Before I hear it, here it is, Atlantic playoff teams, think you can do better. Shoot it at me, I love a nice back and forth conversation going at each other’s necks about hockey.
NO MONTREAL NO PROBLEM
Ok, Montreal isn’t in here, yeah I know and I really don’t think they’ll make it next year. So what they added Karl Alzner, he’s a solid defensive defenseman but what else can he bring to the team? Carey Price is a great goalie don’t get me wrong but if he is not on fire every single night this team is not too scary and after losing Alexander Radulov that doesn’t help. Adding Jonathan Drouin is a good addition but he’s young and needs the right tools around him to perform if he’s not with Max Pacioretty than I’m not too sure what Drouin will bring to Montreal. Granted Montreal has no solid center so that’s another reason to turn your head on these guys, Galchenyuk has been facing Montreal management issues, Gallagher has not been able to stay healthy if his life depended on it and is not that great anyway, and their #1 center last year was Phillip Danault. I don’t think Montreal has the tools to have another successful season and make the playoffs especially since Tampa Bay is back and ready to take over the Atlantic again. Don’t be surprised if Montreal doesn’t make the playoffs next season, just saying.
Eastern Conference; Atlantic Division- TOR, OTT, TBL, BOS
TOR(40-27-15, 95 pts)– Toronto I was honestly 50/50 about, although they had an unbelievable season last year and much of their roster stayed the same, along with a few veteran pieces. At some point, I wanted to say the sophomore curse for Auston Matthews, but I think the kid is just too good, along with having some great pieces around him. Same goes for William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Then somewhere I wanted to say last year was a lucky one, the Lightning and Panthers not having great years really helped Toronto bounce back easier. But again Toronto was one of the most exciting teams to watch, they truly do have the talent. And with three veteran pieces added to the mix, this team will only be better. Anytime you get a future hall of famer forward Patrick Marleau to help Matthews and the other young guys grow is a major plus. Not to mention Matthews Calder year, almost cracking 70 points and 50 goals are remarkable there’s no reason to say he won’t be doing that for the next ten years. Throw in Nazem Kadri’s career year and bounce back season into the conversation as well just adds to Toronto’s reason for success down the road. Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk and a strong, if not the best fourth line in hockey. A young and successful defense, and if Frederick Anderson stays a float and is not inconsistent Toronto will crack 100 points and make the playoffs again next season.
OTT(44-28-10, 98 pts)– Ottawa was another team I was on the fence about, either them or Boston are the two I can see not making the playoffs next season, but after Ottawa knocked off the Rangers and caused the Penguins some headaches in the Eastern Conference final I had to say this team can do it again. Especially with Craig Andersson in net, and Erik Karlsson on the blueline. Karlsson was one of the biggest playoff stories, he averaged nearly a point a game and almost 30 minutes a game while playing with an Achilles and ankle injury. Despite the other tools Ottawa has on defense, they do not line up quite terribly with other teams in the league. Plus Ottawa has a ton of weapons on the front with Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Dzingel, Derick Brassard, all these guys have the ability to score goals and perform consistently game in and game out. The good thing about Ottawa is they don’t have a “go-to” guy but they have about eight guys that can score and produce points on any given night. Given Anderson stays healthy, Karlsson is back 100% by the start of the season, Ottawa will make another run at the playoffs next season.
TBL(42-30-10, 94 pts)- Tampa Bay has to be itching for the season to start, after missing the playoffs last season following two very successful seasons must be a huge punch in the throat for the Lightning. Barring Steven Stamkos was out for the whole season and they had some consistency trouble up front, the Lightning should be healthy come October and ready to make another deep playoff run. Perhaps the year off helped the team get healthy, after two deep playoff runs, the Lightning players were banged. A full year of recovery and maybe the Lightning will have a chance to capture Lord Stanley. It’s difficult not to include Tampa Bay next year, with players like Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman these guys are some of the best players in the league. Kucherov had a phenomenal season last year with 40 goals, 45 assists and 85 points, mind you, Stamkos wasn’t beside him either. With a few added veteran presences in Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz gives this team both forward and defensive depth they needed. Tampa Bay has a ton of tools on the front end, the defensive side of things is not great but Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi and Victor Hedman can hold down the fort for Tampa Bay. The other situation here is the goalie one for Tampa Bay, Andrei Vasilevskiy will more than likely get the starting job, but how will the 22-year-old hold up taking on full time starting minutes now? If he doesn’t Peter Budaj will step in and after what Budaj did last season I think he’s capable of handling full time minutes. Come playoffs though this goalie situation will be a fun one for Tampa Bay. Barring Stralman and Stamkos stay healthy all season and Tampa Bay does not play too inconsistent they’ll be back in the playoffs once again.
BOS(44-31-7, 95 pts)– This team I would not be surprised to see bomb out and finish 6th in their division or have a complete season and make the playoffs. Again this team has some tools, the experience and a favorable division to make a playoff push but at the same time they could easily be a fluke next year and post a below or a little above .500 record. Although Patrice Bergeron had a terribly disappointing season last year, it was said he had played through a rough injury all year. Tuukka Rask at 30-years-old had a pretty good year for himself despite an array of problems on the front and back end of things for Boston last season. Rask posted a career high 37 wins and 8 shutouts, Rask already captured a Stanley Cup and has proven to be an elite goalie in the league, given his defense stands tall in front of him, the Finnish goaltender can post another 35 win season and help this team into the playoffs again. Along with Brad Marchand’s career season with 85 points, 39 goals and 46 assists. Marchand is definitely a “pest” per se, but aside from his on ice questionable antics the shifty left handed winger has proven to be a top ten forward in the NHL. We can’t forget about David Pastrnak’s season last year the 21-year-old Czech Republic forward 44 point boost from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017 season has a lot of eyes on him now. Pastrnak scored 34 goals and ended the season with 70 points. The Bruins have a few weapons on the front end and their powerplay has seen some success over the years, along with a few rising prospects, Charlie McAvoy hopes to make the switch into full time NHL next season especially after how well he handled the playoff minutes he saw last season. Plus Andrew McQuaid, Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug, Boston has a ton of youth and growth on the back end. If Bergeon and David Backes can post half decent numbers next season, Rask stays healthy and Marchand doesn’t get into too much trouble this team can easily make a return to the playoffs and if healthy come playoff time, Boston will be dangerous in April.