Alright, now that we are a couple of weeks into the season and have seen some NHL action, I thought it’s a perfect time to give my NHL season preview (low-key wanted to watch before coming out and just embarrassing myself). The East is loaded this year and there could easily 5 or 6 teams fighting for those last 2 wildcards when we get close to game 82. So, here are all the things to know entering the season of NHL hockey. As you can tell by the title this is just for the Eastern Conference so check the Western Conference one when that comes out too.

Atlantic Division

  1. Tampa Bay Lighting
  2. Boston Bruins
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs
  4. Florida Panthers
  5. Montreal Canadiens
  6. Buffalo Sabers
  7. Detriot Red Wings
  8. Ottawa Senators

Let’s start with the Atlantic Division, last year the Atlantic had the best regular-season team in hockey we have seen for a long time, stress on the REGULAR season. Ya, I am referring to the Tampa Bay Lighting who had an insane 127 points last year led by an insane 128 point season from Nakita Kucherov. The Lighting were unstoppable last season and that may have been their downfall, just being too good for too long. This season I accept more of the same from them as well, obviously I do not see them repeating the same totals cause that’s just crazy but they should still be the best team in the league with the raining Hart trophy winner (Kucherov), raining Vezina trophy winner (Vasilevskiy) Steven Stamkos, Point, and adding Shattenkirk to an already very good D core. It’s hard to not have the lighting as your favorite to win it all this year.

This could be the best division in hockey this year though with all the talent. It won’t be easy being the Lighting having to play these teams 4 times each this season. So let’s go over who the other squads are. First, we have the Boston Bruins, who were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup last year but just fell short. They return the best line in hockey in Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and one of the best two-way centers in the league in Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have almost the same team as last year except for a couple of fourth-liners that have already been replaced. A player that deserves a shoutout and the reason I believe the Bruins will do so well in the regular season this year is that they have one of the best backup goalies in the league, in Jaroslav Halak, who got a shutout in his first start this season. The only question for the Bruins this season is did playing into June create enough wear and tear on them to affect how they finish this year or did will the experience and pain of being one game away ignite a fire under them to win it all this year? Only time will tell.

Next the team that I advise you to watch the most if you are looking to watch an entertaining game. The Toronto Maple Leafs this year will be the most entertaining team to watch. With their newly named captain Johnny Tavares and Speedy Mitch Marner on his wing, who just got locked up for the next six years, as they look to build off the season they had last year. Why do I think that the Maple Leafs are so entertaining though? Because they score in bunches. With the weapons and speed they have they will be very hard to stop on offense, they have the likes of Nylander who I expect to have a better year then last year, Kappanen, adding Jason Spezza for depth scoring, and obviously Super Mario mustache grease ball Auston Matthews, who already has 5 goals this season. The Leafs also have two great puck moving defensemen in should have been Norris candidate Morgan Reilly, and the new addition of Tyson Beirre who has silky mitts to say the least.

Those are the teams I think will finish top three, I know it’s boring and the same thing that happened last year, but I do think there will be more teams in the mix for those spots and then I can see both the wild cards going to Atlantic teams this year.

The team I think will for sure be in the playoff picture is the Florida Panthers. They are my sleeper this year if they can stay healthy aka Bobrovsky and the most overrated underrated player Alexander Barkov. Now that the Panthers have an elite goaltender I can see them making a serious run this year. They also picked up some new pieces for depth in Noel Acciari and Hoffman. The key to the Panthers season this year is if Ekblad can take that next step and carry the load at times throughout the season, following Keith Yandle’s career year last season with 62 points but is only getting older. Maybe the most important pick up the Pathers got this year is new coach Joel Quenneville, for sure nows how to win.

The Montreal Canadiens just missed the playoffs last year by 2 points which everyone loves to see. It was a little bit tough to see when the Canadiens missed out on the playoffs because no one really expected them to have that successful of a season, so with that said. I’m going to be the idiot who says that it was a fluke, to me they just don’t have the depth and goal scoring to keep up with teams. The only player on the team that I can see taking a step forward is Max Domi who led the teams in points last year but who do you expect to play any better than they did last year, Tatar? Shea Weber who’s 34? or Carrie Price who has already gave up 8 goals through his first 2 games. The only player I’m watching for is Ryan Poehling who came from the US development program and had a hat trick in the one game he played last season. Maybe he can light a spark and they can shock everyone again and make a run but I just don’t see it.

Another great watch this year is Buffalo, they have a good young squad that I can see making a run in the future but not this year. I want Buffalo to be good at hockey so bad, they are always in the top viewership at the end of every season even though they usually aren’t in the mix and the fans up there are just crazy. They have so much young talent and something to look forward to in Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey, can’t do a single pull up Casey Mittelstadt, BU grad Evan Rodrigues, and not to mention their veteran goalscorers upfront in Jeff Skinner and Okposo. They also have skill on the backend with Ristolainen and soon to be stud, Ramus Dahlin. Their only downfall is all-around team experience and poor goaltending. They are always fun to watch for the high scoring games, and with a few more pieces could be really good in the future.

The last two teams in this division I expect a lot of the same as last year and there are really only a few highlights for both of them. First, the Red Wings can look forward to hopefully Anthony Mantha can have a breakout year. He has already had a 4 goal game for the Wings and seems like him and Dylan Larkin will be just about all their offense. Mantha last season had 25 goals in 67 games so if he can stay healthy expect him to go for at least 30 even with the supporting cast he has. The last squad that I believe will finish at the bottom of the division again and, probably the bottom of the entire conference too, are the Ottawa Senators. Man, it has been nothing but downhill since that Eastern Conference Finals run they had just a few years ago. Except for Chabot, who had a break out year last year, and the couple forwards they have in Colin White and Brady Tkachuk. There is really not a whole lot to look forward too and looks like it will be another tough season to watch from the Sens.

Metropolitan Division

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Carolina Hurricanes
  3. Philidelphia Flyers
  4. New York Rangers
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins
  6. New York Islanders
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Metro is for sure the best division in hockey with the moves that the teams in the middle of the pack have made, and the strength of the teams that were successful last season at the top. It’s hard to say who will make the playoffs this year. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 5 or 6 teams in the east fighting for those last 2 wildcard spots.

So, let’s start with the team that has finished first in the Metro 9 of the last 11 years. The Washington Capitals have dominated this division for the last decade and I don’t see that changing this year. Mainly being because the Caps still have the core that won the Stanley Cup only 2 years ago with Ovi, Backstrom, Karlson, and Holtby in the crease. Granted the Caps did loose in the first round last year, but the series went seven, and if Williams wasn’t so damn clutch, that could have been the Caps playing the B’s in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the depth, they have upfront as well with Oshie, Kuzy coming off the suspension, that was a real blow to the team, ah ha ha, but seriously they have a grit to them that you need to win in the playoff with Wilson and the new pick up Gudus for St. Louis. We know that the Caps can be great in the regular season, the real question is, was that Stanley Cup run a one-time thing or do they still have some in the tank?

Moving on to the team that knocked that Capitals out of the playoffs last year, the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes are off to a perfect start this season starting 4-0. The biggest reason for this being the goalie tandem they have on the back end. In the four games that the Canes have played this year, James Reimer and Petr Mrazek have split them, and both are obviously 2-0. Sticking to the back end, the Canes have one of the best puck-moving defensive cores in the league. With Slavin making himself known in last year’s playoff run, and Dougie Hamilton who already has 5 points in the first 4 games. The Canes also picked up Jake Gardiner from the Leafs and Joel Edmunson who just won the cup with St. Louis. Carolina will have plenty of scoring up front led by captain Jordan Stall and plenty of first ballet all name team members that can also put the puck in the net. To list a few Sebastion Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Nino Niederreiter, and the list goes on and on. The Canes will be a great team to watch this year just so you can listen to the names. Just imagine them getting their primetime game and you getting to sit down and hear Doc Emerick say all these names. Legendary. On a serious note, they are going to be in the mix again this year and Rod Brind’Amor will give them a grit that they need.

This is where anything can happen in the Metro, these next four teams could honestly finish anywhere in the middle. The playoff race this year is going to be crazy with the offseason pickups that were made by some of the teams that missed out in years past.

The first team and the team that I have slotted in at the last playoff spot in the Metro are the Philly Flyers. I like that moves they made in the offseason but mainly they finally have a goalie that they can believe in and I can’t even remember the last time the Flyers had that. With the leadership, the Flyers have in front of Carter Hart as well. They have a real chance to make a run this year, the ginger beard boys, Giroux, and Voracek leading the way on offense with the new addition of Kevin Hayes. Also, on the back end, I’m using the same explanation I gave for Hart, Gostisbehere and Provorov are both a year older and smarter, so hopefully they can carry some of the load. With a coaching staff that has served the most games combined in The NHL, hopefully, they can find their way back into the playoffs.

The New Look Rangers are certainly a team to look out for this season. With the additions of the Bread Man and Truba, they finally have a couple of guys to look to when they need that important goal. The Rangers are another example of a squad that picked up a couple of pieces in the offseason and are looking for the young talent that they already have to step up. They also have their far sure of all name team members that hopefully get some much-needed scoring this season in Zibanejad, Buchnevich, and Kappo Kakko. The main question for New York is can the defense hold their own, can they get the depth scoring that’s necessary, and does Lundqvist have one more push for the playoffs left in him.

On to the New York Islanders, this squad could end up anywhere in the middle of the pack this season. They have a lot of the same players and weapons as last years like Barzel and Jordan Eberle. They also have so many underrated players that buy into Barry Trotz’s defensive system that won him the Jack Adams Award last year. When a team buys in like the Islanders do its tough to bet again because they will stay consistent through the year and they are not depending on a couple of guys to carry the load. The only problem that the Islanders have is that last year their biggest weapon was rocking with two goalies that they trusted. The thing is Robin Lainer is now on the Blackhawks and I’m not so sure Thomas Greiss can carry the load with the help of Varlamov who is past his good years lets say.

The Penguins are a team that I’m uncertain about because how do you have them not in the playoffs. Every year they just seem like a lock, but now with Malkin getting injured and then trading away Phil the trill Kessel. That’s a lot of points that are missing that are going to have to come from somewhere. Crosby, Geuntzel, and Letang can only take them so far. At the end of the year the Pens are a team that I would not be surprised if they missed the playoffs but at the same time would not be surprised if they are in the mix in April.

The Devils are going to be one of the more fun teams to follow in hockey this year. With the additions of Wayne Simmonds, Norris winner P.K. Subban, and Nikita Gusev who is already 27 and has been just lighting up the KHL. Not to mention they already had Taylor Hall who won the MVP not too long ago and the first overall pick in the draft last year, Jack Hughes. The Devils now are just wishing that Cory Schneider could stay healthy and have a career year. If everything goes right the Devils and Hall have another insane year, they could fight for a playoff spot but it hard for me to put them in… maybe next year.

What a tough scene for the Blue Jackets, losing the crazy Russians that lead them in probably one of the biggest upsets in NHL history. Panarin signed in New York, Bobrovsky to Florida, Duchene leaves to Nashville, and that’s just a few. The biggest problem for the Jackets is obviously losing Bob cause goalies like that don’t come around often. On the bright side, they still have Torts to fire them up. Seth Jones and Warenski are still on the back end and are at least something to look forward too. The key for the Blue Jackets is that they are a big team and if they can buy in on playing that grind it out style. They will be tough to beat but I can’t see them winning enough to make the cut.