Where is the Beast of the East?
The Mass Mutual East Division is considered by most to be the toughest division and a beast under this season’s temporary realignment. All eight teams have legitimate eyes on the four playoff chairs in the middle of the room.
Only two of the division’s eight teams missed the 2020 play-in round and playoffs. Both the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils made significant changes that could help them force one of the other teams out of a playoff chair. Could they be that beast?
The East is going to be a Beast. Every game is important. At the end of the day, this could be the closest division. Just who will be the Beast from the East?
Here we look at each team’s first week. Listing the East Division teams and where they stand after the first few games up till 18 Jan 2021.
1 Washington Capitals 2-0-1.
The Capitals are off to a quick start after taking two from the Buffalo Sabres and a tough shootout loss in a premier match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nicklas Backstrom currently Leads the Capitals in points with 4 (2g, 2a). Alex Ovechkin moved into a tie with Mike Gartner for 7th place all-time with his first goal of the season.
The Capitals finish up the current two-game stand against the Penguins on Tuesday. They face the Sabres on Friday and Sunday to finish the week.
2nd Philadelphia Flyers 2-0-0.
The Flyers are a perfect 2-0 as they swept the matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Travis Konecny currently leads the Flyers in points with 5 (2g, 3a) through 2 games. They take an early lead in the battle for Penn’s woods.
The Flyers begin a two-game stand against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday and Tuesday.
T-3rd New Jersey Devils 1-0-1 after 2 games.
Surprisingly, New Jersey currently sits tied for third in the East Division. Splitting a spirited opening series against the Boston Bruins. The Devils grabbing three points against a Stanley Cup contending team is a feel-good moment.
Jack Hughes currently leads the Devils in points with 3 (0g, 3a) through two games. The Devils just claimed goaltender Aaron Dell off the waiver wire from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Devils next face the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Followed by a home and home against the New York Islanders on Thursday and Sunday.
T-3rd Boston Bruins 1-0-1
As mentioned above the Bruins split the opening two-game series against the New Jersey Devils. The Bruins were picked by a lot of hockey writers to contend for the Stanley Cup and so far, they have three points while being without high-scoring winger David Pastrnak who is currently on the IR.
Brad Marchand currently leads the Bruins in points with 3 (1g, 2a) through two games.
The Bruins announced last week they would retire the number 22, HOF Willie O” Ree this season.
The Bruins play the New York Islanders on Monday. Followed by two at home against the PHI Flyers on Thursday and Saturday.
5th New York Rangers 1-1-0.
The Rangers split the first two games in the opening salvo of the battle of New York. They were shut out in the first game and then returned the favor to the Islanders in the rematch shutting them out 5-0.
Alexander Georgiev has been the better of the two Rangers’ goaltenders by posting a 0.00 GAA and perfect save percentage.
Pavel Buchnevich leads the Rangers in points with 3 (2g, 1a) through two games.
The Rangers play the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. They then travel to Pittsburgh for two against the Pens on Friday and Sunday.
6Th New York Islanders 1-1-0.
The Islanders: see the above capsule. The Isles split two with the Rangers trading shut outs. The Islanders were barely able to sign Mathew Barzal, the star center who signed just before the end of training camp. Nick Leddy (2a) has two points and is tied with Anders Lee (2g) for the lead in scoring through two games.
The Islanders play the Boston Bruins on Monday. A home and home is scheduled with the Devils on Thursday and Saturday.
7) Pittsburgh Penguins 1-2-0.
The Penguins lost the first two games of the season to their Pennsylvania rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. They gutted out a shootout win against the Washington Capitals in a marquee match-up for the third game of the season.
Mark Jankowski (1g, 2a) and Brandon Tanev (2g, 1a) are currently tied for the lead in Penguin’s scoring with three points through three games.
The Penguins finish the two-game set against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. The Rangers come calling next with games on Friday and Sunday.
8th Buffalo Sabres 0-2-0
Last, in the standings, the Sabres kept it close against the Capitals in the first two games of the season.
Dylan Cozens made his debut with the Sabres. Coming off a stellar World Junior Championship, he has not looked out of place getting an assist in his first NHL game.
Taylor Hall has started off the season the way a guy betting on himself would be expected to. Hall has scored three points (1g, 2a) in the first two games.
The Sabres look to get into the win column against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday and Tuesday. The Capitals are next On Friday and Sunday to finish the road trip.
The season is early but already we can see this will be a tight race. We know there is a beast out there. There are some big matchups next week and I will be keeping my eyes on the puck and my pen to the paper. The Mass Mutual East is going to be a Beast.
Till next week