2017-18 NHL Atlantic Division Preview

After finishing seventh in the Atlantic Division last year, the Detroit Red Wings will once again be tested by a talented group of teams.

At the end of last season, the Red Wings finished 24 points out of first place in the Atlantic Division and were 16 points out from a playoff berth. One of their big problems last season was their inability to win against division opponents.

They faltered in numerous close games against teams that at times were not much better than the Wings were on a given night. Missed points here and there were costly and showed in the final regular season standings.

This upcoming season looks to be another long grind for the Wings and the division appears to be competitive as ever. Additionally, there is no clear favorite to who will top the group at the end of the 2017-18 regular season campaign.

Here’s a breakdown of every team in the division.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens reigned supreme at the end of last season as they overcame a coaching change mid-season. Claude Julien stepped into the role and carried the team to the National Hockey League Playoffs where they would fall to the New York Rangers in six games.

New addition Shea Weber played a key role in the team’s success as well as veteran Max Pacioretty. Carey Price turned in a solid season in net as he started and finished 62 games.

The offseason wasn’t necessarily the greatest for the Canadiens. A few key players over the past few seasons departed. Alexander Radulov made the move to the Dallas Stars and longtime defenseman Andrei Markov will be playing in the Kontinental Hockey League this season.

They did add forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Karl Alzner which helps mend some of the losses the team suffered.

All-in-all the Canadiens should be high up the Eastern Conference standings once more. They should be tested by the other teams in the Atlantic as well, especially the Tampa Bay Lightning. Expect them to finish either first or second in the division standings this season.

Ottawa Senators

It was a surprising season for the Senators last year as they made their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. They took the Pittsburgh Penguins to seven games in the series and came very close to a place in the Stanley Cup Finals.

After finishing second in the Atlantic in the 2016-17 season, the Sens will be poised to show they can produce another special season.

They have one of the leagues best defenseman in Erik Karlsson but the loss of his linemate Marc Methot may prove to be a hurdle entering this season.

Offensively, the Senators have two solid forwards in Bobby Ryan and John-Gabriel Pageau. Both players performed tremendously in the playoffs and it may be a sign of things to come in the upcoming season.

The Sens were just five points out from first place in the Atlantic and will have to fight their way to the top once again. After only finishing three points ahead of Boston, the team will likely have a close finish again and a wild-card playoff spot may be the end result.

Boston Bruins

As mentioned, it was very close at the top of the Atlantic Division at the end of last season. The Bruins just snuck into the third place spot in the division and relied on a strong finish to the campaign to book their place in the playoffs.

Entering this season there is a bit of concern on whether or not the team can hang on at the top. Very few moves in the offseason bring back a veteran squad with a few new young players.

Charlie McAvoy is one player Bruins fans should be excited to watch as the young defenseman has high hopes for his first full season in the NHL.

Other than that, it is pretty much the usual suspects with the towering figure of Zdeno Chara leading the defensive unit along with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on offense. Additionally, David Pastrnak’s re-signing in the offseason will be a big help when it comes to point production.

It’s going to likely be an up and down season for the Bruins and the team will probably be in the wild-card race right up to the end. However, the playoffs may just be out of reach this time around.

Toronto Maple Leafs

All eyes will be on the Maple Leafs this season as phenom Auston Matthews will look to continue his impressive form after winning the Calder Cup. The new addition of Patrick Marleau has fans excited as the team gains an experienced and productive forward.

Making the playoffs was a big step for the Leafs as they are a team looking to make it back to the top of the NHL. They are moving in the right direction under former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and still have room to grow as a unit.

Forwards James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner are two players that can step up if Matthews finds himself in trouble, which is good news for a team that doesn’t necessarily have to rely on the young talent every game.

Another playoff berth would be massive for this time and it should very well happen. Expect this team to be in the top three at the end of the season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Expect a polar opposite season from the Lightning this time around. A fully healthy unit could be very dangerous and may even contend with the Penguins come playoff time.

Why will they be dangerous? Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan will return to the lineup after missing a majority of the 2016-17 season with injuries. These two players should ignite the Lightning offense and help lead the team back to the playoffs and devastate opposing defenses.

Nikita Kucherov had a terrific season last year and is another reason to be excited about this team’s potential. Additionally, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are two other dangerous forwards the Florida team has in the cards.

Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz were two great offseason veteran additions that may prove the difference moving forward.

This should be a team that scores a lot and wins by a lot. If they can stay healthy they should be right there at the top at the end of the season. They are definitely one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup entering this season.

Florida Panthers

Offseason losses have caused the Panthers playoffs chances to go down significantly. The departure of Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith will hurt the team in the goal scoring department.

It will be an uphill battle to find offensive production from the forward unit as Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexsander Barkov will look to lead the team in points.

Defensively, Aaron Ekblad will be tasked with leading a decent defensive unit that will likely be called upon to set up this season and take some of the pressure off the forward lines.

Roberto Luongo returns in net for the Panthers after a less than stellar campaign last season.

Don’t’ expect the Panthers to be near the top this season. They will struggle against offensively strong teams and may be in for a long season down the road.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres largely underachieved last season, they had a solid unit that was capable of a better finish. This season, it should be a better finish from the New York team and the bottom-dwelling team may find themselves in a mid-table finish this time around.

Jack Eichel will be the team’s star player once again as the young talent has shown to be a consistent point producer. Fellow linemate, Ryan O’Reilly, is a veteran leader that turns in quality minutes every game.

Another young star in the making is Rasmus Ristolainen, the Finnish defenseman is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. He should be poised to have a stellar season.

As you can see, there is plenty of young talent on this roster and the Sabres have what it takes to get out of last place in the division this time around. With a new coach and new general manager, the organization is looking to make strides to make the playoffs in the next few seasons.

Although the playoffs will likely be out of reach this season, the Sabres could be a surprise team that could build some momentum entering the 2018-19 season. This should be a unit we see the in the playoffs down the road if they can keep this young group together.

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