Top News

NHL Puck Drops: Leafs hampered by popgun offence

Toronto Maple Leafs fans look on as Leafs players (left to right) Jake Gardiner, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Andreas Borgman and William Nylander celebrate a goal by Matthews (34) against the Ottawa Senators during recent NHL action in Ottawa.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Toronto Maple Leafs fans look on as Leafs players (left to right) Jake Gardiner, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Andreas Borgman and William Nylander celebrate a goal by Matthews (34) against the Ottawa Senators during recent NHL action in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld - Canadian Press

Pundit waxes on Leafs miserly scoring, Caps and Bruins making hay and a hot Flames squad

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Of Canada's three Eastern Conference clubs, only the Toronto Maple Leafs are a serious playoff contender. With 57 points at the start of this week, the Leafs sit third in the Atlantic Division, 13 points ahead of the Florida Panthers.  

Despite the Leafs comfortable divisional cushion, they won just three of their previous 10 games heading into Monday's contest with the Colorado Avalanche. Their inconsistency and ongoing tendency to blow leads in the third period lack of urgency has raised concerns among their followers. 

Their sputtering offence is a significant issue. Through eight games in January, young guns Auston Matthews and William Nylander collected just four points and Mitch Marner only three. Veteran winger James van Riemsdyk tallied only two goals. Centre Nazem Kadri has potted just one goal since Nov. 30 while Patrick Marleau's been held scoreless in eight straight games.  

The Leafs aren't in danger of falling out of playoff contention. If they harbour hopes of a lengthy postseason run, they need a better effort over the remainder of the schedule. 

Capitals, Bruins challenging the Lightning 

With 65 points in 46 games, the Tampa Bay Lightning have dominated the Eastern standings. They're sputtering of late, however, dropping five of their last seven games. That's provided an opportunity for the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins to overtake the Lightning.

Led by forwards Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals are once again atop the Metropolitan Division. Winners of the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular-season club over the past two seasons, the Caps began this week only four points behind the Lightning. 

After two rebuilding seasons, the Bruins once again look like a Stanley Cup contender. Thanks to  skilled veterans such as Brad Marchand, Patrick Bergeron and Zdeno Chara and rising young stars such as Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak, the Bruins sit just three points behind the Bolts.

The Lightning remain the favourite to win the Stanley Cup. But if the Capitals and Bruins have anything to say about it, they won't have an easy path to the Cup Final. 

Flames on the rise

Winning seven of their last 10 games, the Calgary Flames have climbed back into the Western Conference playoff chase.

A red-hot offence, led by young stars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, is a key reason behind the Flames' recent success. Winger Matthew Tkachuk is showing no signs of a sophomore slump, while forward Micheal Ferland is on pace for a career-hight 55 points. 

Calgary is also getting solid goaltending from veteran Mike Smith. Their blue-line corps, led by Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, has noticeably improved over the course of the season.  

The Flames' farm system also provided an unexpected boost to their roster depth. Forwards Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway have offset the absence of sidelined veteran Jaromir Jagr and Kris Versteeg. Goalie David Rittich supplanted Eddie Lack as Smith's backup, allowing the Flames to trade Lack to New Jersey at the end of December. 


Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with the Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

Recent Stories