NHL Predictions: Eastern Conference Sees Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders as Division Winners
Just two more sleeps before we get the first games of the season! The Defending Big D staff take on the joyous task of predicting this crazy season, like we do every year. We decided to break these up into three parts leading up to the start of the season: Eastern Conference, Dallas Stars, and Weste
The average ranking given below is across everyone, and the writer by writer rankings are given at the bottom of this post so that you can ridicule any of us as you wish.
Atlantic Division Average Rankings
Tampa Bay Lightning
Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs
Atlantic Division Bold Predictions
Tampa Bay is still the class of the Eastern Conference. Buffalo is much improved. They made a lot of moves this offseason, drafted Jack Eichel, and Evander Kane is about to make his Sabres debut. You could convince me to put them ahead of Detroit. Boston is terrible and deserves to be in the basement after the moves they made this offseason.
Carey Price is a wizard, and I believe in this magic powers until proven otherwise. Tampa is the type of team the Stars (and others) want to be, while the Leafs are built to trade away assets at the deadline.
Tampa easily wins the Atlantic, while Florida's young talent finally puts it together enough to snag the third spot in the division when Detroit can't hold them off.
Montreal is average at best and Detroit keeps finding ways into the playoffs. Ottawa discovers that they kept the wrong goalie(s).
Tampa is the obvious powerhouse here. Carey Price carries the Habs to the playoffs again, while Tuukka Rask gets close but ultimately fails for the Bruins. The Red Wings will surprise a lot of people.
Buffalo holds a playoff spot with a month to play, before getting caught by Florida and Detroit. Tampa runs away and kills everyone all the time. Montreal gets second because east coast bias. Boston is the worst.
I love the Bolts, Habs, and Sens. Detroit has enough while Boston does not. Buffalo and Florida are improving, but Toronto, oh Toronto. Phil Kessel is a great player, that will become apparent very quickly in his absence.
Tampa is the most well rounded team in the league. Montreal still has Price and Subban. The division should be just as chaotic as last year with Florida making the leap while Boston enters its dark Sweeney era. Buffalo is gonna be last year's Florida because of the Kane/Eichel connection.
The Lightning run away with the division, the Panthers just barely make the playoffs, and the Bruins talk a lot about grit.
The Lightning are good, really good. They dominate the division but the Canadiens keep within touching distance. The Bruins fall flat on their faces early and never recover.
Metropolitan Division Average Rankings
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
Metropolitan Division Bold Predictions
Pittsburgh is fun. They're basically the Stars with less depth and worse goaltending. And I still have them second in the division. Have you looked at the Rangers roster lately? They could pretty easily miss the playoffs if King Henrik isn't the MVP. This is John Tavares' time now. He and the Islanders take the Metro.
I'm probably underselling the Rangers, but the offensive skill of the Capitals, Penguins and Islanders is drool-worthy. The Jackets will hope the Atlantic is as bad as some think it might be to knock the Wings out of the playoffs for the first time in recorded history.
There will only be about 4 points separating the Islanders, Penguins and Capitals this year, and I think Tavares pushes the Isles in front on the last day of the regular season. The Rangers and Blue Jackets pick up enough points to beat out Detroit for the last wild card spot in the East.
Islanders find themselves trusting Greiss way more than Halak in the second half. Penguins score a lot of goals.
The Islanders establish themselves as one of the league's top teams, but the Rangers use their experience to hold the edge at the top. The bottom four teams fail to give the Capitals much of a battle for a wildcard spot.
The Capitals under Barry Trotz are the class of the division, they have the best goalie and the best player. Pretty tight between teams 2-5. While I don't think this division is as tough as the Central, it is pretty close.
I think the Pens stay healthy. Goaltending and defense keep the Isles just shy of elite status. The Rangers are fading but not quite done. Columbus holds the potential to surprise, but after that? Ugh. New Jersey and Carolina won't be 2014 Sabres bad, but they could be close.
Hopefully the Islanders/Pens rivalry finally evolves into a Tom Clancy novel. Columbus went on a 11 game winless streak amidst an injury reserve list that reached a player count of 15. Yet they still hit 40+ wins. They'll be neck and neck with the Caps IMO.
Brandon Saad is the real deal, and Columbus is the team that no one wants to face in the playoffs. Phil Kessel chants "thank you, Toronto" to himself a lot.
New York dominates with both the Islanders and Rangers topping the division. This division feels like it will be an absolute melee this season; it's going to be a close battle between the last division spot and the wildcard slots but the Penguins top line drags the team over the line to the number three spot.