For the past two seasons, it was a three-team race in the Atlantic Division, for the most part. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were the only teams from that division who made the playoffs in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. However, the scope has widened this year, as the Florida Panthers have entered into the conversation.
The way the current NHL playoff format is constructed, it’s difficult to make the playoffs, but I think it’s safe to say that the Bruins will reach the post-season considering they’ve been first in the division for most of the season. As of February 2, they have 74 points, which is five points clear of the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning, who have 69 points.
The Bruins have 29 games remaining in the regular season (13 home games and 16 road games). Their current home record is 17-2-9, while their road record is 14-8-3. They’ll have their work cut out for them with three more games on the road versus at home. However, with their talent pool and strength in net, I predict that the Bruins will finish first in the Atlantic.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning seemed to be spinning their wheels early in the season, but they’ve been in overdrive ever since they hit their stride. The adversity they experienced early on will work to their advantage and toughen them up once the playoffs come around.
The Lightning are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and are currently second in the division with 69 points, as previously mentioned. They’ve proven to be one of the most talented teams in the league.
They have 30 games left to play (17 at home and 13 on the road). From my perspective, I think that the Lightning will continue to play well down the stretch and finish second in the Atlantic.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have been hard to read this campaign, as they’ve been up and down for most of the year. However, their top forwards have elevated their level of play since the coaching change on November 20. In fact, through Sheldon Keefe‘s first 20 games as head coach of the Leafs, their record was 15-4-1, which was the best start for a head coach during the team’s history.
The Leafs have won three in a row since the All-Star break, and currently have 63 points, sitting in third place in the division.
They have 30 games left in their schedule (15 at home and away). I predict that the Leafs will finish third in their division if their goaltending is consistent.
The Panthers have played well as of late, with seven wins in their last ten games. Last off-season, they hired Joel Quenneville to be their bench boss, which has paid huge dividends. Their high-end forwards have thrived under Quenneville.
They currently sit two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second Wild Card spot with 61 points. The Panthers have 32 games remaining (15 at home and 17 on the road). Even though they have games in hand on the other three teams, I predict that they will finish behind the Leafs and get one of the Wild-Card spots.
In conclusion, the Bruins, Lightning, Leafs and Panthers (in order) are the teams that I’m predicting to make the playoffs from the Atlantic Division.
The rest of the teams in the division have already fallen out of the playoff race.
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