Atlantic Division Weekly: Tuukka Rask is back

Can the Bruins move up in the standings with their starting goalie back between the pipes?

The Boston Bruins have been without their starting goaltender all season. It was unclear if Tuukka Rask would be returning to the club after he had hip surgery during the off-season. He was able to return to the ice this week, facing off against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a big game all around for the B’s.

And of course, COVID continued to disrupt the schedule. Here’s how the Atlantic played out this week:

Boston Bruins (21-11-2)

The Bruins had a big week. Before Rask returned, they kicked off their week of games with a 5-2 victory over the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning. Brad Marchand and David Pastrank each had a pair of goals, while Anton Blidh scored a single. They kept up that momentum with two more high-scoring victories. The first was a 7-3 win over the Washington Capitals, the second was a 5-1 blowout over the Montreal Canadiens.

The week wrapped up with Rask’s big return. They beat the Flyers 3-2, thanks to Pastrnak scoring all three goals. Rask looked great in net for his first game back, making 25 saves. Was Martin Jones in for Philly, you’re desperately asking me? No, he was not. The Flyers chose Carter Hart this night.

Buffalo Sabres (11-19-6)

The Sabres only hit the ice twice this week and the results were split. The week started off with a loss to the Lightning. Their division rivals stomped them hard, scoring six goals compared to poor Buffalo’s lonely one. However, they bounced back for their second game of the week, winning 4-1 over the Nashville Predators.

Here’s what was wild about this second game in Buffalo. Aaron Dell manned the net and he did a good job. He made a whopping 29 saves on the night, only letting one puck past him. Oh, and Jeff Skinner had a big night and scored two goals. But... Like... Aaron Dell. Am I right? It was his first win with his new club!

Detroit Red Wings (16-17-5)

The Red Wings went West and straight-up did not have a good time. It started with a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Things improved a bit as the Red Wings at least went to overtime against the Anaheim Ducks, but still lost that one 4-3. They played the Sharks and thankfully lost that one, too.

Detroit went into the game against the Winnipeg Jets desperate for a win and guess what? They didn’t get it. The Red Wings lost that one too, 3-0. It wasn’t the best week to be a Red Wings fan.

Florida Panthers (25-7-5)

The Panthers started this week off with a 4-3 win in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes. Carter Verhaeghe netted a pair of goals, while the others were scored by Anthony Duclair and Jonathan Huberdeau. They snagged another win, this time in regulation over the Vancouver Canucks. The final score was 5-2 — defender Aaron Ekland  (1 goal, 2 assists) and forward Sam Reinhart (2 goals, 1 assist) both notched 3 points, while Aleksander Barkov (1 goal, 1 assists), Frank Vatrano (2 assists) and Anton Lundell (2 assists) all chipped in 2 points.

Then Jumbo Joe and Joe Pavelski reunited when the Dallas Stars came to town. The Panthers blew them out of the water. The final score was an impressive 7-1, with Sam Bennett netting a hat trick.

Ottawa Senators (10-18-2)

The poor Senators. Prior to their game on Thursday, they hadn’t hit the ice since Jan. 1! The team suffered a pretty intense COVID-19 outbreak, as did some of their scheduled opponents, that left them with rescheduled games. The team did get back into the groove this week, beating the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Thursday. Nick Paul scored a pair of goals, with Connor Brown and Drake Batherson netting one each.

Montreal Canadiens (7-24-5)

The Canadiens were another team who resumed playing again this week. Like the Senators, the Habs hadn’t played a game since the Florida Panthers beat them 5-2 on New Years Day. They were able to play two games this week. The first was 5-1 loss at the hands of the Bruins, while the second was a 3-2 defeat in overtime from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Tampa Bay Lightning (25-9-5)

Sure, the Lightning may have started their week on a tough note, losing 5-1 to the Bruins, but they didn’t stay down for long. They were able to beat the Sabres on Tuesday, powered by a hat rick from Nikita Kucherov, while Andrei Vasilevskiy only needed to make 17 saves to earn his team to the 6-1 win.

They kept the trend going and won their Thursday game against the Canucks. Boris Katchouk, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos all found the net in the 4-1 home victory.

Toronto Maple Leafs (23-9-3)

The Leafs had a bit of an off week. It started with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Though Auston Matthews found the net twice, it wasn’t enough to bring his team to victory. The next game against the Vegas Golden Knights went as far as a shootout, but this time the Leafs came out on top, winning 4-3.

Things got weird the next night. The struggling Arizona Coyotes beat the Leafs, who are currently sitting in third place in their division. The lone goal was scored by Matthews, and Toronto fell 2-1. It was a rough road trip overall.