Saturday, October 8, 2016

2016 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division

            One of the more underrated sports in the America's resumes action next week. It's amazing how fast time flies as it was just yesterday that the Pittsburgh Penguins was hoisting the Stanley Cup in San Jose. Anyways, here's how the division will shake out this year (prediction time)!

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts got Steven Stamkos back and somehow managed to hold onto All-Star goaltender Ben Bishop, which are both big surprises. Kudos to Steve Yzerman for keeping Stamkos from leaving the Bay. Keep an eye on Tampa Bay's young right winger Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov had 30 goals and 36 assists last year while posting a +9 plus/minus last season.
  2. Montreal Canadiens: What's amazing is that Le Habs were actually one of the best teams in the league early on. It was just losing Carey Price that devastated Montreal for the rest of the season. They'll get their goaltender back, but it'll be interesting to see how they do since they swapped P.K. Subban with Nashville for Shea Weber.
  3. Florida Panthers: An emerging young group of players and a surprising ageless Jaromir Jagr (103 pts. last season) helped propel Florida to a surprising playoff berth last season. Now they're going all in with a new seven-year deal with defenseman Keith Yandle and acquiring Jason Demers and Dmitri Kulikov. Watch out for Aleksander Barkov, a young center who scored 28 goals and 31 assists last season.
  4. Boston Bruins: Can Boston avoid a late-season meltdown? The Bruins are hoping that adding David Backes (21 goals, 24 assists with St. Louis last season) can curb some of those late-season swoons that they've had. 
  5. Detroit Red Wings: Is this the year the playoff streak comes to an end? With an aging core and a shaky defense, it certainly seems that way. If young stud Dylan Larkin can continue scoring and Petr Mrazek plays solid in the net, then the streak will stay alive for one final year at the Joe. 
  6. Ottawa Senators: The Senators have both Erik Karlsson (66 assists, 82 points) and Dion Phaneuf for a full season, stabilizing a strong blue line. Great young forwards on this team will make Ottawa interesting to watch this year. 
  7. Buffalo Sabres: Young star Jack Eichel is part of a great youth movement in Buffalo. One other great strength of the Sabres was their penalty kill; they ranked 9th in PK last season with a 82.6% success rate.
  8. Toronto Maple Leafs: They got Auston Matthews for their No. 1 pick this year and inked goalie Frederik Andersen to a five-year deal, but didn't get Stamkos to come home. With or without Stamkos, this Maple Leafs team is still a ways away from going to the playoffs. 

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