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Lightning Round: the Atlantic Division has become a four horse race

And the inspiring story of Stephen Johns

2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game - Metropolitan v Atlantic
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 26: Keith Yandle #3 of the Florida Panthers, Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate near the side boards during the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center on January 26, 2019 in San Jose, California.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Let’s look at the Atlantic Division.

Atlantic Division standings, Jan 13th, 2020.
NHL website

Starting at the bottom, the Detroit Red Wings have 27 points in 46 games and a -75 goal differential. A tank for the ages.

Next is the Ottawa Senators in a tiny little bubble that’s too good for the Red Wings, but not quite as many points as the group above. They are third last in the league, so good luck to them in the draft lottery.

The Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres were up near the top of the division through the first couple months of the year, but both have fallen off a cliff ever since. They’re now struggling around .500 and likely will for the rest of the season.

Then there’s another gap where things get interesting. The Florida Panthers have been mostly mediocre for a lot of the season, but they’ve been winning games recently on the back of Jonathan Huberdeau’s 61-point season. Last night, he broke the all-time franchise record for points, eclipsing Olli Jokinen with 420 points.

The Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 8-4 last night, pushing them to within a point of each other with Toronto having played an extra game. This is a race now.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had an amazing opportunity to distance themselves from the battle for third in the Atlantic, but they shockingly lost 3-1 to Louis Domingue and the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night. There’s now still only four points between the Leafs and Lightning. Five points between second and fourth.

There’s going to be a mini-race to the All-Star weekend/bye-week break as Toronto and Tampa have three games before their two-week break, while Florida has four games. All three teams are going to play a couple good teams and a couple bad teams. What they do during these games will be super important as all three prepare for the final 30-something games to end the season.

Lightning Links

  • Some believe the minor struggles from Arizona are much worse than how it looks right now and re-trading Taylor Hall might be a smart move for the Arizona Coyotes. Pens fans are definitely hopeful.
  • The New York Rangers have been listening to offers on young backup goalie Alexander Georgiev. As a Leafs fan who watched his team trade Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft. Please don’t do this, Rangers. Or do, who cares.
  • Stephen Johns hasn’t been heard of in the NHL for two years. That’s because he’s been suffering from concussions and other brain injuries for the past 22 months. He’s now on an AHL conditioning stint, promptly putting up four points on the Toronto Marlies on Saturday night for the Texas Stars. I watched this game live, and yeah, he’s ready to return.
  • Patrick Marleau hit 1700 career NHL games, the fifth person ever to do so. Joe Thornton also passed Ray Bourque for 11th in NHL games played history. The takeaway: San Jose is freaking old.
  • Last but not least, the Carolina Hurricanes have two goalies who posted a shutout this weekend.