In a new addition to the site, we take a look at what’s going on around the ‘hood the Pens spend most of their time… the Eastern Conference. We’ll examine the standings, the team’ playoff potential, and general news and notes from the week that was. Comments, conjecture, or just plain nonsense are always welcome.

Standings

Boston, 37-8-6, 80pts, 31GR, 1st overall
Montreal, 28-16-6, 62pts, 32GR, 4th overall
Buffalo, 26-20-5, 57pts, 31GR, 7th overall
Toronto, 19-23-8, 46pts, 32GR, 11th overall
Ottawa, 17-24-7, 41pts, 35GR, 13th overall

Playoff Picture

Boston winning this division is about as close to a lock as it gets. They’re playing unreal hockey and have been the whole season.

Montreal is currently sitting 4th but isn’t playing great hockey right now. They’re 4-6 in their last 10 and lost 4 out of their last 5. Carey Price hasn’t looked good since coming back from injury, and if the poor goaltending and inconsistent play don’t improve the Canadiens could find themselves sinking in the division like the Penguins. I don’t see them missing the playoffs, but don’t be surprised if they slip to the 6 or 7 seed.

Buffalo, currently one of the obstacles sitting in the Pens way, are another enigma in this group. With a PP clicking at over 20% and the 2nd best PK in the EC at 86% one would think the Sabres should be higher in the division, but steady/average play in 5-on-5 and average goaltending have kept them around the 7th spot all year. The potential is there for better seeding, but I’m guessing they end up around the 7-8 spot in early April.

Toronto is a team in rebuild-mode. It’s a team with average-at-best goaltending, young forwards, and a shift in management objectives. With Brian Burke at the helm, this is a team to watch out for in the future. This isn’t, however, a team looking to make the playoffs this season.

Ottawa can’t seem to find its identity during the Bryan Murray era. This is a team in shambles, and it doesn’t seem like the end is in sight. It goes without saying, but we won’t be seeing Ottawa in the playoffs this year.

News and Notes

  • The big news from the week was the firing of Craig Hartsburg and subsequent hiring of little known Cory Clouston. Take a look at Zach Boslett’s NHL Transactions article for more details and analysis.
  • Buffalo took a step in the right direction… at least from the Penguins point of view. Anaheim scored two goals in the 3rd period to take a 3-2 win on Monday night, allowing the Pens to stay only 4 points out of 7th place.
  • Boston gets a huge shutout win over the Rangers from call-up Tuukka Rask. After Manny Fernandez tweaked his back and couldn’t go, the Bruins showed confidence in the young goaltender and he proved his worth by posting a 35 save shutout on Saturday night. Rask was sent back down to the AHL Monday night after Fernandez was cleared to play.
  • Thomas Vanek at one-point held the league lead in goal scoring, but has cooled off significantly in the last 11 games only scoring 2 goals. If the Sabres hope to make a run in the playoffs, Vanek will need to get hot again.
  • A broken hand could prevent Toronto from moving Tomas Kaberle, one of their biggest bargaining chips, at the deadline. Kaberle is out 3-4 weeks with a broken hand and teams are less willing to give up a solid draft pick/prospect package for an injured player. The Leafs are hoping Kaberle can be back in the lineup before the March 4 deadline.

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