The NHL passed another major season milestone with the trade deadline coming and going on Friday. Also, not only is it March already but we’re five days into the month. The regular season still has about six weeks to go, but that will be gone too in the blink of an eye.
Here’s how the standings look this morning for relevant teams in the East.
This week we’re going to use this space to assess and recount the trade deadline additions, with a focus on the short-term. In the big picture, it might eventually catch up to a team if they trade all their picks away for rental players. But right in the here and now, in the crunch and with a focus on the regular season — a 2023 or 2024 first round pick isn’t going to help a team win the 2023 Stanley Cup if a team holds onto it. (Someone fwd that last sentence to Ron Hextall’s office in Cranberry). Team record in the last week also in parenthesis.
Carolina (M1: 1-1-0, added Jesse Puljujarvi, Shayne Gostisbehere): When we get to what Boston did in a little bit it will make the Hurricanes’ unsuccessful pursuit of Timo Meier look bigger. As usual in Carolina, a perfectly decent and smart deadline to pick up a couple of minor pieces. Also as usual, they don’t over-extend to make a huge play. The Canes have a good enough team where they don’t necessarily need a huge add, but then again almost all the other heavyweights didn’t either but that didn’t stop them.
New Jersey (M2: 1-0-1, added Timo Meier, Curtis Lazar): The Devils on the other hand, they went and did the damn thing, securing Meier in a trade and announcing their presence as serious contenders. After a long, slow, painful decade-long rebuild, there’s no other message to send besides: New Jersey is back, and they are for real. Only two points back of Carolina, can the Devils make a run at the division title in the last 20 games?
NY Rangers (M3: 2-2-0, added Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane, Tyler Motte): It’s Showtime on Broadway, with the addition of Kane. It’s the perfect Rangers add: glitzy, glamorous and also lacking some substance beneath the surface. That said, it doesn’t mean such a thing is all bad, but there’s still a lot to prove for NYR and Kane at this point.
Boston (A1: 4-0-0, added Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi, Garnet Hathaway): The Bruins are more loaded up than the big bad villain in Act 2 of a Marvel movie. Already the NHL’s best team this season, Orr-lov has come in and put up nine points in his first five games in Boston. Bertuzzi helps round out the forward group, with an edge no less. The salary cap should make it difficult to construct a flawless team, but Boston may have done it. Weaknesses don’t appear to exist, so good luck everyone else.
Toronto: (A2: 2-2-0 added Ryan O’Reilly, Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty, Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson): A lot of movement in Toronto. GM Kyle Dubas has a talented core but achieved no playoff success, so he’s pushed all his chips to the middle of the table to beef up his team and try to add as much size and depth as possible for a gauntlet that likely would be Tampa-Boston in the first two rounds. It will be interesting to see the chemistry that forms in the next few weeks, there’s been a ton of moving parts on this roster.
Tampa: (A3: 0-3-1, added Tanner Jeannot): Brutal week on the ice for the Lightning, which culminated in benching Stamkos-Point-Kucherov for the whole third period. Those are all proud players, and I’m sure the message sent was received. Could that be the turning point to kick their team into gear? As I wrote in a recap, with Boston taking off right from the start, Tampa has been locked in their playoff fate (a first round series with Toronto) for a long, long time. They’ve won the East three years in a row, and have had several deep playoff runs in the last decade. Regular seasons can be boring for such an accomplished team, but now it’s time to sharpen up.
NY Islanders (WC1: 2-0-1, added Pierre Engvall): The Islanders needed a week like this to put some points on the board. Almost everyone else has less games played than NYI, which means the Islanders are going to run out of track a lot quicker than everyone else. Quiet deadline for them, the big move was obviously picking up Bo Horvat in the early stages of the “deadline period” (in late January) so we’re not counting that move for this.
Pittsburgh (W2: 3-1-0, added Mikael Granlund, Nick Bonino, Dmitry Kulikov): The Pens might have saved their season on the ice, off the ice it remains to be seen if the sweeping changes made will have similar successful results. One thing we all found out this week was the very wide difference in opinion between Hockey Men and the internet when it comes to Mikael Granlund.
Buffalo (2-2-0, added Jordan Greenway, Riley Stillman): The Sabres are staying frisky but a 7-1 loss this week to Boston may have served as a warning for what the playoffs may hold if they make it. Still, after a decade of futility they would love to take the next step and quality, but overall they are a few steps away before truly belonging with the best.
Ottawa (4-0-0, added Jakob Chychrun, Patrick Brown): If this season was a horse race, the Senatrs would be the horse in the back of the pack that makes a huge run late. Will it be enough? Adding Chychrun could serve as signal boost to everyone that now is the time to compete. The Sens are a fun watch and starting to make noise, their 6-2 and 6-1 wins over Detroit this week effectively ended the competitive portion of the Red Wings’ season. How much further can these Sens go?
Florida (2-1-0, added no one): The only team to do nothing (largely for salary cap reasons), the Panthers aren’t going to get an extra boosts or new additions to help them. Instead, they’ve started Sergei Bobrovsky for now eight straight games and got some players back from injury and are going to have to hope that is enough. Points% and games played suggests it’s going to be hard to stay in front of all of PIT, OTT and BUF and Florida would need to be ahead of all three to make the playoffs.
Washington (2-1-0, added Craig Smith, Rasmus Sandin): The Caps are sellers, having raffled off Orlov, Hathaway, Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson. Only a pair of wins against bad California teams has kept them in the fringes of the playoff picture. It won’t last long, Washington’s eight-year playoff streak is fading fast - now they hope it will be a quick reload.
Here’s the Pens’ playoff odds according to the following sources/models:
The season is halfway over now, and the playoff picture is coming into focus more and more. The following models are projecting the Penguins’ playoff chances:
Ineffective Math (as of 3/4): 80.6%
The Athletic (as of 3/4): 86%
The recent four game winning streak came at the right time for Pittsburgh. Being at home for the next five, they could salt away a lot of concern in this next week against CBJ-NYI-PHI to start another little streak. That would actually require defeating the Islanders for the first time all season which has proven too much so far for the Pens.