NHL Betting Preview: The Boston Bruins were easily the most consistent team in the NHL a year ago as they posted a league-high 54 wins and league-high 117 points en route to winning the Atlantic Division. The Bruins have retooled after stumbling in a second round series against their hated rivals in the Montreal Canadiens and they are once again the favorites to win the Atlantic. Will any team be able to knock them out of top spot? Are the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning bound to take a step back? Will the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs be good enough to make a return to the playoffs? These are some of the most intriguing questions for the Atlantic division heading in to the 2014-15 season.
Team That Could Surprise
From their game seven collapse against the Boston Bruins to last year’s regular season collapse that led to them missing the postseason altogether, the Maple Leafs haven’t made things easy on their fans. That said, there is no denying the level of talent on the Toronto roster and in particular up front where Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, and Nazem Kadri lead a top-six loaded with offensive talent. The management team worked hard to address the issues that have kept Toronto from reaching its potential over the years and they may have finally found the answers. Leo Komarov, David Booth, and Mike Santorelli were brought in to fill out what projects to be a more talented bottom-six cast of forwards while veterans Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak were added to provide some experience and stability on the blue line. Jonathan Bernier will give the Maple Leafs one of the better starters in the Eastern Conference if he can stay healthy while James Reimer is still a quality No. 2. If everything goes according to plan then Toronto could be the team that surprises in the Atlantic this season.
Team That Could Disappoint
It’s hard to pick a team from this group that has a strong likelihood to underachieve but it appears as though Detroit could take a step back in 2014-15. The Red Wings barely made the playoffs a Wild Card team thanks to the emergence of young stars like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar but those players won’t sneak up on anybody this season and the veteran core around them took a hit. David Legwand left for Ottawa and it was already announced that Pavel Datsyuk will miss time with a shoulder injury. Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have each had their share of injury issues in recent seasons and it’s hard to count on them to perform at an elite level for the course of a full season. The Red Wings tried to add to their defense in the offseason but failed to land a big name free agent so Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, and Jonathan Ericsson will lead the way once again. Jimmy Howard isn’t an elite goalie and was exposed at times last season while Jonas Gustavsson isn’t the long-term answer either. There are too many question marks throughout this roster and that is why the Red Wings could disappoint.
Who’s Most Likely To Win The Atlantic Division
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Bruins’ dominance over the years is the way they continue to perform at an elite level despite constantly allowing top players to leave town. Boston didn’t take a step back after trading Tyler Seguin to Dallas or losing Nathan Horton via free agency so it’s important not to overstate the impact that Jarome Iginla’s exit will have. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci represent an excellent one-two center tandem that is signed long-term while Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and Loui Eriksson all return. Zdeno Chara is the captain and staple on the blue line and the Bruins have built an excellent young core around him with Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and Matt Bartkowski. Tuukka Rask has been excellent in goal since taking over for Tim Thomas and will continue to provide the elite level of play this team needs to lock up the division once again in 2014-15.
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