Well, the hockey season is almost upon us. The dog days of summer may be in full swing but teams from all over the league are preparing themselves for a fresh start and a potential Stanley Cup run. Today, I’m going to be giving out my NHL Eastern Conference preview for this year.
Let’s look at the contestants.
2019-20 NHL Eastern Conference Preview
The Big bad bruins are going to be eyeing another deep playoff run after losing a gut-wrenching 7 game series to St. Louis. As tough as that loss was, the young players learned from this experience and more than likely will take strides forward towards getting another cup. They’re going to need every hand available and to stay relatively healthy for the majority of this season if they plan on going back to the finals.
The Sabres still have a lot of questions to answer, particularly in the goaltending department. The defensive core, led by Rasmus Dahlin, has shown cohesion and growth, but they need reinforcement up to the middle.
The Hurricanes don’t make the playoffs often, but when they do they tend to go far. They may take a step back if Petr Mrazek can’t repeat the performance he put on last season. I have them penciled in for a wild card spot if all goes according to plan for them.
Sergei Bobrovsky is gone, Artemi Panarin is gone, and Matt Duchene is gone. This team more than likely takes a step back this year but, like St. Louis showed, anything can happen in this league. However, losing the team’s three biggest stars is not a good look.
Not much to see here. The Red Wings more than likely are going to use this year to develop the youth in the system as well as get out from under some bad contracts. They have some interesting prospects so expect them to make a return within the next few years, especially under Steve Yzerman‘s leadership.
The Panthers have been aggressive this offseason. Signing Sergei Bobrovsky for a big contract and bringing in Coach Q will give the fans some hope. However, this is the make or break year for the team. If they don’t do something this year, it’s more than likely that Dale Tallon loses his job.
The Devils lucked into the first overall pick and got Jack Hughes. The youth on the team should truly be competitive this year. The biggest question mark this year is between the pipes. Keith Kinkaid is gone and Cory Schneider is slowly losing it to injuries and age. Mackenzie Blackwood showed promise at the end of last season but will it be enough?
The Rangers did what their neighbors in the New York Yankees have historically done and that’s lure big talent into the big apple. Bringing in Panarin truly accelerated this rebuild. If Kaapo Kakko is as good as advertised and they can get the goaltending this year the Rangers might make it into the playoffs.
The Islanders’ big issue last year was their offense. They simply couldn’t keep up with the big guns in their conference. I’d doubt them but they’ve more than shown they thrive on proving the pundits wrong. Acquiring or bringing in more offense that compliments their system would do wonders for them.
Not much to say here. The Senators are deep in the midst of a rebuild and losing the fourth overall pick will haunt this franchise for some time. They have interesting prospects coming but given this team’s asset management, they may be gone before they peak, unfortunately.
Until the day Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are gone, I will not count them out of a playoff spot. This team has had issues on defense and in-depth roles but never count them out. They brought in Dominik Kahun for more depth on the wings and secondary scoring is key for any team.
If Letang can lead the defense core to a level of consistency they could make another deep run.
Flyers, why do you frustrate me so? You’ve got the talent between the pipes and upfront to make something happen but you’re so unwilling to trust your youth with key roles.
If the Flyers let their youth flourish, expect a battle of Pennsylvania playoff series again. If not, it’s back to the golf course next summer.
On paper, the Habs have taken some nice steps forward. It’s the execution that’ll define the Habs this year. Carey Price can’t carry you forever, so it’s time to do something. I personally recommend allowing your youth in the pipeline to make an impact.
Tampa Bay has been chronically underachieving since they last made the finals in 2015. They still have a lot of high-end talent and on paper could take their division, but putting it all together when it matters will be the true test for the team.
The Leafs are in an interesting place, both from a cap standpoint and a team construction standpoint. They’ve got one of the deadliest forward cores in the league but desperately need help to supplement a shaky blue line. They could go at least to the second round provided they don’t go seven with the Bruins again.
The Caps still have the pieces together to make yet another deep playoff run. Finally getting over the hump was one thing but its proving it was no fluke that will be the challenge for them. Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, John Carlson, and T.J. Oshie will need to be the leaders this team needs once more.
I predict the division winners will be Tampa Bay in the Atlantic division and Washington will take the Metropolitan.
Eastern Conference Wrap up
As last year’s playoffs showed, the only thing that is truly predictable in the NHL is that nothing is predictable. I’m more than likely going to be completely and totally wrong about this NHL Eastern Conference preview by the end of the season, but that’s what I love about following this sport.
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