2018 NHL Season Preview & Predictions: Atlantic Division
The Atlantic Division in the NHL will be one of the most competitive divisions in the league as it features three teams that are near the top in terms of winning the Stanley Cup in the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. In this preview we will look at the top three contenders within the division their odds of winning the division, conference and Stanley Cup. We will also look at some of the lesser teams and whether they could make a push to make the playoffs or not. Let’s start with the divisional favorites in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are +135 to win the Atlantic Division, +400 to win the Eastern Conference and +1000 to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning finished last season with 113 points which was the most in the Western Conference and are the reigning Atlantic Division Champions. They lost in game 7 of the series of the conference finals to the Washington Capitals. The Lightning didn’t make any big moves or lose any key players, so one of the best teams in the East should remain at or near the top again this season. The Lightning are almost a lock to make the playoffs and should be among the favorites to win the conference.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are +175 to win the Atlantic Division, +500 to win the Eastern Conference and +1200 to win the Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs finished last season with 105 points and made the playoff as the 3rd team from the division, but were eliminated in the 1st round by the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the 1st round. The Maple Leafs lost James van Reimsdyk and Tyler Bozak, but did sign one of the biggest free agents in the offseason in John Tavares. Tavares improves an already explosive team in the scoring department. The Maple Leafs will likely be one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL, but the only problem is their defense which remains poor and could stop them from winning the Stanley Cup.
The Boston Bruins are +255 to win the Atlantic Division, +500 to win the Eastern Conference and +1200 to win the Stanley Cup. The Boston Bruins finished last season with 112 points and finished as the 2nd place team in the division behind the Lightning. They lost in the second round of the playoffs 4 games to 1 against the Lightning after beating the Maple Leafs in round 1. The Bruins lost a lot of key players last season in Austin Czarnik, Nick Holden, Anton Khudobin, Rick Nash, Riley Nash Tim Schaller and Tommy Wingels. They added Haroslav Halak, John Moore and Chris Wagner to replace them, but are all downgrades compared to what they lost. I don’t see the Bruins repeating their success of last season.
Outside of the big 3 in the division the Florida Panthers are likely the only other team in the division that could make the playoffs as a wild card team. The Panthers are +1300 to win the division, +2000 to win the Eastern conference and +4000 to win the Stanley Cup. The Florida Panthers barely missed the playoffs last season finishing 1 point behind the two wild card teams in the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils. They did a key free agent that should give them a boost offensively in Mike Hoffman, but are still lacking in the defensive department. I look for the Panthers to challenge for one of the two wild card spots, but I don’t see them winning the division.
Toronto Maple Leafs Division Champs
The pick to win the Atlantic Division is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The signing of John Tavares gives the Maple Leafs arguable the best depth in the NHL and they should be among the top goal scoring teams in the NHL and if they are able to get any kind of defensive production they will win the division and will likely be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.