NHL Atlantic Preview: Bruins Will Have Company at the Top
Unless there's a Cinderella season somewhere in the rest of the pack, the NHL's Atlantic Division looks to be a four-way race.
And yes, one of those underdogs is so ready to join the hunt.
The Montréal Canadiens are one of the main contenders. Les Habitants came blasting out of the gate with two close victories, edging Toronto on Opening Night, then doing a quick turnaround and capping Washington in a shootout last night.
Tampa Bay's Lightning needed an overtime marker from stalwart Victor Hedman to overcome Florida in their opener.
Boston has arguably the best goaltender in the division in Tuukka Rask, with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg still patrolling the blue line. Patrice Bergeron had 30 goals last year and should score even more this season if he can stay healthy.
Montréal has Carey Price in net and one of the league's best defensemen PK Subban. Tampa Bay joins the Canadiens in featuring speed and trumps them with the presence of Steven Stamkos. If he stays in one piece, he's a lock for 50 goals. The Lightning have an established goalie in 6-7 Ben Bishop and signed Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman from the Rangers.
Even as they're in the midst of a youth movement, the Detroit Red Wings are a solid playoff contender. Jimmy Howard is still the goalie, and the Wings still have veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
The only other team with a chance to sneak in the playoffs in the Atlantic Division or as a wild card is -- dare we say it? -- Toronto. The perennial hot seat was toasting Randy Carlyle's butt the moment training camp began, on general principles if nothing else. The Leafs made the playoffs in 2013 and should have knocked off Boston in the first round but, well, they're the Leafs. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk provide solid offense, but it's bunch of dudes named Moe after that.
Ottawa, Buffalo, and Florida will bring up the rear of the division and conference. The Senators signed Bobby Ryan but lost Jason Spezza. Buffalo has some offensive spark with newcomers Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson but little else. Florida signed Roberto Luongo to his second stint as a Panther and a potential sensation in top rookie Aaron Ekblad -- and yes, his surname is Swedish for oak leaf -- but they still have a long way to go to be competitive.