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Atlantic Division Weekly: Leafs slide into first

Joe Thornton’s new club has been unseated by his former club.

Dec 1, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (23) celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche with Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) during the second period at Scotiabank Arena. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the new home of two of the San Jose Sharks’ most iconic players. Patrick Marleau went to the Leafs for a couple of seasons, while Joe Thornton played one season in the True North, strong and free.

But now that neither Sharks legend is on the team, the Leafs have decided they wanted to be good. Seems pretty rude to me, but maybe I am biased. The good news is they have the same number of points as Jumbo’s new home in Florida — so it’s anyone’s game right now, the Leafs just happened to move into first place this week.

Boston Bruins (12-8-0)

The Bruins had a good week. Out of the three games they played, they won two of them. It started with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Brad Marchand, Anton Bidih and David Pastrnak got on the board, while goaltender Linus Ullmark made 36 saves between the pipes.

The B’s fell flat in the next game, losing 2-1 to division rivals the Detroit Red Wings. They got their groove back on Thursday against the Nashville Predators. Rookie netminder Jeremy Swayman earned his third career shutout, while Brandon Carlo and Jake DeBrusk put two goals on the board for the 2-0 win.

Speaking of DeBrusk, he reportedly wants out of Boston. The 25-year-old winger is in the final year of a two-year contract worth $7.35 million and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Last year was a significantly down year for DeBrusk, and in 19 games so far this season, he’s improved only slightly, with 4 goals and 3 assists.

Buffalo Sabres (8-12-3)

Is it ever a good week to be the Buffalo Sabres? I don’t think so. This week was especially painful for the upstate New York team. It started with a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Red Wings, featuring goals from Dylan Cozens and Jeff Skinner. To get a point in the second night of a back-to-back on the road, following a win over the Montreal Canadians? That’s better than a lot of Sabres teams past could expect.

Things got especially ugly for the Sabres against the new guys in town, the Seattle Kraken, when the team came to visit on Monday. Buffalo was straight up not having a good time when the game wrapped up with a 7-4 final score. Did it get better for them? Absolutely not. Jumbo and the Florida Panthers took down Buffalo in the same exact fashion. Yes, the Sabres lost 7-4 in consecutive games.

In need of reinforcements, the Sabres acquired goaltender Malcolm Subban from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations on Thursday. Subban has been playing with their AHL team, the Rockford IceHogs, in the second year of a two-year, $850,000 annual contract. The 27-year-old was immediately recalled to the NHL.

Detroit Red Wings (12-9-3)

The Red Wings really did the thing this week, winning all three of their games, starting with that 3-2 victory over the Sabres in overtime on Saturday, followed by a 2-1 win over the Bruins on Tuesday. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made an impressive 41 saves between the pipes against Boston’s scoring power.

The week ended with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Kraken the next night. I know we’re talking about the Red Wings here, but I just wanted to let you know our old friend Ryan Donato scored two goals for Seattle in this game. Good for him.

Florida Panthers (16-4-3)

The Panthers started the week off with a 4-1 loss to the Kraken on Saturday. I guess the Kraken is good now — at least when they play their opponent’s on the second night of a back-to-back on the East Coast. The Panthers got back into their regularly scheduled form against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, winning 5-4. One of those five goals was scored by none other than Joe Thornton, bringing his grand total to two this season.

Their next game was a big one, putting down the Sabres 7-4 on Thursday. Did I mention they were down 3-0 at the end of the first period? They turned it around! Thornton was not involved in any of those goals, but he did enough in the previous game, right?

The comeback wins are becoming a trend in Miami. Are the Panthers bound to regress?

Montreal Canadiens (6-17-2)

The Canadiens had us all fooled this week. They started the week with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, after falling the the Sabres the night before. Josh Anderson had a pair of goals, while Christian Dvorak, Tyler Toffoli, Jonathan Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen each had singles. It looked like they were going to kill it this week!

Well, big surprise, they did not. They lost the next game 2-1 against the Canucks on Monday and the last game of the week 4-1 against the Colorado Avalanche, both games at home. Now that’s the Habs we know!

Montreal cleaned house this week, firing general manger Marc Bergevin and assistant general manager Trevor Timmins. Jeff Gorton, the executive vice-president of hockey operations, has taken over day to day operations.

The team claimed defender Kyle Hauge off waivers this week, while Jeff Petry — a huge piece of Montreal’s forward corps — was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Ottawa Senators (5-15-1)

Were the Ottawa Senators better this week? No. However, they did get one win under their belt, which is impressive when you think about the team we are dealing with here. It started with a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, getting swept by the California teams and extending their losing streak to five games. They had one job here and they couldn’t pull it off.

They could have made things better for Sharks fans with a win against the Canucks, but of course, they did not. They lost that game 6-2. The one win of the week came against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, winning 3-2.

COVIS just tore through the team, so it’s hard to feel much except for sad for them.

Tampa Bay Lightning (13-5-4)

What do the Lightning and Senators have in common? Both teams had two losses and one win this week. The Lightning started the week on a bad note with a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on the road on Sunday and a 4-3 shootout against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

Thankfully, they got another chance against the Blues, wrapping up the home-and-home series on Thursday. The Bolts won the rematch 4-2, with Victor Hedman getting on the board twice, and Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat finding the back of the net with singles.

The Lightning and Predators released their Stadium Series jerseys and while they’re both certainly ... choices ... Tampa Bay is the clear winner here.

Toronto Maple Leafs (17-6-1)

The Leafs only played two games this week, but they were big ones. They came out on top over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, winning 5-1. Jack Campbell was the man between the pipes and made a total of 39 saves on the night.

The Leafs kept the winning trend going, beating the Avalanche 8-3 on Wednesday. While Nazem Kadri had two goals against his former club, his new digs couldn’t stop the offensive powerhouse in Toronto. Auston Matthews scored a hat trick, while John Tavares, William Nylander, Jason Spezza, Travis Dermott and Pierre Engvall had a goal each.