North Division Recap: Montreal’s hot start tops division

An all-Canadian division is making for tense match ups.

The NHL has gotten through its first week of play in 2021. One downside to the new division alignments and intradivisional play is that it’s easy to miss what’s going on across the league, as we each focus in on our own divisions.

For example, the North Division’s — an all-Canadian Division, to many fans’ delight — scheduling is a little different. Because there’s an odd number of teams (seven, compared to the other divisions’ eight) and the larger geographic differences, teams aren’t strictly playing in two-game series and teams will meet nine or ten times each instead of eight.

Here’s a look at how the North Division is faring one week into the 2021 NHL season:

Calgary Flames (2-0-1, 3rd)

The Calgary Flames are three games into the season and after dropping the season opener in overtime to Winnipeg Jets, are now on a two-game winning streak, thanks to the Vancouver Canucks. Taking points in all three of their games so far isn’t a half-bad start, as they sit third overall in the division. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom has been huge for the Flames, with a .935 save percentage, posting a shutout against the Canucks and allowing just six goals in three games.

Injury Report: Winger Dillon Dube is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, leaving Monday’s game against the Canucks.

Edmonton Oilers (2-3-0, 5th)

The Edmonton Oilers are five games into the season already, opening with a back-to-back series against the Canucks, splitting the series with each winner scoring five goals. They then faced off against Montreal, losing both games while being held to just one goal. Now the Oilers are on the road for the first time this season, playing two games against the Maple Leafs. The Oilers won the first game 3-1 last night. Surprising no one, Connor McDavid leads the team with three goals and three assists.

Injury Report: Defender Oscar Klefbom is out for the season following a shoulder surgery. Goaltender Mike Smith in on long-term injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

COVID-19 Protocols: Goaltender Troy Grosenick, claimed on waivers from the LA Kings, is on the COVID-19 protocol.

Montreal Canadiens (2-0-2, 1st)

With two wins, an overtime loss and a shoot out loos, the Montreal Canadiens are sitting atop the Canadian division. Both losses were high-scoring affairs: the first, in Toronto, ended 5-4, while last night’s shootout loss in Vancouver was 6-5. Both wins came over the Edmonton Oilers, who only scored two goals in the series. They stay on the road for two more games against Vancouver before finally opening at home against the Flames. Somehow, 33-year-old defender Jeff Petry is currently leading the team with two goals and four assists.

Injury Report: None.

Ottawa Senators (1-1-1, 7th)

The Ottawa Senators might have one of the worst rosters on paper this season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still beat the Leafs. With Matt Murray in net, they took the home opener 5-3. Chris Tierney notched a goal, while Josh Norris tallied two secondary assists. Toronto battled back and though Tim Stützle scored his first NHL goal, Ottawa lost 3-2. On Tuesday, they lost in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets without Stützle. Norris and Tierney both scored a goal in that game.

Injury Report: Rookie forward Tim Stützle is day-to-day with a minor undisclosed injury.

Toronto Maple Leafs (3-2-0, 2nd)

The way Toronto Maple Leafs Twitter talks, you’d think they’re in the division’s basement, not sitting in second place with three wins. Still losing to the Ottawa Senators and the Edmonton Oilers this week is probably rough on the ego. They won their home opener against the Canadiens, but barely, taking it 5-4 in overtime. Mitch Marner and John Tavares lead the team with three goals and three assists each.

Injury Report: Auston Matthews is day-to-day after leaving today’s practice with an undisclosed issue.Winger Nick Robertson is on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury and is expected to be out until mid-February. Joe Thornton sustained an upper body injury in Wednesday night’s game against the Oilers and is expected to miss time.

Vancouver Canucks (2-3-0, 6th)

Five games in and the Vancouver Canucks are still figuring things out. They took the season opener against the Oilers 5-3, but then went on a three-game losing streak, including dropping a two-game series against the Flames. In Wednesday’s shootout win against the Canadiens, not only did they leave a point on the table for Montreal, but former Canucks forward Tyler Toffoli scored a hat trick against them.

Injury Report: Defender Travis Hamonic is expected to miss at least four games on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury he sustained on Wednesday against Montreal. Alex Edler is day-to-day with an upper body injury from the same game. Forward Michael Ferland remains on long-term injured reserve due to a head injury sustained during the 2020 playoffs.

Winnipeg Jets (2-1-0, 4th)

Just three games into the season and both of the Winnipeg Jets’ wins came in overtime with a 4-3 final score. They opened with an OT win over the Flames at home, followed by a 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs and 4-3 OT win in Ottawa. They’ll see Ottawa again tonight.

Congratulations are in order for Jets defender Dylan DeMelo, who will be away from the Jets on their current road trip, due to the birth of his first child. He’s expected to debut on Saturday.

Injury Report: Forward Patrik Laine is out with a linger upper body injury. Bryan Little is out after suffering a perforated eardrum last season. Dominic Toninato is on long-term injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

COVID-19 Protocols: Goaltender Anton Forsberg, claimed off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes, is currently on the COVID-19 Protocol list.