NHL Eastern Conference: The Atlantic Goes Through the Boston Bruins

The NHL season is almost upon as it opens October 1st. As we all know there is a lot of changes with a realignment and new teams in other conferences. No division is harder than the Atlantic which by far the most competitive division in the NHL. It includes Boston, Detroit, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and Florida. Now the last four teams aren’t the best but no other division has four competitive teams like this division.

1.) Boston Bruins 

Boston fans have something to rejoice as the saga that is Tyler Seguin is finally gone. With a trade that sent Rich Peverley and Tyer Seguin to Dallas for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Matt Fraser and Reilly Smith the Bruins stocked up for offense and for the future. With a blue line that is already blossoming with young stars like Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton the Bruins looked posed for a successful future. The Bruins also signed grizzled veteran Jarome Iginla who they lost at the trade deadline to Pittsburgh. Look for their top line of Milan Lucic-Eriksson-David Krejci to be the workhorse for this team and putting the puck in the net. Third year forward Brad Marchand lead the team in goals last season with 18 and led the team in points with 36 in 45 games expect the same out of him this year as well.

On the defensive side last years showed a lot of promise for the future with Hamilton and Krug playing huge roles for the Bruins. Hamilton during the regular season and Krug during the playoffs when he exploded with four goals in five games agains the New York Rangers. These two are the definite future of that Bruins blue line. Captain Zdeno Chara is looking to shake off a sub par season and continue to be the leader that he is.

Key Losses: D- Andrew Ference, RW- Nathon Horton, RW- Jaromir Jagr, C- Tyler Seguin, C- Rich Peverley

Key Additions: LW- Loui Eriksson, RW- Jarome Iginla 

2.) Detroit Red Wings 

The Detroit Red Wings have done a complete 360 with all the attention surrounding them. With them being realigned in the east and in a favorable setting and two huge offseason acquisitions in forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss I don’t see why the Red Wings cannot succeed. Atlantic division teams will understand quickly that this Red Wings team will be tough to be beat mainly because of veteran leadership, their puck possession style of play, and possibly the best coach in the NHL in Mike Babcock. The Red Wings still have a solid core of players that year in and year out have been able to get it done. Henrik Zetterberg (48 points in 2013), Pavel Datsyuk (49 points, +21 in 2013), Niklas Kronwall (29 points in 2013) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (2.13 GAA, .923 save percentage in 2013) will be relied on heavily to carry this Red Wings squad. Jimmy Howard might be the most underrated goalie in the NHL. With the Wings in years past being able to get away with mediocre goalies and have the team carry them they have been very successful. Today that will not work as Howard has proven himself as one the NHL’s elite and possibly the best goalie Detroit has had since Dominik Hasek back in 2002 and 2008. Howard is also fighting for the starting role on the olympic team so look for that to give him and extra boost.

The big issue with the Red Wings is their defensive core. With the youngest core they have had in a long time they will either make or break this team. Jonathon Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, and Danny DeKeyser are expected to play much bigger roles this year. Although they struggled they all showed promise and did a solid job in the playoffs. DeKeyser might be the next big superstar defenseman in Detroit. Although he is no Nick Lidstrom he has showed that he can be the number one defenseman in the near future.

Expect the Detroit Red Wings to have solid year after a subpar year last year.

Key Losses: RW Damien Brunner, C Valtteri Filppula 

Key Additions: RW Daniel Alfredsson, C Stephen Weiss 

3.) Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators come into the 2013-2014 season with one question. Who can replace Daniel Alfredsson as captain? Alfredsson spent his whole 17 year career with the club. Jason Spezza is the perfect replacement as captain of this Senators team who last year surprised many with a strong push at the end of the season to make the playoffs. With an upset over the second seeded Montreal Canadiens the Senators had a lack luster showing in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins losing 4-1.

Bobby Ryan is a huge upgrade for the Senators as he looks to replace Alfredsson in the scoring department. As long as he, Jason Spezza and hot shot young defensmen Erik Karlsson stay healthy I do not see why they can’t make the playoffs. Reigning coach of the year Paul MacLean system has favored well with this team and goaltender Craig Anderson has thrived behind it.

Key Losses: RW Daniel Alfredsson, F Jakob Silfverberg, F Peter Regin, D Sergei Gonchar 

Key Additions: LW Bobby Ryan, F Clarke MacArthur, D Joe Corvo

4.) Toronto Maple Leafs

Coming off their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade the Toronto Maple Leafs have finally found the success button that Toronto fans have been looking for ever since Mats Sundin was on the team. After last years meltdown in game 7 against the Boston Bruins in which they let Boston score three goals in the waning minutes of the third period and eventually lost in overtime look for the Maple Leafs to continue the success they had last year. Phil Kessel finally breaks out for 40 goals this season during a contract year and look for the goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier to have a solid year behind the pipes.

Giving David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak big money could spell disaster for Toronto as neither can produce the type of goals that Toronto severely lacks they need someone else that can supplement Kessel. I still believe that the game 7 loss lingers in their minds even if they think it isn’t a factor.

Key Losses: C Mikhail Grabovski, F Clarke MacArthur, F Matt Frattin, D Mike Komisarek, G Ben Scrivens

Key Additions: RW David Clarkson, LW Mason Raymond, C Dave Bolland, D Paul Ranger, G Jonathan Bernier

5.) Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. Although their first round exit of the playoffs last season shows they have some work to do. The Canadiens also stole the northeast division which many believed would never happen. This offseason they only did one thing and that was boost offensive output by signing Danny Briere. It is a great sign for the team but they still lack the size they need to make a deep run in the playoffs. Carey Price looks to have another solid year, but expect the Canadiens to be fighting for a playoff spot come the end of the season.

Key Losses: RW Michael Ryder, D Tomas Kaberle, D Yannick Weber 

Key Additions: F Danny Briere, D Jarred Tinordi

6.) Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning did a lot of moving around in the offseason. They first lost their franchise pick Vinnie Lecavalier to free agency which was hard to see a fan favorite like him go but he gave the franchise it’s first cup ever back in 2004. Martin St. Louis also proved that age doesn’t matter the 38 year old led the league with the most goals last year, he also proved that size doesn’t matter either being only 5’7. Signing center Valtteri Filppula and winger Jonathan Drouin has boosted this offense. Drouin and superstar forward Steven Stamkos together will be magical to watch. Young players Alex Killron and Brett Connolly showed they’re ready to be in the NHL for good.

On the defensive end Victor Hedman has shown he can be a solid number one d man. On the goaltending side though Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback have showed that they’re the tallest tandem but not an effective one. Although St. Louis had a magical season last year don’t expect him to repeat that success this year.

Key Losses: C Vinny Lecavalier, F Benoit Pouliot, F J.T. Wyman, D Brendan Mikkelson

Key Additions: LW Jonathan Drouin, C Valtteri Filppula

7.) Florida Panthers

With the arrival of Conn Smythe winning goaltender Tim Thomas the Florida Panthers have a goalie that can win games as well as the ability to steal games. Losing top center Stephen Weiss (Detroit) hurts Florida as it gives them a lack of ability to score. This Florida team has many similarities to that 1996 team that was four games away from the Stanley Cup. Not saying that Florida fans should expect that this season — the playoffs are long shot — but having a solid goaltender in Thomas should help calm the nerves of this young team that last year was so worried about making the next mistake to calm down and just play hockey.

Head coach Kevin Dineen doesn’t have much to work with up front on offense but if he can develop with what he has it should help them turn around a defense that was the worst in the league last year. If they can do that and young stars such as Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov develop well in the system I would say that is a win for the Panthers this year.

Key Losses: F Stephen Weiss, F George Parros, F Peter Mueller 

Key Additions: G Tim Thomas, F Scott Gomez, F Bobby Butler, D Matt Gilroy

8.) Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres are fearing the worst as the teams top two players goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Tomas Vanek are in their last year of contracts and are not in any hurry to sign an extension anytime soon. It is only a matter of time before these two become a distraction for the team. I expect at least one of them to be gone at the trade deadline (probably Miller) and the other gone at the end of the season.

This season for the Sabres is all about who can fit in this system for the future. I believe their AHL affiliate in Rochester should be shuttling players up an down throughout the season to see what can happen. Tyler Myers came off a huge, huge disappointment of a season last year, he’ll have the ability to prove that his Calder winning season was no fluke. The presecence of Steve Ott and Marcus Foligno ensures that the team will be stable. What I am looking forward to most his how some AHL veterans can adjust to the NHL for the Sabres this season. Forward Corey Tropp is one of them. Tropp is from my hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, he has the ability to play in the NHL for a long time and can show that he can be a grinder as well as a goal scorer. Tropp is currently starting the season on the injured list as his jaw was broken during that brawl between Buffalo and Toronto. Time will only tell for this Sabres team.

Key Losses: F Nathan Gerbe, D Andrej Sekera, D Adam Pardy

Key Additions: D Henrik Tallinder, D Jamie McBain


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