak and push their way into the playoff picture. They certainly have the talent and are only seven points back of Montreal with three games (six points) in hand. Roberto Luongo is healthy again, stabilizing the defense as a result, and Sasha Barkov is absolutely killing it.

13. Ottawa Senators 15-16-4 (Points per game: 0.971) +2

The story around the Senators should be that the team beat the Nashville Predators this week and are about to get Matt Duchene back from injury. However, the national story really is Eugene Melnyk’s money troubles, and now legal headaches over this downtown arena deal. The long story short is that Eugene has no money, and since he cannot pay for a new arena on his own (and no one wants to work with him), the owners of the land are planning to look elsewhere.

14. Detroit Red Wings 14-16-5 (Points per game: 0.943) -2

When Jimmy Howard and his .922 SV% is in net for the Wings, they have a chance. When he’s not (aka when Jonathan Bernier starts), they are 4-9-1. Howard is on the last year of his deal, to boot. It would be considered a very smart move if a good team with bad goaltending grabbed him up sooner rather than later, in my opinion. Goalies like him don’t grow on trees.

15. Philadelphia Flyers 15-15-4 (Points per game: 0.937) -1

Oh, look! A team in dire need of goaltending! Okay, maybe Howard isn’t the solution for this season, it’s already lost, but bringing him in on a short-term deal to play in front of a young Carter Hart would be a perfect move to make.

Also, shout out to Steph for breaking the Dave Hakstol firing. She’s great.

16. New Jersey Devils 11-14-7 (Points per game: 0.906) +0

Get this team a bloody goalie, for Christmas’ sake.