Is it a safe argument to say the Atlantic is the best division in the NHL right now?
The Penguins and Flyers are definitely top teams in the league but even the Rangers with 41 points on the season would hold a first place spot in every other division other than the Central. It just happens that in the Atlantic the Flyers have leap-frogged the Penguins for now with 47 points on the season through 33 games while Pittsburgh holds strong in second with 44 points through 33.
The Rangers are not far behind with 41 and the only other team in the NHL with more than 40 points is the Red Wings with 43. Montreal is close behind with 40 points through only 32 games so they could join this group after their 33rd contest.
With the Penguins finally losing two straight games and the Flyers winning four straight, it’s Philly’s turn to be tops in the Atlantic for now. Maybe at some point in the season the Rangers will find themselves in second or even first with a nice win streak of their own but for now the Flyers and Penguins will continue to trade time in the top spot. Both teams have high-powered offenses with solid defensive play making it tough to have long losing streaks.
Even after losing the last two games, Sidney Crosby continues his point streak to 19 games managing an assist on the lone goal against the Rangers Wednesday night. The Penguins’ next match-up is not until Monday night home against Phoenix so they will have time to re-group and come out strong against the last place Coyotes.
The Flyers on the other hand are home and home against the Rangers and then Panthers with a chance to extend their lead on Pittsburgh even more. Philadelphia continues to find scoring from many different players. Right now they have six forwards with 20 or more points on the season, two with 30 or more. This shows they aren’t relying on just one or two players to provide the offense where as the Penguins only have four players with 20 or more points and only Crosby is above 30 with 54 on the season.
Even though Crosby leads the league in points, scoring needs to come from more than one guy for a team to be successful. The return of Evgeni Malkin should help the Penguins if he can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, but from the looks of it, his knee is unstable and could be a lingering issue.
The Rangers are not the same kind of team as the Penguins and Flyers. The Rangers rely more on defensive play than goal-scoring and that’s good since they only have two players with more than 20 points and one just broke his hand and will be out the next six weeks. Marian Gaborik will soon reach the 20 point plateau but for now only Brandon Dubinsky is closing in on 30 points.
Over the next couple of months the Rangers will need key contributions from the likes Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle to contribute if they want to remain in the race in this tough Atlantic Division.