Around the Atlantic: Justin Holl loves Detroit, Bruins goalies are elite & Panthers trade watch
Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-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.
After the first ever Frozen Frenzy where all 32 teams were in action on the same day, we zone in on the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers.
Justin Holl Playing Great for the Red Wings
Look away, Leafs Nation. Yes, lots were thrilled when Brad Treliving decided to walk away from Justin Holl, just for him to land a three-year $10.2 million contract with the Wings. After what was forgettable season when it came to costly turnovers, head-scratching decision making and even throwing the puck out of the zone, it turns out Holl has found a new home.
After six games this season in Red and White, Holl has recorded three assists and is tied for the league lead with a +6 rating. Yes, he’s leading the league in a statistical category! Something we never saw once in Toronto.
Holl has been unnoticeable in Motown which is a great thing for a defenseman. He’s keeping his game simple, he’s not trying to do too much, which is evident from only having one shot on goal in six games. It appears the lanky blueliner is limiting his mistakes and especially the ones which cost the team a goal. It felt like every night for the Leafs, Holl was going to be the cause of at least one goal from a bad read or bad pass, or not having the foot speed to get himself into proper positioning.
As a Red Wing, he’s been busy doing his thing on the penalty kill, playing on the team’s second unit alongside Ben Chiarot. Again, only four hits through six games as Holl isn’t the most physical defender but it does appear he’s found a home. Lets hope this isn’t Larry Murphy 2.0. And if you’re too young for that reference, here’s the story.
The Red Wings are rolling, even after an overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Detroit sits with a 5-1-1 record, one point behind the Boston Bruins for top spot in the Atlantic. Alex DeBrincat has found himself in Motown, after one down season as an Ottawa Senator. You almost have to feel bad for Sens fans after seeing him perform with Dylan Larkin and thinking why couldn’t he take his game to this level in Ottawa last season?
Larkin and DeBrincat have combined for 27 points in seven games and sit atop the league leaders in production. If the Red Wings can land some solid goaltending from ex-Leaf James Reimer, Alex Lyon and Ville Husso, it could finally be time for Steve Yzerman’s team to do some damage and get themselves back into Stanley Cup Playoff contention.
Bruins Goaltending Duo Remains Elite
Even after losing both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement and after many wrote them off as contenders, the Bruins are off to a 6-0-0 start and appear to once again have elite goaltending between the likes of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.
The B’s are beating up on teams thanks to production from David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and James van Riemsdyk. Yes, JVR is turning back the clock in bean town and has recorded three goals and five points in his first six games. He’s only seeing 9:56 of even strength ice time a night, however he’s playing on the first power-play unit and using his big body to disrupt goalies in front of the net.
Boston hasn’t necessarily been playing a ‘team game’ as only seven players have scored goals in the team’s first six games, however the big guns are performing and most importantly the goaltending has been elite. Ullmark has posted three wins along with a 1.00 goals against average (GAA) and a .962 save percentage (Sv.%), meanwhile Swayman also has three wins, along with a 1.34 GAA and .957 Sv.%. Impressive stuff.
It appears the Bruins are not going anywhere in the Atlantic and will be battling it out all season long with the Leafs for top spot. I’d expect them to address their forward depth via trade and they’re hopeful some of their young players continue to develop into bigger roles this season. 19-year-old Matthew Poitras, a second-round pick from 2022 has been great so far, recording three goals in his first six games. The Bruins have been waiting a long time for a fresh wave of talent to come through after many seasons missing the mark on their top draft picks.
The B’s host the Leafs on November 2nd in what will be the first matchup between the two clubs this season. There’s no doubt that will be a measuring stick game for both teams.
Panthers Have Potential Trade Candidates
While the Red Wings and Bruins have come out of the gates hot, the same can’t be said for the Florida Panthers. A team starting the season shorthanded and missing some big guns on the blue line, they’ve started 3-3-0 and are dead last in the division with only 17 goals for. Meanwhile the Wings have doubled them with 34 goals this season.
There’s no doubt the Panthers are going to have to claw their way into the playoff picture this season and they’ll need Sergei Bobrovsky to find his game before they get too far behind in the standings. The Cats have given journeyman goaltender Anthony Stolarz a look this year and in his one appearance he was solid, stopping 27 of 28 shots. It seems like the Panthers goaltender situation is never settled and include former top prospect Spencer Knight, their trio will be interesting to watch this season.
If the Panthers can’t find their offense throughout the start of this season, they could become one of the selling teams in the eastern conference. Sure, the Leafs would have to pay a serious premium considering in-division trades are always more costly, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
A couple of early trade candidates to keep on the radar this season include forward Sam Reinhart and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov. Both are pending unrestricted free agents, and if things go astray in Florida, could be moved for some future assets.
Reinhart is an offensive weapon who can put up points in a hurry, recording 31 goals and 67 points last season, to go along with another 13 points in 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He’s not exactly the best fit for the Leafs, so that’s not what I’m saying here, but he is a trade candidate out of Florida who a ton of teams will be calling about. So far in 2023-24, Reinhart has posted nine points in his first six games including seven goals.
Kulikov, however could work for the Leafs. He’s on a cheap $1 million deal and has shown a knack to play physical this season, recording 10 hits through six games. The 6-foot-1 blueliner isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body either, with 11 blocked shots early on. Depending on whatever Treliving decides to do with the current mix of Leafs defensemen, Kulikov should at least be on the radar of potential rentals who should interest the team. He wouldn’t cost a ton to acquire and we all know you can never have too many defensemen come playoff time.
There we have it folks, Around the Atlantic we go. The division will be one of the very best in the league this season as the Red Wings are taking giant strides, the Bruins are off to another undefeated start and even though the Panthers are struggling, they have the talent to quickly turn things around.
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