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Atlantic Division Weekly: Maple Leafs heat up

Maybe the Leafs aren’t so bad after all?

Nov 12, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) celebrates the overtime winner with right wing William Nylander (88) and defenceman Morgan Rielly (44) at Scotiabank Arena. Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

So maybe a few weeks ago I completely bashed the Toronto Maple Leafs, calling them mediocre, yadda yadda yadda. For once in my life, I am admitting that I may have spoken too soon. The Leafs are out here building momentum purposely to spite me, I believe. Regardless of the reasons behind it, they are kind of hot right now.

Here is how the Leafs, and their division rivals, shaped up this week.

Boston Bruins (6-5-0)

The Bruins are slowly moving down in the standings. While the team had a touching game this week to honor Colby Cave with the Edmonton Oilers, the two teams the former NHLer played for before he tragically passed away after suffering a brain bleed, they struggled to find wins this week.

It started with a 5-2 loss on Saturday to the Leafs. They eventually found their footing against the Ottawa Senators, winning that game 2-3 thanks to goals from Patrice Bergeron, Derek Forbort and Brad Marchand. Their week wrapped up with that special game to honor Cave, but the Bruins lost 5-3 to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s almost as if Connor McDavid’s team is good?

Hopefully getting some depth back will help the Bruins, as Anton Blidh and Nick Foligno were both activated from injured reserve on Thursday.

Buffalo Sabres (6-5-2)

The Sabres started their week out with a loss in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings and kept that downward momentum going into their next game against the Washington Capitals. They lost that one too, this time 5-3 in regulation. Anders Bjork, Cody Eakin and Colin Miller scored for their team, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

They had one last chance to turn their momentum around on Friday against the red-hot Edmonton Oilers. They were able to pull off a 3-2 win, thanks to Dylan Cozens finding the back of the net twice.

In case you missed it, former Sharks netminder Aaron Dell signed with Sabres this summer and was assigned to their AHL affiliate. He was recalled on an emergency loan last Saturday.

Detroit Red Wings (7-6-2)

What if I told you that the Red Wings were in third place in their division? Would you believe me? Remarkably, that is the case. Detroit started the week off with that 4-3 win in overtime against the Sabres. They kept it up the next night, beating the Vegas Golden Knights, 5-2. Anyone who beats the Golden Knights is a friend to us, right?

Listen, they even went on to beat Connor McDavid and the Oilers 4-2 on Tuesday. Vladislav Namestnikov had a pair of goals, while netminder Alex Nedeljkovic had 31 saves on the night. To end the week came a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals. Not too shabby.

The team activated defender Gustav Lindstrom from injured reserve on Sunday, also sending rookie center Joseph Veleno back to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

Florida Panthers (10-2-2)

So, the bad news is Joe Thornton is still out with an undisclosed injury (maybe it’s a broken heart because he misses Sharks fans so much? That’s our best guess). However, the good news is that his team is still topping the division, meaning our good friend could very well be in the running for a Cup this summer. Florida began their week on Saturday, beating the once undefeated Carolina Hurricanes 5-2.

The rest of the week went a bit downhill for the Panthers. They lost 4-3 to the New York Rangers, 7-3 to the New Jersey Devils and 3-2 in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’m not saying things went downhill for the team with Thornton’s injury, but I’m also not not saying that.

Montreal Canadiens (4-10-1)

The Canadiens started their week off with a 5-2 loss against the Golden Knights. They kept that trend going, falling 3-2 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings. Ben Chiarot and Jake Evans found the net to keep their team in the game, but the odds ended not in their favor.

They played once more this week, this time finding a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki, Chiarot and Evans all got on the scoreboard, while Jake Allen made 24 saves.

It’s going to be an uphill battle for last season’s Stanley Cup Finalists to get back into the postseason.

Ottawa Senators (3-9-1)

The Senators did not have a good week. It started with a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay and kept going with a 3-2 loss to Boston. Zach Sanford and Nikita Zaitsev got on the board for the Sens, but it wasn’t enough to bring their team a victory. They ended their week with a 2-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Kings.

The team is now on a six-game losing streak. The thrill of winning two of their first three games has long worn off and the Senators are back in the Atlantic Division’s basement. Since last week, the team has lost Dylan Gambrell, Connor Brown, Nick Holden, Victor Mete, Alex Formenton, Matt Murray, Joshua Brown and Nikita Zaitsev to COVID Protocol. Zaitsev was able to return today, but the team is without eight players, as well as assistant coach Jack Capuano.

Tampa Bay Lightning (6-3-3)

The Lightning had a weird, short week where they only played two games. It started with a 5-3 victory over the Senators, featuring goals from Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Victor Hedman, Jan Rutta and Steven Stamkos. Their short week concluded with a 2-1 loss in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes. The lone goal of the game was scored by Stamkos.

Defender Mikhail Sergachev returned from suspension on Wednesday. He was suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner. Andrej Sustr was re-assigned to the AHL in a corresponding move.

Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-1)

Like I mentioned earlier, the Leafs are gaining momentum. It started with their big 5-2 win over the Bruins. John Tavares and Auston Matthews each had a pair of goals, while Mitch Marner had the single. However, things took a turn when Jack Campbell’s previous team rolled into town. The LA Kings beat the Leafs, 5-1.

Toronto regained their momentum later in the week against the Philadelphia Flyers. They were able to shut them out, winning the game 3-0. William Nylander had a pair of goals, while Ondrej Kase put one in the net as well. They wrapped up their week with a 2-1 overtime win over the Flames.

On Sunday, the team placed goaltender Petr Mrazek on long-term injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 4, thanks to a groin injury he likely suffered in his first game of the season on Oct. 14. He’s expected to miss four weeks.