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Atlantic Division Preview

Here’s the first in a division by division preview series for the upcoming season.  Puck drops tomorrow night (Thursday night for the B’s).

 

Montreal Canadiens

2014-2015 Record:  50-22-10-110 pts.

Regulation or OT Wins:  43

Shootout Record: 7-5

Carey Price’s unbelievable Vezina winning season lead the Habs to the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and second best record in the NHL behind the New York Rangers. Despite their regular season success,  Montreal was bounced in the Conference Semifinals by Tampa Bay. They’re returning a very similar team, with the addition of heavy RW Zack Kassian (who is suspended w/o pay at the moment for a sketchy car crash at 6 a.m.), Thomas Fleishmann, and the enigmatic, controversial Alexander Semin up front. Veteran D-Man PK Subban will follow up his Norris winning campaign with another stellar season building off the good vibes from his $10 million donation to a Montreal hospital.  But, bottom line for the Habs:  As Price goes, so goes the team.  If he is a candidate to repeat for the Vezina, the Canadiens will be in cup contention.  Without him being other-worldly however, Montreal is a vulnerable team.  Fortunately for them, Carey Price can be counted on.  Montreal finishes second in the Atlantic this season but will fall short again in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Lightning

2014-2015 Record: 50-24-8-108 pts

Regulation or OT Wins: 47

Shootout Record: 3-5

The Lightning were one of the most exciting teams to watch last year, riding a successful regular season into a deep postseason run.  Falling just short in the cup final to the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa will build off their experience and be a force in 2015-2016.  Without any major additions or subtractions this is a young team that will learn from their postseason run, and still fold in new talent (Drouin) at the same time. The hockey world is buzzing a bit about the Stamkos contract situation, but don’t count me in the crowd that thinks his play will be negatively affected.  Tampa is for real, and will win the Atlantic Division,  a real threat to repeat as Eastern Conference Champs.

Detroit Red Wings

2014-2015 Record: 43-25-14-100 pts

Regulation or OT Wins:  39

Shootout Record: 4-10

A touch and go regular season followed by another early playoff exit resulted in the Red Wings parting ways with the second coming hot commodity coach Mike Babcock.  The Red Wings have a lot of work to do to maintain their spot as 3rd in the division and out of a wild card spot or worse.  Rookie Dylan Larkin could be starting the year alongside Henrik Zetterberg which will provide some offensive fireworks at the very least.  At the end of the day however, despite the roster stability this is an organization in transition.  Red Wings could miss the playoffs this year (which has been predicted by some idiot each year for the past 24 years to no avail).

Ottawa Senators

2014-2015 Record: 43-26-13-99 pts

Regulation or OT Wins:  37

Shootout Record: 6-7

A tale of two seasons.  Couldn’t have started worse, couldn’t have ended better.  Well it could have, they could have survived the first round of the playoffs, but you know, way to get there!  Ottawa to me is a huge question mark.  Without the emergence of Andrew Hammond (who fell back to earth as quickly as he shot into stardom), the Senators aren’t even dreaming of the postseason and the Bruins make it to the tourney.  They have a lot of talent (particularly once and future Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson), but last season’s success is unsustainable.  The Sens will still be a fun team to watch, but they’ll ultimately fall back to earth this season and miss the playoffs.

Boston Bruins

2014-2015 Record: 41-27-14-96 pts

Regulation or OT Wins:  37

Shootout Record: 4-10

We all know what happened.  A disappointing season that resulted in a major organizational shift.  Unlike the teams above, the B’s are the first team on this list to undergo major roster changes in addition to administrative corrections.  Lucic, Hamilton, Riley Smith, (Marc Savard’s Money), Greg Campbell, Daniel Paille out.  Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Joonas Kemppainen, Matt Irwin, Colin Miller (we think) in.  I’m excited to see what some of the new guys will do, but I’m more excited to watch the development of young players who have been stalled by the organization’s commitment to veterans of equal or lesser skill.  The Bruins will not be winning the Stanley Cup, but we’ll know if they are on to something if they can win a playoff spot while giving meaningful minutes to previously untested, young talent.  The Bruins, if only by relying on all-world goaltender Tuukka Rask, will overcome their severe lack of defensive help and finish 3rd in the Atlantic, cementing a Montreal v. Boston first round matchup.  (Quick Note: B’s played Montreal 4 times last year, each game on the second night of a back to back.  They got swept.  This year they’ll be fresh, play them 5 times, and won’t have Milan Lucic cup checking losing his shit every six seconds.)

Toronto Maple Leafs

2014-2015 Record: 30-44-8-68 pts

Regulation or OT Wins:  25

Shootout Record: 5-5

When trading the untradeable (David Clarkson) is the highlight of your year, things probably didn’t go well.  Add in the draft disappointment when the lottery had them on the outside looking in at the McEichel sweepstakes, and these are dark times.  With that said the Maple Leafs join the Bruins in an organizational makeover:  Mike Babcock joining the artist formerly known as Shannaban, who were later joined by long time Devils GM Lou Lamiorello.  Phil Kessel and his favorite hot dog cart shipped out to Pittsburgh.  The addition of Michael Grabner will help spark some offense, but they haven’t even sniffed at replacing Kessel’s production.  This is a full on rebuild, and Toronto will be in the hunt for 2016’s likely first overall draft pick Austin Matthews.

Buffalo Sabres

2014-2015 Record: 30-44-8-68 pts

Regulation or OT Wins:  25

Shootout Record: 5-5

Last season isn’t worth mentioning, other than as a landmark when referencing the end of the dark days for the Sabres franchise.  Buffalo will be competing for a wild-card spot, and it has less to do with #2 overall pick Jack Eichel as it does with new additions Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Zach Bogosian.  The YUGE question mark in net (Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson) coupled with an improved but still flawed D-corps will prevent Buffalo from surging ahead of the Bruins (or the Red Wings), but I sense the start of something good.

Florida Panthers

2014-2015 Record: 38-29-15-91 pts

Regulation or OT Wins:  30

Shootout Record: 8-10

One of the first games I recapped for Ray’s Army last year was a November tilt between Florida in Boston.  In it, I hypothesized that the Panthers were going to be sneaky OK.  Finishing 8 points out of the playoffs for a franchise that has been reeling for years is probably the definition of OK.  They had an incredible record in 1 goal games thanks to Roberto Luongo’s play in net, but this is a team that struggled offensively, a net -17 in goal differential where they allowed the same number of goals in the regular season, 211, as Eastern Conference champs Tampa Bay.  They’ve swapped Jimmy Hayes for Reilly Smith, and found themselves a nice little player in Aaron Ekblad.  They’ll improve even more this season, but after 82 games they’ll be on the outside looking in falling just short of the final wild card spot.


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Lifelong Bruins fan whose hockey career peaked in high school. Now a hockey dad.


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