With the new NHL season set to begin in October, the Northeast Division is stronger than it has been in years past. Thanks to realignment the division sees the perennial power house Detroit Red Wings and Sunshine Staters Tampa Bay and Florida enter the fray. The lockout season saw the Northeast Division boast 4 playoff teams, the only one missing was the Buffalo Sabres. With some new blood added into the division it should make for an interesting race this upcoming season.
Under the new playoff structure the top 4 teams from each division will play each other, and the winner will advance to the Conference Finals. With so much talent in the division it is tough to peg the 4 teams that will advance to the playoffs. It is safe to assume that the Bruins will continue to be the class of the Division, with Detroit nipping away at their heels. The final two spots is where things will get interesting. Will Toronto build of the success they had last year, and make consecutive playoff appearances? Or will the addition of Bobby Ryan help solidify the Senators as legit contender for the division crown?
It is safe to assume that the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres will be battling for the bottom of the division this season. Although Florida has a bright future ahead with top end prospects like Bjugstad, Huberdeau, Barkov and Howden. If Buffalo decides to pull the trigger on a Vanek and Miller trade, it will all but solidify their quest for a lottery pick.
I don’t think Tampa will be able to keep pace with the top teams in the division and fall short of the playoffs for a third consecutive season. The addition of Drouin should make them a dangerous team offensively, but question marks surrounding their defense and whether Lindback can handle a majority of the starts. Tampa is another team that has a bright future with a handful of solid prospects.
Which brings me to my final team that falls short of the playoffs in the Northeast, the Montreal Canadiens. After a ghastly playoff performance the Canadiens enter the 2013/14 season with a handful of question marks. I’ll be curious to see which Carey Price shows up this season, I’m leaning towards the one we saw last postseason. Montreal overachieved last season, and they will come down to earth and miss the playoffs twice in the last three seasons.
The Atlantic Division