Las Vegas–Today we move into a new direction in our analysis as Vegas Knights of The Roundtable takes its 8 part series to the Eastern Conference where we find out how the Vegas Golden Knights will match up against the other teams in North America this upcoming season.
Over the last 4 days, we’ve taken the time and analyzed the 2 Western Conference Divisions (Pacific and Central). Now we have the opportunity to dive into the east starting off with the Atlantic Division.
For the 24 time Stanley Cup Champions Montréal Canadiéns the 2016-17 season marked the start of a new era as they no longer had veteran defenseman P.K. Subban patrolling the blue line for the Habs.
Before their campaign started Montréal and Nashville took part in a major blockbuster trade move that was a 1 for 1 swap with one another. That player for player swap sent Subban to the Predators for long-time Nashville defenseman and captain Shea Weber.
For Subban, this trade left him stunned. He was a major fan favorite with the Habs fans and with the community in particular with his contributions to the Montréal Children’s Hospital where he made a very generous donation back in 2015 for $10 million.
With Weber, the Habs added his shot to the backend which is very lethal by the way along with his physical style of play on the ice, his leadership qualities and also size at 6’4″.
Montréal finished the recent campaign with 103 points with a 47-26-9 (31-19-8 under Michel Therrien and 16-7-1 under Claude Julien)
Therrien was fired by Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin stated that the team “needed a new energy, new voice, and a new direction.”
With Julien behind the bench for Montréal, this marked his second stint with the original six franchise in over a decade.
The last time he coached the Canadiéns was during the 2005-06 season where posted a 19-16-0-6 record. He was also fired by the organization by former Habs General Manager Bob Gainey.
The Habs competed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past season where they were defeated by their fellow original six rival the New York Rangers in a 6 game battle. In that 6 game series, Montréal goaltender Carey Price surrendered 12 goals.
In the regular season, the Habs had a GF and GA of 226 and 200 respectively.
For the 4th straight season, Montréal’s offense was led by once again team captain Max Pacioretty who scored 35 goals which was a 3rd career best for him (his career high was 39 during the 2013-14 season).
Russian forward Alexander Radulov led the way in assists for the Habs with 36.
On the backend, Weber was the big minute’s guy for Montréal as he had an ATOI of 25:04 (his career-high in that category was when he was a member of the Predators organization at 26:54 during the 2013-14 campaign).
In terms of the special teams, the Canadiéns ranked 13th overall last year on the power play with a success rate of 19.57% and converted 45 times. On the penalty kill, they finished in 14th place at 81.12%.
What Vegas needs to keep an eye out, in particular, is that Weber has a heavy shot on the point and can put the puck in the back of the net from distance.
The Golden Knights shot blockers will need to make sure that they are in the right position to prevent that from happening particularly when they are on the power play.
Also, need to limit Pacioretty from scoring goals as he looks to make 5 seasons in a row with 30 or more.
The 2nd place Senators, had a very good season last year as they went all the way the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 7 game series.
This was a very good effort by the club who beat two original six teams in the earlier rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Boston and New York).
Their top performer in goals in the playoffs was Jean-Gabriel Pageau who scored 8 times. His best game was during their series with New York where scored 4 goals including the overtime winner in game 2.
In assists during the playoffs was veteran blueliner Erik Karlsson who produced 16.
They finished the regular season with a 44-28-10 record for 98 points. Their GF and GA was 212 and 214 respectively.
On the offensive side of the game, Ottawa’s top goal scorers were Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman. Turris produced 27 while Hoffman recorded 26.
Their leader in assists was defenseman Karlsson who registered 54. This should come to no surprise to anyone given that he has done this 3 previous times in his career (59 in 2011-12, 54 in 2013-14, and his career high at 66 in the 2015-16 campaign).
Karlsson is also the Senators big minute’s eater at an ATOI of 26:50.
In terms of special teams, Ottawas power play success rate last season was ranked 24th overall at 16.93% and scored 43 times. On the other side of the special teams at killing penalties, they come in at 22nd with a below average percentage of 79.76.
Ottawa is hoping to build off of last year’s run when the 2017-18 campaign comes around.
This was a hungry team in the 2016-17 season and Vegas needs to be prepared to compete with them at T-Mobile Arena and at Canada Tire Center. Another thing they need to keep in mind is Karlsson’s work ethic because even when he is
Another thing they need to keep in mind is Karlsson’s work ethic because even when he is injured, he still plays the game at high compete level.
Much like what happened with Montréal, Boston also had a change in head coach when they fired Julien from his duties behind the bench. During the Julien span, his record was 26-23-6.
The reason for his departure was the lack of consistency that the Bruins players were demonstrating on a nightly/daily basis. They also had several problems that also caused the long time coach the be shown the door.
They ended up promoting Assistant Coach Bruce Cassidy to take the reigns behind the bench for Boston. He completed the season with an 18-8-1 record.
The 3rd place Bruins completed the 2016-17 campaign in 3rd place in the Atlantic with an overall record of 44-31-7 for 95 points.
Their GF and GA were 234 and 212 respectively.
For the Bruins, they also competed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs where they unfortunately, did not make it past the opening round. They were defeated by Ottawa in a 6 game series.
The Bruins had 2-30 goal scorers last year. Brad Marchand with 39 and David Pastrnak in close 2nd at 34 of his own. In assist they were led by Marchand with 46 edging out defenseman Tory Krug by 3, he had 43.
An important thing to point out here, Krug was their best asset on the blueline in terms of offense.
However, it was “Big Z”, Zdeno Chara who was the Bruins main guy that logged the most minutes last season. He had an ATOI of 23:20 which wasn’t his career high in that regard. His career high was back in the 2006-07 campaign where logged north of 27 minutes at 27:58.
In terms of special teams, Boston ranked in the leagues top 10 at 7th place with a conversion rate of 21.72% and scored 53 times while on the man advantage. On the other side in the killing penalties department, they were league’s top dog at 85.71%.
Having Cassidy the official bench boss for Boston going forward they should be able to build off what was able to communicate with the Bruins players going forward.
Vegas will need to keep an eye out for Marchand, Pastrnak, Krug, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Chara as they guys are to core players on the Bruins roster. These guys have been together for a while now.
They also will need to play hard around veteran back stopper Tuukka Rask who’s been their workhorse between the pipes ever since Tim Thomas‘s departure. Rask posted a 37-20-5 record with a GAA of 2.23 and a .915 save percentage with 8 shutouts.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs was the 4th Canadian based hockey club to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
They gave the Washington Capitals some trouble thanks in part to Auston Matthews 6 game performance of scoring 4 goals and 1 assist. As well as young defenseman Morgan Rielly who recorded 5 points in that series (1 goal and 4 assists).
Unfortunately experienced played a factor on the end and Washington advanced to the next round 4 games to 2.
For the young and rising Toronto franchise, they were another team like Edmonton who took the next step in their development. They completed the regular season with a 40-27-15 record for 95 points.
They had a GF and GA of 251 and 242 respectively.
Matthews and Nazi Kadri were the only two Maple Leafs players last season to score at least 30 goals or more. Matthews scored 40 while Kadri pitched in with 32 of his own.
On defense, they had the pleasure of having two players who stepped up with eating up big minutes in Reilly and Russian Nikita Zaitsev who logged at least 22 minutes of ATOI. Reilly edged our Zaitsev by a mere 9 seconds 22:10 to 22:01.
In the special team’s category, they came in 2nd overall at 23.36% and scored 57 times which tied Buffalo’s goals scored on the man advantage. This was partially contributed by Mitch Marner and William Nylander who both scored 17 times last season.
Vegas will need to understand that the Maple Leafs are on the rise and are poised at taking another major step forward in their maturation cycle.
They have recently added a veteran player who in some respect brings a certain leadership quality to the young Leafs in former San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau into the fold with a 3-year deal.
It will be interesting to see where Mike Babcock will put him in the lineup for the 2017-18 campaign but one thing is certain is that knows the Western Conference, in particular, with the Pacific Division after spending 19 seasons in San Jose.
Tomorrow we will wrap up the Atlantic Division with the remaining teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres.