The Atlantic Division will be very competitive this season. In our 2017-2018 Atlantic Division Preview, we see just a few points separating the top team from the fifth place club. We really feel that this scrappy division will be that close. Unlike some other divisions, it’s hard to pick a team or two that will definitely dominate. A major reason for this is that of the four NHL divisons, this is the weakest. What’s easier to figure out in the NHL’s Atlantic Division is what teams simply will not be able to contend. There are three of those. Here’s how we see the Atlantic Division playing out in 2017-18.
There are five teams that will contend this season. At the top of the list are the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto could finish first in the Atlantic Division. This is a team with a lot of young talent on offense, one of the better defenses around and a very solid goalie in Frederik Andersen. At the same time, Tampa Bay has an explosive offense that can score at will against a slew of teams. That is as long as their top playmaker, Steven Stamkos, can stay healthy. The injury-prone winger is an amazing talent. Although the Lightning made some decent moves in the offseason to improve on offense and defense, they are still lacking on D and their goaltending is a bit unstable.
Also vying for the playoffs are the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottowas Senators. The Bruins have one of the best goalies in the league, Tukka Rask. Rask was certainly streaky last season, but if he can keep his focus and play up to his potential, he can be very tough to beat. There’s a decent number of quality scorers and some hardnosed defense too. For the Montreal Canadiens a lot of their possible success hinges on one player, goalie Cary Price. Price is perhaps the top netminder in the league. Both offense and defense will be challenged, as each offers a very fine first, but after that there’s a marked decline.
Finally, the Ottawa Senators bring a nicely balanced offense to the ice and will have the very solid and dependable Craig Anderson in net. The defense features Erik Karlsson who begins the season on injured reserve. The sooner this grinding, defensive point-maker is on the ice, the better for the Senators. Ottawa has a good offense that seems to never give up, but they aren’t noted for being explosive. The D and Anderson will need to be on the mark to ensure this team has a real shot at the postseason.
There are three teams in the Atlantic Division of the NHL that will struggle mightily to make it to the playoffs. The Florida Panthers may define the term “average” in the NHL. They lost their leading scorer, Jonathan Marchessault, to Vegas in the expansion draft, and the defense, which does feature the formidable Aaron Ekblad, lacks overall depth. In goal Roberto Luongo is talented and aging while James Reimer is good but not the strongest netminder in the NHL.
Finally the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings round out this division. The Sabres bring a good group of forwards, which includes Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, and Evander Kane. Their goaltending, with the young and developing Robin Lehner in net, is very sound. But the team’s defense will be challenged. They don’t have the talent or depth that they need to compete. Last season, for the first time in 25 years, the Red Wings failed to make the playoffs. They may fail once again in 2017-18. On offense they feature the skilled but aging Henrik Zetterberg, while their blue line includes scoring-threat Mike Green. In goal, Jimmy Howard has been injury-prone and inconsistent. Detroit is a team that lacks the depth and consistency to contend.
2017-2018 Atlantic Division Season Preview: Overall Outlook
As noted, our 2017-2018 Atlantic Division Season Preview sees the Atlantic Division as being the weakest of the four and very unpredictable. There are five teams that could finish in first, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. Once again, as is usually the case, expect the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens to be in the mix. The Senators will also have a decent shot at the playoffs once again.
2017-2018 Atlantic Division Season Preview Predictions:
- Toronto Maple Leafs 45-27-10, 100 pts*
- Tampa Bay Lightning 44-27-11, 99 pts*
- Boston Bruins 45-30-7, 97 pts*
- Montreal Canadiens 43-29-10, 96 pts* (Wild Card)
- Ottawa Senators 40-27-15, 95 pts
- Florida Panthers 38-35-9, 85 pts
- Buffalo Sabres 36-36-10, 82 pts
- Detroit Red Wings 36-38-8, 80 pts
*Denotes a playoff team