Three weeks into the NHL season and teams are beginning to find their right places in the standings. The restructuring of each of the divisions this year makes it difficult to test each teams true potential, as each team plays the same few teams throughout the season, but it’s becoming more and more apparent who will be a playoff contender come May.
With the NHL season ramping up, we’re here to break down three highlights from this week that showcase the exciting things continuing to happen around the league.
Toronto and Montreal Continue to Light Up the North Division
It’s no question that the North Division was the most anticipated division coming into this shortened season. The two teams that had the highest standards set to them prior to opening night were the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, and they’re certainly living up to those expectations.
Toronto currently has a 7-2-1 record, their two losses coming from the Ottawa Senators and the Edmonton Oilers. Mitch Marner currently leads the team with 14 points in 10 games, trailed by Auston Matthews and John Tavares with 10 points. The Leafs sit at second in the North Division and look to continue their momentum, especially adding notable players Jimmy Vesey, Joe Thornton, and Wayne Simmonds over the offseason.
Likewise, the Canadiens sit at first in the North Division with a 7-1-2 record; their only loss coming from a 2-0 shutout against the Calgary Flames. Players acquired in the offseason have had a huge impact on the team so far; Tyler Toffoli not only leads the Canadiens in goals, but the entire NHL. Anderson has been a key asset as well with 6 goals in 10 games.
While both Toronto and Montreal have been incredible through their first 10 games respectively, they’ve only faced off against each other once, in which Toronto took the win in overtime. Many anticipate their next matchup, which will take place on February 10th at the Bell Center.
Laine Makes his Debut with the Blue Jackets
After a blockbuster trade that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg and Patrik Laine to Columbus, Laine finally managed to make his debut with the Blue Jackets, sporting their reverse retro jersey. Laine’s been on injury reserve since the beginning of the season, only playing one game with Jets, before being traded. That game, played against the Calgary Flames, Laine put up 2 goals and an assist.
Laine started the game alongside forwards Alexandre Texier and Cam Atkinson. Laine, a one time 44 goal scorer, looks to fill gaps within in the Blue Jackets that they desperately needed coming into this season. Although he went without a point in his Columbus debut, he looks to continue to develop chemistry with his new linemates.
Since going second overall in the 2016, the Finnish forward has played 307 career games, accumulating 140 goals and 110 assists. He’s been key to the Winnipeg Jets and looks to bring that talent and skill to an in need Blue Jackets roster.
New Jersey Devils COVID-19 Scandal
The New Jersey Devils recently announced that they have 14 players in the leagues COVID protocol including:
Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, Matt Tennyson, Connor Carrick, Aaron Dell, Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen, Pavel Zacha, and Travis Zajac.
It’s unclear whether any of these players listed have tested positive for COVID as the league has not disclosed that information. There is a possibility that any of these players had an initial false positive test, but again, the league has yet to disclose any of that information to the public.
The Buffalo Sabres chimed into this situation, stating that the Devils knew about these players needing to be on COVID protocol, but wet ahead with their game anyways. This has led to the Sabres getting shut down by the NHL through February 8th, postponing any of their games during that time period. Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen, of the Sabres, were added to the COVID protocol list.
The list of teams that have had games postponed due to COVID protocol continues to grow. This then poses the question, are the restructured divisions really working the way the NHL was hoping to? Everyone was impressed with the NHL Playoff Bubbles in both Edmonton and Toronto as there were nearly zero cases throughout the two months.
It’s only been three weeks and we have seen multiple teams from multiple divisions be forced to shut down for days while players remain on protocol. Will there be more postponements next week? Stay tuned here at NHL Top Three and find out!