The Atlantic Division race is a tight one; here's how the final month of action looks

Published April 4, 2022 at 3:52 PM
BY MATTHEW
It is that time of the year. Teams are playing their best hockey and the fight at the top of the Atlantic is fun to watch. Yes, The Panthers are pretty much guaranteed to lock up the division title, barring a catastrophic turn of events, but the race between the familiar foes of Tampa, Toronto, and Boston has never been tighter.

Florida has had a very favorable schedule recently and that will not change down the stretch. Seven of their last eight games have been against non-playoff teams in which they want a perfect 7-0-0, while the one game against a playoff team was a 5-2 loss to Toronto. To add to an already favorable schedule, Florida plays only 4 playoff teams in their final 12 games.

Tampa has fallen off compared to past seasons and they are not as dominant for two reasons. Their third line, while solid, just doesn't bring the same mix of presence and skill as their 3rd line did the last two years. It was only once the Lightning acquired their previous 3rd line that they were able to get over the hump and win back-to-back Championships. The other reason is that a lot more teams are just a lot better this year. Tampa deserves to be in the fight for 2nd; after all, they haven't lost to a non-playoff team since January 21st.

Boston has lost a lot of key players in the past couple of seasons. David Krecji, Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, and many depth forwards have moved on since the last playoff series between Boston and Toronto in 2019. They added Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno and have replaced their 2nd line center with their 3rd line center in Charlie Coyle, making for a pretty thin center position. Rask and Halak were also replaced by Ullmark and Swayman who together have 1 career playoff start. The big bad Bruins may still be tough, but a lot the what made them successful in the Atlantic pre-COVID is very much absent from their line-up. No disrespect to the Bruins, they could still be the team that comes out of the East in June. In their last 13 games, Boston is 1-2-1 against playoff teams and a perfect 9-0-0 against non-playoff teams.


The Toronto Maple Leafs are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games and have vastly changed their roster over the past couple of seasons, the biggest change arguably on defense. To see just how much the Leafs' defense has changed since Dubas took over and Toronto and Bruins met last in the playoffs, follow the link below.

Maple Leafs Defence 2018/19 Vs. Present Day

The Leafs are looking strong each night and when they have an off night, they still are finding ways to win. The Leafs' goalies are inexperienced as well, but the team is hungry, has built up some scar tissue and appear poised to make noise. What this team needs to overcome is between the ears and beating their own demons by finding consistency in all 3 zones every night.

There is no doubt a fierce fight is going on between Boston, Toronto, and Tampa for home-ice advantage. While Florida has by far the easiest schedule to finish the year, Boston has the toughest with 9 of their last 12 against the likes of Toronto, Tampa, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, and Florida, among others.

Tampa's 2nd most difficult opponent left is Nashville, and Toronto has an even split of playoff and non-playoff teams to end the year. What is obvious is that there are no easy nights in the NHL. The top four of the Atlantic just aren't losing and there is no room for error right now. A couple of losses could knock you out of the race for home ice. Buckle up hockey fans, the last 4 weeks are going to be very exciting.
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