Around the East: Brayden Point is putting himself among the best in the league
Tampa and Toronto hit some injury issues, Ottawa and Montreal fall, while NYI gets scoring punch from the grinders.
Week 4 of Around the East is here! This week, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been shaken, but not stirred, the Toronto Maple Leafs are suddenly scrounging for scoring, and Jeff Skinner has become the hero Buffalo deserves.
New feature this week, I have added how many places in the points per game standings each team has gained or lost. Let me know what you think about it!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Points per game: 1.545) +0
It was a week of hots and colds for the Lightning. In three games, they went 2-1-0 featuring an 8-3 blowout win, and a 7-1 ass-kicking loss. The team’s power play went a solid 40% (4/10) in those games and a 82% (9-11) on the kill, but lost defenseman Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat to injuries.
Brayden Point has become a leader in only his third year with the club. His line was responsible for five of the eight goals scored. With respect to the league, Point only trails perennial 30-goal scorer, two-time Stanley Cup Champion, and Toronto Media Survivor Phil Kessel in primary points per 60 minutes.
Evgeni Malkin, Mitch Marner, Artemi Panarin, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Jeff Skinner, and Ryan Johansen are all players in the top-15 of the league in this stat, and Point is ahead of all of them.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (Points per game: 1.400) +1
The Penguins were downright dominant on their four-game road-trip through Canada. Last week, we discussed them beating the Leafs and Oilers in amazing displays of class. This week they walked all over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. They outscored those two teams a combined 14-1 in two games that featured a 9-1 shellacking of the Flames. Eight players had multi-point performances in that game, and Crosby followed up his jaw-dropping game in Edmonton with a goal and two primary assists to lead the team with three points.
Oddly enough, when they returned home, they promptly lost to the Islanders 6-3 despite Crosby getting another two primary points. After watching the goals, it looked like the Penguins had trouble clearing the front of the net. All four of the Islanders’ even-strength goals were from right in front of the net.
T3. Toronto Maple Leafs (Points per game: 1.333) +1
Auston Matthews is injured for the next four weeks. That’s the biggest news coming out of Toronto right now (because lord knows there aren’t any William Nylander updates).
The Leafs have quickly become a two-line team in the absences of Matthews and Nylander from the lineup. The top six with John Tavares, Nazem Kadri, Mitchell Marner and co. have been okay — they bailed the team out from a 2-0 deficit in the third period of the Winnipeg Jets game on Saturday sans Matthews — but the bottom six has turned into a black hole for offense.
The current bottom-six forwards (aka half the roster) have combined for four goals in the first 12 games. While Kasperi Kapanen has succeeded and cemented himself in the top six, Patrick Marleau, Tyler Ennis, Josh Leivo, and Andreas Johnsson haven’t been the offensive contributors Leafs fans (and management) were hoping them to be. Those four players are on pace to score 20 goals...combined.
Is it time for personnel changes here? (I think so).
T3. Boston Bruins (Points per game: 1.333) +3
The Bruins aren’t really trending in any direction right now and it’s confusing. At home this week, they beat the Flyers handily 3-0, then lost 3-0 to the Habs two nights later. They finished off the week with a lucky 3-2 win over the Hurricanes, who consistently outshot them all night.
The old guard for the Bruins has woken up lately. Patrice Bergeron is picking up his relatively slow offensive pace to start the season posting 10 shots in the last three games and leading the Bruins with three assists in the Carolina win. Zdeno Chara scored twice against Philly and has consistently been putting up 22+ minute nights for the Bruins despite being 40-something years old. Chara is the driving force on the PK. He plays over 60% of his team’s minutes shorthanded and that group went 8/10 on the week.
5. Montreal Canadiens (Points per game: 1.273) -3
The Canadiens have fallen back down to Earth a little bit, as we expected. They kicked off the three-game stretch with a 4-3 loss to the Sabres in a game that could be pivotal in the playoff race late in the season. They were utterly destroyed in that game. They were outshot 42-22 despite the score being close all night. They then beat the Bruins 3-0, getting outshot in the process, before getting that karma back in an aggrevating 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Is this team a product of inconsistent shooting talent? Because we’ve seen them shoot 17% or 20% in a game, but also 3% multiple times. They generally have good shot metrics and they are getting to the front of the net, but perhaps the personnel is just not quite there. I guess that’s what Habs fans expected from this “rebuild.”
6. New Jersey Devils (Points per game: 1.222) -1
The Devils and Panthers are the only teams to have played fewer than 10 games this season. It was an okay week for the Devils, but an okay week this early in the year does a lot of damage to a team’s points percentage. Despite going 1-1-1 on the week, New Jersey has fallen below the Bruins, who were able to snag one more point than them in the same number of games.
Nico Hischier led the team in a fierce and close battle against the Nashville Predators, but eventually lost in overtime. They held their own and played to an even shot differential against the cream of the crop in the West. I think that’s a pretty big achievement for this young team. That said, they did go out and give up five straight goals in that 8-3 loss to the Lightning a few days later, so they’re not quite there yet.
7. Washington Capitals (Points per game: 1.200) +0
The Caps have been positively underwhelming lately. They couldn’t outshoot the Oilers in a 4-1 game they were losing from the 16-minute mark onward. And again with Calgary, they blew two leads, got outshot, and needed a shootout to beat the middle-of-the-pack Western Conference team.
Alex Ovechkin hasn’t been nearly as effective at even strength as we expect from him. At evens, he only has four goals and two assists in 10 games.
8. New York Islanders (Points per game: 1.182) +5
The Islanders were the biggest movers in the East this week. A perfect 3-0-0 week against three Metro Division rivals rocketed the Islanders all the way up to...one win over .500. Boy, did they ever have a bad start to the season.
The Islanders have benefited greatly from the production their overpaid bottom-six forward corps has given them. Four of their 14 goals this week came from the bottom six (Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Andrew Ladd, Casey Cizikas). It took the Leafs all season to get that much production! Perhaps the Leafs should’ve kept Uncle Le...oh.
This is the only race worth caring about. pic.twitter.com/0xgjhC9376— Travis Yost (@travisyost) October 31, 2018
9. Buffalo Sabres (Points per game: 1.167) +1
Jeff Skinner has been the perfect ointment for this young and troubled team. His addition to the first line with Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville has really gotten that trio going. His line has been part of seven of the team’s nine goals this week. His 12 points in 12 games pace continues to lead the team, and in a stat I referenced earlier, Skinner’s primary scoring rate is one of the best in the league.
JEFF SKINNER WAS MR. BEAN FOR HALLOWEEN IM LAUGHING pic.twitter.com/rpBYgpV7JE— m (@nhlmarissa) October 29, 2018
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (Points per game: 1.091) +1
Losing to Detroit takes away any good will you got from earlier in the week. Now go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done (or didn’t do).
Torts briefly comments on tonight's loss.#CBJ pic.twitter.com/azhQkjvTRx— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 31, 2018
11. Carolina Hurricanes (Points per game: 1.083) -3
A shootout win over the league’s other dominant possession team in the San Jose Sharks was a good start, but they immediately followed that up with two one-goal losses to the Islanders and Bruins. The Canes are back to their old antics. Outshoot your opponents to holy hell, and still find ways to lose close games. They are what they were last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I really thought it would be different this year.
12. Ottawa Senators (Points per game: 0.909) -3
The Sens are also back to their old antics, aka stinking up the joint and finding new ways to lose each night. Goaltender Mike Condon was placed on waivers the day after putting up what could definitely be described as an utterly disinterested effort against the Arizona Coyotes.
He also gave up this goal.
Mike Condon gets pulled after Derek Stepan scores from the Arizona blueline pic.twitter.com/xg0CABpQUX— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 31, 2018
Working on that half court shot are we, Derek... pic.twitter.com/06suaHFEj5— NHL (@NHL) October 31, 2018
They lost all three games this week, by the way.
13. Philadelphia Flyers (Points per game: 0.833) -1
The Flyers have been a terrible shot-metric team this year, and that was reflected in their two losses to the Bruins and Islanders. At least we know one thing; they’re better than Anaheim. They outshot the Ducks 36-25 while leading the entire game. The Ducks, for reference, have lost six straight and have fallen all the way down to 12th in the West. But more of that in Around the West over at MileHighHockey.com
14. Florida Panthers (Points per game: 0.778) +0
No update beyond losing to New Jersey.
15. New York Rangers (Points per game: 0.750) +0
In a fierce fight with Florida and Detroit for the bottom of the East.
16. Detroit Red Wings (Points per game: 0.667) +0
Hey, they got their third win of the season against Columbus!