Around the Atlantic: Canadiens Surprising Many, Poitras Stays in Boston & Senators changes coming?
Photo credit:Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney1 month ago
Welcome back for another edition of Around the Atlantic, our Wednesday column that will showcase any trending news surrounding the Atlantic division and of course, the impact it may have on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The divisional race is very tight as the calendar flips to November and for today’s piece we zoom in on what’s going on in Montreal, Boston and Ottawa.
Montreal Canadiens Off to Fantastic Start
The Habs sit 5-2-2 through their first nine games which is good enough for third in the division. They’ve yet to lose in regulation on the road and needless to say, the Canadiens are surprising a number of teams around the league.
Up front Montreal is being led by Cole Caufield, who has scored four times and leads the team with 10 points. Veteran forward Sean Monahan is also having a fine start to the season, recording eight points in nine games. Monahan is someone to watch as he’s a pending unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and could be somebody the Leafs check in on to beef up their centre depth. If Montreal is in the race, there’s no chance they become sellers, but there’s still lots of hockey left between now and the trade deadline in March.
On the back end Mike Matheson has been the biggest surprise. The 29-year-old blueliner has recorded six points in nine games this season and continues to see a ton of work on special teams. It’s pretty wild to see such a gap in average ice-time per game as Matheson is leading the Habs by a country mile, playing 24:28 a night, meanwhile Nick Suzuki is second on the team with just under 21 minutes a night.
Montreal is one of the only teams in the playoff picture who have let in more goals than they’ve scored. Their also one of the only teams who have played three goaltenders to start the season as well. There’s little doubt another goalie trade is coming at some point in Montreal, after the team shipped Casey DeSmith to the Vancouver Canucks before the season started. Veteran goaltender Jake Allen has impressed this season, posting a 3-0-0 record to go along with a 2.63 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.
The Maple Leafs don’t play the Canadiens again until March 9, which feels like a long ways away even after playing almost all of the preseason against each other. Toronto wasn’t expecting to have to battle it out with the Habs in their division this season as Montreal was supposed to be a bottom feeder. With Monahan as a potential trade target for the Leafs, there’s little doubt GM Brad Treliving will be watching the standings closely to see where the Canadiens are shaping up these next couple of months.
Bruins Keeping Rookie Poitras
Like the Maple Leafs with Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan to some extent, the Boston Bruins also had some youngsters turning heads during training camp and into the regular season. Unlike Cowan and Minten, Bruins 19-year-old rookie Matthew Poitras is sticking around with the big club.
Boston announced Poitras will not be returned to the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm and he’s made a big enough impact on the coaching staff that they trust his game to keep sending him over the boards.
As Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery had this to say about the team’s young star – “Poitras is sticking around. His play, he earned it. We’re comfortable with him. There’s still no guarantees he’s here the rest of the year, but we feel that the way he’s progressed that, for the time being, he’s going to be a Bruin.”
Poitras was a second-round selection at the 2022 NHL draft and after some dismal draft results, the Bruins appear to have finally found some gold. Through his first nine games the Ajax, Ontario native has recorded three goals and five points. He’s seeing some minutes on the second power-play unit and will likely improve in the faceoff circle as he goes this season.
As for the Maple Leafs’ Minten, he was recently sent back to junior and should star for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. While he was sent down on Friday, Minten stuck around the team in Nashville over the weekend and hosted the rookie party with Matthew Knies and Joseph Woll.
His recent landlord and team captain John Tavares was nice enough to flip the bill. When you make 11 sheets a year, and the kid is headed back to junior hockey, this is the right move.
Quickly, in other Bruins’ news, defenseman Charlie McAvoy has been suspended for four games after one of the dirtier hits of the season. McAvoy blindsided Florida Panthers Oliver Ekman-Larsson in front of the net recently and now, as he should, sits for four games.
Ottawa Senators in Limbo
The Senators have been an inconsistent bunch to start the season, posting a record of 4-4-0. Their eight points has them sitting tied for last in the Atlantic Division and so far the team has not been meeting expectations.
With a new owner in place and a roster which is no longer being rebuilt, it’s going to be on head coach DJ Smith to get results. If the Senators aren’t able to turn things around in November and get back to their winning ways, Smith’s seat is going to be heating up and the ice will become much thinner.
The Senators play nine games in November and a whopping EIGHT of them are at home. Their only away game is on the 8th and is in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. The time is now for the Sens to propel themselves up the Atlantic division standings and if they aren’t able to take advantage of their home cooking this month, expect to see some major changes in Ottawa before the new year.
The Sens offense has not been the issue, as they sit 5th in the league in goals-per-game. And it’s certainly not for a lack of trying as the Sens rank fourth in shots on goal per game. Their penalty kill and power play need to improve as both sit in the middle of the league for efficiency. It’s all going to come down to goaltending and everyone knew that would be the case. Joonas Korpisalo has posted a 3.22 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage through six appearances and Anton Forsberg has been worse in his action. Something’s got to give in Ottawa or else there will be major changes behind the bench.
There we have it folks, as always, lots going on across the Atlantic. The Bruins continue to dominant and now have a new wave of talent on the scene, the Canadiens somehow keep winning hockey games, meanwhile the Senators struggles continue and November’s home stand will be something to keep a close eye on in Ottawa.
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