Seven teams in the NHL had 105 or more points last season, three of which played in the Atlantic Division. The Tampa Bay Lightning (113), Boston Bruins (112), and Toronto Maple Leafs (105) were a three headed dragon in the Eastern Conference last season. As we take another step closer to the 2018–19 NHL regular season, it’s time to take a look at how the Bruins division will look this year.
(Rankings are based on order of finish last season)
- Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts were the class of the Atlantic last season with a 54–23–5 record. With their current look they show no signs of giving up the top spot in the division. On the offensive side things they’re led by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Their defensive core includes Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and young stud Mikhail Sergachev and they’re led by Andrei Vasilevskiy in net. With the depth they contain throughout the lineup, there’s no doubt that they’re the best team in the division.
2. Boston Bruins
After a season that surprised many, the Bruins are expected to right back in the thick of things when the puck drops in October. With their mix of veteran leadership and young talent, the Bruins are viewed as a club that could see success for many years to come. They do enter the season with some question marks, especially on the defensive side of things. However, with leaders like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask on the club, expectations should be high and get fulfilled for the team this season.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs were the big winners in free agency this offseason when they signed John Tavares to a seven year deal. Tavares will add to an offense that already includes Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Patrick Marleau. The offense for Toronto shouldn’t have any issues, but the team has question marks on defense and in goal. Aside from Morgan Rielly, the Leafs lack true star power on the blueline and Frederik Andersen hasn’t fully proven himself as a goalie that can help a team get over the hump. The Leafs will no doubt be a solid club this season, however, they do have holes that need to be addressed if they want to win their first Stanley Cup since 1967.
4. Florida Panthers
The Panthers are a team to look out for this season due to their sneaky amount of depth. Aaron Ekblad, Mike Matheson, and Keith Yandle will man the blueline in front of a golatending duo of Roberto Luongo and James Reimer. Up front they’ll be led by a top six of Vincent Trocheck, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Nick Bjugstad, and Evgenii Dadonov. If you don’t know these guys yet then learn who they are because if one of the top three teams in this division falters, the Panthers will be there to pounce on their playoff spot.
5. Detroit Red Wings
I have no idea how to describe the Red Wings. They seem to be stuck in neutral. They’re sort of in a rebuild, but they keep signing older free agents like Thomas Vanek and Mike Green. They aren’t a good club and shouldn’t even sniff a playoff spot this season.
6. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens aren’t good. They’re clearly in a rebuild right now, which will lead to them losing a ton of games this season. Their captain, Max Pacioretty, is an impending free agent so he could be traded mid-season. Their leader on defense, Shea Weber, is coming off knee surgery and will miss the start of the season. The Habs are going to stink this season, which Bruins fans will love. However, they better hope the Habs aren’t bad enough to get great odds at the number one overall pick in the 2019 draft because a star lies in Jack Hughes, who’ll go first overall next June.
7. Ottawa Senators
See the Canadiens. The Senators will stink this season. They’re a complete dumpster fire of an organization at the moment. Their only hope lies on Erik Karlsson, who should be traded by the club before the club starts the season in October.
8. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are the team in the Atlantic to watch this season. They’re thin in net with Carter Hutton leading the way but outside of goaltending they’ve got a lot of intrigue. If Jack Eichel can stay healthy, he’ll be the head of an offense that includes himself, Casey Mittlestadt, Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary, and Ryan O’Reilly. On defense they’ll showcase 2018 first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, who’ll most likely play alongside Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres will have an up and down season, but there’ll be tons of excitement around the youth of the club this season.
Kevin Maggiore (@kevin_maggiore)