The Hero We Deserve

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THE SHOOTERS PERSPECTIVE

“Because he's the hero the NHL deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll criticize him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” - Every NHL Player when speaking about Alex Ovechkin.

The NHL All-Star game has already become the “Some Stars” game as the NHL battles to appease every fan base by adding at least one player so every team is represented at a game that’s viewership likely rivals that of a Florida Panthers vs. Carolina Hurricanes game on a Wednesday afternoon in July. The All-Star game has already lost some of its luster and after some failed attempts to jump start the game, the players draft and now 3 on 3 hockey, the game continues to flounder. 

Now not only is the league trying to force players to compete in a game that means less than nothing they’re trying to hide the meaninglessness behind a $90,000 cheque to each player of the winning team. The game at this point is a joke, so much so, that after fans voted John Scott into the game the league has done everything in their power to ensure that never happens again. To add insult to injury the league has now mandated if you choose to miss the “most important” game of the season you’ll be forced to serve a mandatory one-game suspension. Now just imagine if the NHL was as concerned with player safety as they are with the All-Star game. 

Luckily for every NHL player, Alex Ovechkin stepped up and decided for himself that the All-Star game didn’t matter. Alex decided his quest for a second Stanley Cup was far more important than a single exhibition game. Alex decided that he’d rather set at home and get some much needed rest rather than be paraded around by the NHL through interviews, Skills Competitions and finally the All-Star game itself. 

This is hopefully a step in the right direction for all players in the league and hopefully it empowers other players to make a similar decision. The All-Star Game used to be viewed as an honour where the best players in the game got a chance to play head-to-head in an actual hockey game, but now we get a chance to watch a 3-on-3 skills competition. 

How can we even consider this an All-Star Game when players like Brayden Point, Morgan Reilly, Mitch Marner, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jeff Skinner and Mark Stone aren’t on an ASG roster? And that’s just the Atlantic Division. This problem is extrapolated over the rest of the league and even goes on to potentially cost players like Patrik Laine a significant bonus of almost $200,000 on his ELC. 

So how can we fix NHL All-Star weekend? 

First off let’s scrap individual representatives from each NHL team. Who cares if each team is represented? How can a goalie with a save percentage of .909 get the nod over a guy with a .920 only because his team doesn’t have anyone else? Let’s get the best players in the game on the ice and represent the game for what it actually is. 

So, thank you Alex Ovechkin for being the Hero the NHL deserves for standing up to a game that just isn’t worth your time or energy anymore.

A Flawed System

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THE SHOOTERS PERSPECTIVE

View From The Stands Vol. 5

It is a widely accepted notion that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all professional sports, but thanks to the flawed NHL playoff structure these troubles can be compounded for teams that play in any of the tougher divisions. This year that division appears to be the Atlantic, where 3 of the top 4 teams in the NHL currently reside. Before the season began no one would have batted an eye if you’d said the Lightning and Maple Leafs would be leading the race for the President’s Trophy, but with the emergence of the Buffalo Sabres as a potential powerhouse things get slightly more complicated. 

The NHL implemented the Wild Card system in the playoffs to help and generate some divisional rivalries. In some cases I guess it has worked, but in other cases I’d ask if the Wild Card system has just created a flawed system that often rewards underperforming teams with beneficial matchups and costs certain market much deserved home playoff games. 

If the playoffs started today 5 teams from the Atlantic Division would find themselves in a playoff position and it would be the Boston Bruins would find themselves in the most advantageous position. Under the current system the playoff brackets would look as follows: 


Tampa Bay (43) vs. Montreal (31)
Toronto (40) vs. Buffalo (38)

Washington (33) vs. Boston (32) 
Columbus (32) vs. New York Islanders (31) 

Under the current system the Bruins could avoid the top 3 teams in the East until the Conference Finals as Tampa Bay (1st), Toronto (2nd), Buffalo (3rd) and Montreal (7th) would be forced to fight it out for a single spot before a bracket crossover, while Boston would have the opportunity to play against the 4th, 5th and 8th seeded teams in the conference. This system not only rewards the Bruins for their Wild Card seeding, but also punishes teams like the Lighting, Maple Leafs and Sabres for their superior play. 

Under the previous system the playoffs would look as follows 

Tampa Bay (1st) vs. New York Islanders (8th)
Washington (4th) vs. Montreal (7th) 
Toronto (3rd) vs. Boston (6th) 
Buffalo (4th) vs. Columbus (5th) 


Not only does the new playoff structure cost some teams advantageous match-ups, but it also punishes teams like Buffalo and rewards Columbus with Home Ice Advantage being lost and gained due to the current structure. 

It’s hard to believe that finishing 4th in your division could ever lead to the easiest route to a Stanley Cup, but that’s the system the NHL currently employs. There has to be a better solution that rewards performance accordingly, doesn’t there? What do you think? What suggestions do you have to fix this broken system or would you just keep it the same?

Shea Weber: THE RETURN

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THE SHOOTER’S PERSPECTIVE

View From The Stands Vol. 4

It’s been 346 days since Shea Weber laced his skates, taped his stick and pulled on the bleu blanc et rouge. He played almost 23 minutes that night in a 3-0 shutout loss against the Ottawa Senators in the NHL 100 Classic Outdoor game at TD Place. Fans weren’t shocked to see Weber shutdown at the time as it was public knowledge that he was missing practice due to a lower-body injury. What did seem to shock fans was how long his injury seemed to drag on until he was eventually shut down for the remainder of the season when it was announced he would be having season ending tendon surgery. 

At the time of his injury Shea Weber had been playing exactly how the Canadiens had imagined when they’d acquired him from the Nashville Predators. Weber had already amassed 6 goals and 10 assists in 26 games, with 5 of those points being scored on the powerplay while adding 1 assist on the penalty kill. Weber was the stud defenseman the Habs needed averaging 25:21 seconds per night and over 3 minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. 

Canadiens fans dealt with the blow in stride and were rewarded when they moved up one spot in the NHL draft lottery and acquired Jesperi Kotkaniemi 3rd overall. The team’s fans were already starting to think about the start of the upcoming season and the prospect of their newly drafted player joining a lineup with a healthy Carey Price and returning Shea Weber, but not so fast. On July 5th news began to break that Shea Weber’s knee injury was worse than initially thought and he’d require an additional surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Weber was expected to miss 5-6 months and wasn’t expected to return to the lineup until mid-December. This had sports writers writing the Canadiens off before the season even began, but that’s why teams play the games. Rumours of the Canadiens demise seemed to be greatly exaggerated as they currently find themselves sitting in the final Wild Card spot with 27 points. 

Tonight we will finally see the return of big number 6 to the Canadiens’ lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes with a chance to open up a 4 point gap in the Wild Card Race. If you could write a script for Weber’s return this would be it and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. The Canadiens are 0-2-2 in their last 4 games and 3-4-3 in their last 10 and are searching for a shot in the arm to get them rolling. These are the exact type of situations Marc Bergevin imagined Shea Weber would shine in when he dealt for the veteran defenseman. 

The Canadiens have given up 4 or more goals 10 times since October 25th and are obviously hoping Weber can step in and help shore up their defense. To make room for Weber’s return yesterday the Canadiens waived Karl Alzner and today assigned him to Laval of the AHL. To start the season the Habs have struggled on the power play, currently sitting 30th in the league sitting at a dismal 14.9%. Claude Julien must be salivating at the opportunity to add Weber and his power play altering slap shot back into his lineup. Weber should also offer some assistance to the Canadiens 16th ranked Penalty Kill that is sitting at 79.3% success rate. 

If Weber can manage to stay healthy and stay in the lineup he has the ability to provide some much needed veteran leadership to a team who has all the tools to compete for a Wild Card position. Now we are left with a handful of questions that will soon be answered.

Is Weber the piece the Canadiens need to get them over the hump and back into the playoffs? 

How will Weber’s surgically repaired knee and foot hold up against NHL talent? 

Can Weber’s return help Carey Price return to being the best goaltender in the world? 

One question was answered when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was asked how it felt to be in the crosshairs of Weber’s slapshot when he answered, “I almost peed in my pants.” 

Hopefully for Habs fans, Weber will have other players almost peeing their pants for years to come.

T-Minus 5 Days

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THE SHOOTERS PERSPECTIVE

View From The stands Vol 3.

As I sit to write this article we are 5 days away from the deadline for William Nylander to agree to a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs or any of the other 30 NHL teams. At this point it’s hard to imagine that any of the other 30 teams are willing to offer Nylander a contract that would cost them draft pick compensation, the time for that has come and gone. Now we are left with four scenarios, all of which I will breakdown below, but first let’s look at the player. 

William Nylander is a 22 year old former 8th overall pick, who represented the shift in philosophy for a Maple Leafs team who were churning their tires trapped in a stretch of mediocrity that started with the implementation of the NHL salary cap. Nylander was a player whose game was based around his skill and talent; a stark contrast compared to the days of truculence and tenacity that had cursed the Leafs for years. 

When Nylander transitioned to the North American game he continued to shine scoring 77 points in just 75 games. Willy made the jump to the NHL in the spring of 2016 and managed 13 points in 22 games. That marked the end of Nylander’s stay in the minors. This was a kid whose skill shined through at every level and after the Leafs were lucky enough to draft Auston Matthews 1st overall, Nylander was one of the biggest beneficiaries. Riding shotgun alongside Matthews on the Maple Leafs’ topline, Nylander managed to put up matching 61 point seasons. 

Now the Leafs find themselves in a tricky situation, with both Matthews and Marner needing new contracts this summer and having signed John Tavares to a 7 year $77 million contract. Fans everywhere immediately began to chime in claiming the Leafs certainly wouldn’t be able to keep all four of these major pieces. The Leafs’ rookie General Manager though immediately tried to remove some fuel from the fire when he stated, “We can and we will” when he was asked about signing all three players coming off their rookie deals. 

“We can and we will.” 

Those five words seem to have been easier said than done. As we roll closer to the December 1st deadline we find ourselves with four possible scenarios. 

Let Him Sit

No Restricted Free Agent has missed an entire season since Michael Peca who held out the entire 2000-2001 season for the Buffalo Sabres. Peca was later traded to the New York Islanders for Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. Out of the three scenarios I’ll outline this as the scenario I find least likely. 

How Does This Benefit Player: Flat out, it doesn’t. Sure, William could sit the season and find himself a job playing in the KHL, but this doesn’t help him progress with his NHL career and playing overseas isn’t going to do anything to increase his value to NHL teams. The Leafs will retain his rights in this situation and he’s no closer to unrestricted free agency than he was two months ago. The best case scenario for Nylander in this situation would be a team with expiring cap space MIGHT be willing to part ways with some additional assets and sign him to an offer sheet, but there is no guarantee that the Leafs wouldn’t match this deal to prove a point. 

How Does This Benefit the Team: This might take some spotlight off the team and could potentially provide Kyle Dubas some additional credibility in the future, but this doesn’t make his team better. This move simply pushes the situation to the offseason when Kyle and the Leafs will be looking to put pen to paper for their two other Restricted Free Agents. This isn’t a win for either party and should be the last resort if the team and player can’t find a reasonable resolution or receive proper compensation on the trade front. 

Bridge Deal 

Sometimes betting on yourself is the safest bet a player can make or sometimes it blows up in your face. This is a situation where you need to sit back and really think about what’s best for both the team and the player. If you’re the player, can you outperform your contract and prove that you deserve the long term high dollar contract? Or do you end up coming up short, and costing yourself millions? For a player like Nylander you’d have to imagine there is more reward than risk, but what if he were to end up like Conor Sheary? After scoring 53 points in 61 games, he signed a 3 year $9 million deal only to watch his numbers decrease to 30 points in 79 games last season.

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How Does This Benefit the Player: A bridge deal simply put is the “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” contract, it’s a players chance to show the team that he’s worth every penny he was asking for and more. This contract might be the perfect compromise for both player and team. Two years at around $5 million would give Nylander two more years to showcase his talents on Matthews’ wing and proving to management that he is worth his so-called asking price of $8 million per season. 

How Does This Benefit the Team: A two-year deal puts the Leafs into a much more advantageous position with the salary cap. The cap is likely to rise over the next two seasons and with the possible addition of a team in Seattle, you can only expect it to continue to climb and at that point the Leafs would also be out from under the $6.25 million owed to Patrick Marleau. A bridge deal on a cap friendly term might be the best case scenario for the Leafs. As they’d then have the ability to have a larger sample size of the player, while also having the option to move the player while having the upper hand over other teams looking to acquire him. 

Trade Him 

Sometimes a relationship sours and there is no coming back from it, especially when money is involved. There is a reason that teams and players both hate going to arbitration and that’s because sometimes when you open the door you don’t like what’s standing on the other side. That is also true when it comes to contract negotiations. There are plenty of examples of players who’ve been dealt after some difficult contract negotiations including Ryan O’Reilly, most recently, who found his way out of Colorado a couple seasons after signing an offer sheet with the Calgary Flames. 

How Does This Benefit the Player: A trade would offer William the opportunity to go to the market where he could be regarded as the star player and might even offer him the opportunity to become the star center which he has longed to be. With the depth down the middle in Toronto it’s obvious Nylander won’t get the chance to play center or be the star of the team as he’s overshadowed by Matthews, Marner and Tavares. Going to another market would allow Nylander to be “the guy” and possibly capitalize on all those endorsement offers that go along with being the star in the market. 

How Does This Benefit the Team: The Leafs are considered by many the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, but the team still has some glaring errors. Although the Leafs’ defense has outperformed most expectations, there still seems to be a hole on the right side of their defense and the lack of some physicality on their 4th line. Dealing Nylander might be the best chance the Leafs have to find the missing piece of the puzzle to try and end their Stanley Cup drought. As a team, they’ve managed to have proven that Nylander is a complimentary piece of their puzzle and they’ve managed to excel without him. Combined with the emergence of Kasperi Kapanen, you’d have to imagine Kyle Dubas is more than willing to pull the trigger if the right deal becomes available. 

Long Term Contract

It’s hard to imagine that both team and player could have come this far and still might end up agreeing on a deal that they should have been able to hash out earlier in the offseason, but it still might happen. If the rumours circling the internet are true, that deal could end up being in the six year type window and with so many comparables you’d have to imagine it would end up in the $6-7 million range. 

How Does This Benefit the Player: In a lot of ways this probably doesn’t benefit Nylander, because its hard to imagine that Kyle Dubas is willing to cave after holding out all these months. If Nylander walks away from these negotiations with a deal under $7 million iit would be hard to consider that a success for he and his agent. This offer does provide Nylander stability and puts him on a roster that should contend for a Stanley Cup for years to come, but might not offer him the control he’d like as he won’t be entitled to any no trade or no movement clauses for the first few years of his contract. 

How Does This Benefit the Team: If the Leafs are able to lock Nylander into a long-term contract that is under $6.5 million per season this could be considered a resounding success for the Maple Leafs and doing so closer to the December 1st deadline offers the Leafs cap savings in years 2 and beyond. This negotiation would also prove that Kyle Dubas is the right man for the job and Toronto, and would set a precedent for the other young RFA on the team. 

My Guess 

A week ago if you’d have asked me I would have told you I’d expect Nylander to be traded, but as the deadline comes closer I have shifted my mentality slightly. I still believe there is a chance Willy has played his last game in Toronto, but I am leaning more and more towards Kyle Dubas signing William Nylander to a long term deal that sets the Leafs up offensively for at least the next 5 seasons. 

All I know is hopefully by Saturday at 5 pm we don’t have more questions than answers.

The Hot Seats Hot and Getting Hotter 

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THE SHOOTERS PERSPECTIVE

View from the Stands Vol. 2.


With the NHL season almost two months old we begin to approach the so-called ‘point of no return’ and as we near American Thanksgiving we begin to get a clearer picture of what the playoffs may look like in April. Historically approximately 78% of teams in a playoff spot by Thursday November 22nd will find themselves preparing for the post season come April. This is the time of year when teams on the outside looking in make their moves to try and creep towards any spots that might become available. 

We are still early in the NHL season, but we’ve already seen two teams try and shake things up as the LA Kings relieved John Stevens of his duties after a 4-8-1 start. The Kings have struggled mightily to score goals to start off the season as they’re averaging only 2 goals for per game. The Kings attempted to add some much needed speed to their lineup last week as they made a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and added Carl Hagelin in exchange for 26 year old Tanner Pearson. Hagelin has yet to find his way to the scoresheet in his first two games with his new teams as both the Kings and Pens try to work their way out of the basement of their respective divisions. 

Two days after the Kings named Willie Desjardin interim coach the Blackhawks followed suit and tried to right their own ship by firing Joel Quenneville, who led the team to nine playoff appearances and three Stanley Cups in his ten years with the organization. The Blackhawks then named Jeremy Colliton the 38th head coach in franchise history. Unfortunately for the Hawks they haven’t found new life under their new coach as they’ve started off his tenure going 2-2-2, while scoring 2 or less goals in four of those six games. 

Now let’s take a look at some other potential coaches who might find themselves on the hot seat while their organizations try and find a way to fix what ails them. There isn’t an exact science to predicting these sort of things, but numbers speak for themselves and as Josh Donaldson would say like the MLB the NHL “Isn't the try league. This is the get it done league."

Might Go 
Pittsburgh Penguins - Mike Sullivan 
This is an obvious case of what have you done for me lately and when you have a roster that consists of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang you expect results. This season though the Penguins haven’t found much success, and while a lot of these struggles can be attributed to Matt Murray’s GAA of 4.08 and S% of .877, but if things don’t turn around quickly Mike Sullivan could find himself on the outside looking in. Some may point to the two Stanley Cups that Sullivan has brought to Pittsburgh as something that may provide him a bit of a reprieve, but the core of this team isn’t getting any younger and with the window for success on its way down, you’d have to imagine Jim Rutherford is keeping all options open. 

Philadelphia Flyers - Dave Hakstol 
You can’t completely blame a coach for the struggles of his goaltenders and that might be the only reason Dave Hakstol will end up getting a pass, but from a city that boos Santa Claus you have to understand results are all that matters. In his first and third season Hakstolmanaged to lead the Flyers to the playoffs, but made first round exits in both postseason appearances. Now with the Flyers sitting five points out of the playoffs and Michael Neuvirth continuing to be a brittle as a cracker the Flyers management might be looking to find a spark in some other way. Luckily for Hakstol with both the Rangers and Islanders having surprising starts there might be a chance the Flyers can find themselves back in a playoff spot in the wide-open Metro. 

Should Go 
Detroit Red Wings - Jeff Blashill 
Jeff Blashill was supposed to be the heir apparent to Mike Babcock, the guy who was going to step in and maintain the Red Wings’ playoff streak which stood at 24 years when Blashill took over. Blashill was able to maintain that streak for his first season, but he’s missed the playoffs in both of the last two seasons. The Red Wings sit five points out of a wild card position and six points out of 3rd place in the Atlantic Division. The general consensus in most NHL circles is the Red Wings will end the season in a lottery position and will likely be picking at the top of the 2019 draft, but the next question becomes whether or not Blashill is the guy to lead the future of the Red Wings as they eventually look to return to the postseason. 

St. Louis Blues - Mike Yeo (article written before announcement this morning)
Mike Yeo might be a victim of his own success after starting his career with the Blues off with a 22-8-2 record it’s all been downhill from there. After trading away Paul Stastny at last years deadline the Blues went out this off season and shored up themselves at center by acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and signing Tyler Bozak. Unfortunately these upgrades haven’t panned out and St. Louis finds themselves in a position where Buffalo owns their first round pick, with top 10 protection. At this juncture the worst case scenario for the Blues might be finishing in that 11-15 position where they miss the playoffs and lose their draft pick. If Yeo can’t find some way to get the most out of this lineup then maybe Doug Armstrong will find someone who can. 

Have to Go 
Anaheim Ducks - Randy Carlyle 
Maybe lightning will strike twice? That was the hope in Anaheim when they decided to bring Randy Carlyle back for a second stint as Ducks’ head coach, but even though he’s experienced some regular season success he hasn’t been able to get the Ducks over the hump. This season has been a real struggle in Anaheim and considering that Corey Perry hasn’t played a single game due to injury that isn’t a surprise. The Ducks are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games but they appear to be fading fast and for a team that some people view as rich defensively they’ve struggled with a -17 goal differential. It’s hard to believe Carlyle has the ability to adapt to today’s NHL and in my opinion it’s only a matter of time before the Ducks show Randy the door...again. 

Ottawa Senators - Guy Boucher 
Things are bad in Ottawa, how bad? So bad I’m not even going to make a joke about how bad they are. Things at this point probably aren’t as bad on the ice as many fans had thought but the off ice issues have continued. Senators players were recently caught on tape bashing a member of Boucher’s coaching staff and truth be told Boucher himself should be bashing Martin Raymond’s penalty kill units, which are currently sitting 30th in the NHL at 68.8%. Guy Boucher might not be completely to blame as much as you should blame the inept ownership and management, but the players look like, and sound like, they’ve tuned out the coaching staff and if you don’t respect a coach or his systems then he’s already lost the battle. Guy Boucher is living on borrowed time and if it wasn’t for Eugene Melnyk likely not wanting to pay another coach odds are Boucher would already be towing the unemployment line. 

Should Already be Gone
Edmonton Oilers - Peter Chiarelli & Todd McLellan
This doesn’t fall entirely on the coach and even though Todd McLellan deserves to be shown the door a lot of this falls on Peter Chiarelli. It’s not all bad for Chiarelli though as it’s likely he’ll receive some votes for General Manager of the Year for the work he’s done to help rebuild the New York Islanders. The Oilers find themselves in cap trouble already and seem to be wasting what could be the best years of Connor McDavid’s career. How is this McLellan’s fault though you might ask? There have been plenty of times this season when Milan Lucic rides shotgun with McDavid as a warning to other teams not to mess with his star player, which is great in theory, but Lucic has shown with his shooting percentage of 6.5% over the last two seasons that he isn’t going to provide any finish for the best player in the league. McLellan also found himself out coached Saturday night when his Oilers gave up 4 unanswered goals to lose the Battle of Alberta. At this point I even hesitate to call them “his” Oilers as it times it truly seems like this team has tuned out their coach. 

Was your team’s coach on the list? Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss someone? I’d love to hear from you.

VIEW FROM THE STANDS: How The East Was Won

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THE SHOOTERS PERSPECTIVE

I think it’s fair to say that most people when asked who would finish in the top three seeds in the Atlantic would answer, Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto, in some combination or another and up until now they’d be right. Most people viewed these teams as almost interchangeable and felt the division could probably go in any of those three directions. Going into Friday nights action the Lightning were first, Maple Leafs sat second and Bruins held onto the final divisional playoff position. 

Sometimes though things change. 

Thursday news began to trickle out that the Lightning starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had sustained a fractured foot and although these were just reports this seemed like a definite setback for the Lightning. Last season Vasilevskiy finished third and voting for the Vezina Trophy and was off to an impressive start sporting a 9-3-0-1 record, a goals against average of 2.30 and a save percentage of .927 and one shutout. Without confirmation on the severity of the injury things were up in the air until it began to be reported Friday that Vasilevskiy would be missing the next four to six weeks. That time frame could take Vasilevskiy out of the lineup for approximately 15-25 games and the other question becomes once his foot is fully healed, how long will it take before he is back in playing shape? 

While things took a turn for the worse for the Lightning they weren’t the only Atlantic Division team to suffer another blow to their lineup. Wednesday night in Denver the Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara suffered what appeared to be a significant injury to his left knee while trying to engage with Carl Soderberg. If this injury is severe and Chara were to miss an extended period of time this could prove detrimental to the Bruins’ playoff chances. Zdeno Chara now joins Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Millar as Bruins’ defenders who are currently injured and out of the lineup.

These injuries have obvious implications for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins’ season, but what implications could they have for the rest of the Atlantic Division. This season we’ve already seen the Toronto Maple Leafs withstand an extended absence from their franchise player, Auston Matthews, and being without unsigned RFA William Nylander. We’ve also watched the Buffalo Sabres led by a healthy Jack Eichel and a motivated Jeff Skinner surge into playoff contention. At the end of play Friday night the Maple Leafs found themselves leading the Atlantic Division, while the Buffalo Sabres had moved into third place with a record of 6-2-2 in their last ten games. 

With parity in the NHL at an all-time high, you have to imagine there are a handful of teams looking to jump all over this opportunity and gain ground in what could be the most tightly contested race in the NHL. With only six points separating the first wildcard position and the sixteenth position in the East, these playoff spots are anyone’s for the taking. 

Injuries are a part of every season, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out and if any team can take advantage of the bad luck; or will the Bruins and Lightning manage to make the best of a bad situation?