The Boston Bruins gave a first-hand lesson during the 2011-2012 season to the rest of the division on how to go about claiming a top seed in the conference. The big bad Bruins were just that, batting aside the competition with relative ease and securing more than a third of their total points from the 24 games played in the division.
In what can only be described as a savage beating, the Bruins posted a horrifying 11-1-0 record against teams from Ontario. They went a perfect 6-0-0 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, outscoring them 36-10 in the process and beat up on the Ottawa Senators by winning five of six, outscoring them 22-13. Buffalo fared a little better, winning two of six, one in a shootout, and scoring 16 goals while giving up the same amount. Montreal actually surrendered the least amount of points to the division leaders by posting two regulation wins and allowing 12 goals against while filling the net 12 times themselves.
Their final numbers against division rivals was a dominant 19-4-1 record for a total of 39 points out of a possible 48 points. They scored 86 times against their division rivals while allowing 51 goals.
The Buffalo Sabres were the next most successful team against their divisional rivals. Buffalo’s punishment was saved for Montreal, going 5-0-1 in the season series while scoring 17 goals and allowing a frugal 9 goals. The Sabres were a .500 team against Ontario going 3-3-0 against Toronto, scoring 19 goals and allowing 20 goals while posting a 3-1-2 record against Ottawa, scoring 15 goals and allowing the same amount.
Buffalo went .500 against the division but going 12-5-7 they secured those extra points to pad their points total by season’s end to finish up with a total of 31 points. Their goal differential was also solid as they scored 67 times and allowed 50 goals.
The Montreal Canadiens were in the middle of the pack in terms of success within the division. Their triumphs were reserved for the Ontario teams, going 4-2-0 against Ottawa, scoring 17 times while allowing 10 goals against and edging out Toronto by going 3-2-1, outscoring them 17 to 12. Montreal put up a fight against Boston, as mentioned above, but were destroyed by Buffalo and the impenetrable Ryan Miller (at least against the Habs).
The Canadiens finished with a 10-11-3 record against divisional competition, scoring 55 goals and allowing 49 goals. They finished with 23 points, less than half the points available to them.
Ottawa succeeded in proving that you can be a lacklustre team against your division and still make the playoffs. The Senators were mediocre against north east rivals. They were beaten miserably by the Bruins, and struggled mightily against the Canadiens. They had a close season series with the Sabres and went .500 against the Leafs, posting a 3-3-0 record while scoring 17 goals and allowing 20 against.
And finally we come to the Toronto Maple Leafs. What killed Toronto was the merciless whipping they got at the hands of the Bruins. Taking absolutely zero points from a divisional rival, while getting an average of 6 goals per game scored against, is discouraging to say the least. They were a .500 team the rest of the way against the other three rivals but Boston just beat the hell out of them, and then some. It had shades of Montreal cleaning out Boston in all eight games when they won the conference a few years ago.
Toronto went 9-14-1 in the division, good enough for 19 points out of 48 points. They scored 62 goals and were in turn lit up 89 times. Goaltending might be an issue here. Maybe.
And that wraps up the wrap up. Boston ran away with the division crown on the back of absolute domination. Buffalo showed that division success doesn’t necessarily guarantee playoff entry and Ottawa proved their point. Montreal and Toronto will need more than just divisional success to reach the playoffs, something both teams will be addressing in the offseason.
One thing that has become painfully obvious is the need to figure out a way to beat Boston. Collectively beating them five times in 24 tries will need to be remedied next season.