Today in part two of my NHL Predictions we will be previewing the Atlantic Division.
Tampa Bay: 113 points
This Tampa team is loaded with the likes of Stamkos, Kucherov, and Point on offense, Hedman and McDonagh on defense, and Vasilevsky in net. They a ton of depth as well with J.T Miller, Mikhail Sergachev, and Tyler Johnson just to name a few. Many are dubbing Tampa as the new Washington Capitals, and while their lack of playoff success is apparent and troubling, their roster is arguably the most talented in hockey, top to bottom. Expect them to cruise into the playoffs.
Boston: 110 points
The Bruins have a good blend of veteran experience and young talent. Boston has a talented but aging group of veterans in Chara, Marchand, Bergeron, and Rask. The younger core of Pastrnak, McAvoy, and Krejci are on the rise as well, and should keep this well oiled machine from Boston running smoothly. Boston won their first round matchup against Toronto in 7 games as per usual, then Tampa proceeded to wipe the floor with them in the next round. This Bruins team as a whole is now more experienced and loaded for yet another playoff season. Getting past Tampa Bay will be a tall order, but they’ll certainly be more prepared than last season.
Toronto: 104 points
Arguably the biggest free agent decision in NHL history went in Toronto’s favor this summer. They landed one of the most coveted hockey free agents to ever grace the market, John Tavares. Despite that, they have no defensive depth to speak of, as Morgan Rielly is their only quality defenseman. The firepower of this offense should mask the defensive issues for Toronto until playoff time, expect the Maple Leafs to cruise into the playoffs.
Florida: 89 points
Near the end of last season, the Florida Panthers finally got their talented core of players to gel, and it nearly got them into the playoffs. Though they fell just short, there’s a lot to like about this Panthers team. Barkov, Trocheck, Huberdeau, Hoffman, and Bjugstad can all contribute at least 50 points each. The combination of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle are one of the more promising defensive pairings in the NHL, and Roberto Luongo can still hold his own in net. While there is a ton of talent on this roster, there just happens to be eight squads who are deeper and more talented than they are, so they miss the playoffs by a hair. There are still big things to look forward to in this Panthers team, and expect high quality hockey in 2019-20, but not just yet.
Last season was one the Canadiens faithful would like to soon forget. This season should still be a little bit better, but not a playoff season for Montreal. They may end up shipping out their best forward on the roster, Max Pacioretty, relatively soon. Outside of Pacioretty, Carey Price, and an aging Shea Weber, this Canadiens roster has little to no star power to speak of. It will be interesting to see if newly acquired Max Domi from Arizona can live up to the hype he was given in the desert. They shipped out reliable top 6 forward Alex Galchenyuk for him, so they are hoping that he can recapture his goal scoring ability from the 2015-16 season. And if Carey Price plays to the level that earned him the biggest goaltender contract in NHL history, this team should hang around for a while, but a lack of any defensive depth will hurt them.
Jason Botterill had a very good offseason. Dealing a solid Ryan O’Reilly for a haul of nearly ready prospect Tage Thompson, as well as nabbing Jeff Skinner from Carolina for pennies on the dollar. The grand prize of the whole offseason, though, was drafting Rasmus Dahlin. Adding a talent like Dahlin to a core of Jack Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Sam Reinhardt has this team set for a bright future. For now though, they will still struggle, but not nearly as bad as a season ago. Expect a big improvement in this Buffalo squad, even if they do miss out on postseason hockey again.
Wow this Detroit roster is a mess. Dylan Larkin is the only player that you could make an all-star case for. Captain Henrik Zetterberg is now entering the twilight of his career at 37 years of age and all their other top line players are mediocre at best. There’s almost no prospect pool to speak of either. Expect this to be the second year in a very long line of dismal seasons for the once unstoppable Red Wings empire.
You thought Detroit was bad? My goodness this might be one of the worst rosters in professional sports, let alone hockey. Outside of Erik Karlsson (who is likely being dealt soon anyway), I can only think of 3 skaters on this Senators roster who would play on another team’s top two lines. Those players being Bobby Ryan, Matt Duchene, and Mark Stone. This team has few talented players to speak of, a dry prospect pool, and an owner constantly threatening to move. Senators fans, welcome to one of the biggest clown shows in sports for the foreseeable future, may the hockey gods have mercy on you.