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NHL 2021-22 Atlantic Division preview: Lightning make robust case for three-peat

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The NHL 2021-22 season kicks off Tuesday with a full 82-game schedule set to run till April 29. 

This 12 months, 32 groups, with the addition of the Seattle Kraken, will battle it out with the hopes of hoisting the coveted Stanley Cup in what would be the first common season because the pandemic struck midseason in March 2020. 

The league is break up into two conferences — the Japanese and Western conferences — and returns to its unique 4 divisions: the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific, with eight groups in every. 

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Learn beneath for a breakdown of the Atlantic Division.

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TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

 Tampa Bay Lightning proper wing Nikita Kucherov hoists the Stanley Cup after the Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in sport 5 to win the 2021 Stanley Cup Remaining on July 7, 2021, at Amalie Area in Tampa, Florida. 
(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Lightning are arguably the fiercest competitor, not simply within the division, however in the whole Japanese Convention. After changing into the ninth group in Cup historical past to win back-to-back championships, Tampa Bay exhibits no indicators of slowing down in its pursuit of a 3rd.

Regardless of wage cap points, the Lightning has been capable of keep their core gamers, together with star forwards Pat Maroon, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, one of many league’s prime objective scorers. 

They are going to be with out enforcer Barclay Goodrow, who was traded to the New York Rangers in change for a 2022 seventh-round draft choose, however the return of Stamkos, who missed all however one sport within the Stanley Cup Playoffs due to a lower-body harm, will certainly enhance Tampa’s odds of a three-peat. 

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BOSTON BRUINS

Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) tumbles after a attempting a shot on New York Rangers goaltender Tyler Wall (80) during a shootout on Oct. 2, 2021, at the TD Garden in Boston.

Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Corridor (71) tumbles after a making an attempt a shot on New York Rangers goaltender Tyler Wall (80) throughout a shootout on Oct. 2, 2021, on the TD Backyard in Boston.
(Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Atlantic Division is break up down the center with 4 severe playoff contenders, certainly one of which incorporates the Bruins. 

Final season, the Bruins completed third within the newly realigned East Division — a results of the pandemic — and swept the New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot. After eliminating the Washington Capitals within the first spherical, Boston’s dream of incomes its seventh cup ended with a second-round loss to the New York Islanders

The Bruins’ strongest asset are their harmful prime line. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak completed the season with 69 factors (29 targets, 40 assists), 48 factors (23 targets, 25 assists) and 48 factors (20 targets, 28 assists), respectively. 

However the Bruins enter the brand new season with out prime scorer David Krejci, who elected to depart the NHL after 15 seasons to proceed his profession within the Czech Republic. Boston can be coping with goaltending points as veteran goalie Tuukka Rask dangers lacking the beginning of the season whereas he continues his rehab following hip surgical procedure.

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MONTREAL CANADIENS

Montreal Canadiens right wing Josh Anderson (17) shoots and scores against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) during the overtime period in game four of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final on July 5, 2021, at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Montreal Canadiens proper wing Josh Anderson (17) shoots and scores in opposition to Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) throughout the additional time interval in sport 4 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Remaining on July 5, 2021, on the Bell Centre in Montreal.
(Obligatory Credit score: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Canadiens suffered a heartbreaking loss within the Stanley Cup Finals in opposition to the Lightning final season, however each groups return to the Atlantic Division for the last word showdown as they vie for first place. 

The Habs completed fourth within the North Division final season with a 24-21-11 document. After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, within the first spherical, Montreal swept the Winnipeg Jets for a spot within the semifinals. A 4-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights gave the Canadiens a spot within the Remaining with hopes of ending a 26-year-long drought, however the Lightning would win three video games straight earlier than taking all of it in 5 video games. 

The Habs are going through two main losses this season that may complicate any likelihood of creating the playoffs. It was introduced throughout the offseason that NHL All-Star Shea Weber wouldn’t return for the 2021-22 season — and probably ever — after numerous accidents turned an excessive amount of for the star defenseman to proceed to play on. 

In a stunning announcement, the Habs introduced Thursday that they might even be with out veteran goaltender Carey Value after he voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPA participant help program. 

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FLORIDA PANTHERS

Florida Panthers right wing Owen Tippett (74) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) defends during the second period during game six of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 26, 2021, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Florida Panthers proper wing Owen Tippett (74) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) defends throughout the second interval throughout sport six of the primary spherical of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Might 26, 2021, at Amalie Area in Tampa, Florida.
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Panthers have crept into the highest ranks of the division after severe additions within the offseason and stand to pose a severe risk to Tampa Bay.  

After ending second within the Central Division with a 37-14-5 document final season — atop the Lightning– the Panthers had been eradicated within the first spherical of the playoffs. However Florida is hoping to construct upon final season’s memento, re-signing defenseman Brandon Montour and Gustav Forsling and forwards Sam Bennett and Anthony Duclair.

The additions of Sam Reinhart and veteran Joe Thornton may also enhance Florida’s scoring probabilities. Final season, the Panthers had been tied for fourth within the league with 3.36 targets per sport. 

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TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes a save on Ottawa Senators forward Egor Sokolov (75) in the first period Oct. 9, 2021, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes a save on Ottawa Senators ahead Egor Sokolov (75) within the first interval Oct. 9, 2021, at Scotiabank Area in Toronto.
(Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Maple Leafs gained their first division title final season after greater than 20 years, however their playoff frustrations continued with a first-round exit. 

Toronto may face an identical end this season after some onerous hits to the roster. Joe Thornton,  Nick Foligno and Riley Nash all moved on, whereas prime producer Zach Hyman signed a monster $38.5 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers

The stress will probably be on Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares — the group’s priciest members — to supply one other playoff berth. 

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OTTAWA  SENATORS

Ottawa Senators center Shane Pinto (12)battles with  Toronto Maple Leafs center Adam Brooks (77) in the first period Oct. 4, 2021, at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.

Ottawa Senators heart Shane Pinto (12)battles with  Toronto Maple Leafs heart Adam Brooks (77) within the first interval Oct. 4, 2021, on the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.
(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Senators completed sixth within the Scotia North Division final season, lacking the playoffs for the fifth 12 months in a row, however the younger squad’s rebuild could possibly be nearing its finish. 

If negotiation talks with restricted free agent Brady Tkachuk are headed within the route the group says they’re, the 22-year-old star winger will be part of Josh Norris and Drake Batherson on a younger however harmful prime line. 

The Senators have additionally beefed up their protection with the addition of veteran defenseman Nick Holden and Michael Del Zotto. 

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DETROIT RED WINGS 

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) makes a save in net against Detroit Red Wings right wing Richard Panik (24) in the overtime period May 8, 2021, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) makes a save in web in opposition to Detroit Crimson Wings proper wing Richard Panik (24) within the additional time interval Might 8, 2021, at Nationwide Area in Columbus, Ohio.
(Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Crimson Wings haven’t made a playoff look since 2016, and the final time they gained a playoff sequence was again in 2013. Regardless of having 11 Stanley Cup championships, the franchise has discovered itself in a drought over the previous few seasons. 

Detroit’s greatest concern final 12 months was a scarcity of manufacturing. It ranked second to final in targets scored with simply 125. Throughout the offseason, it added ahead Pius Suter, who performed his first NHL sport with the Chicago Blackhawks final season. It additionally signed veteran ahead Carter Rowney, who’s getting back from harm, and heart Mitchell Stephens, who was acquired in a commerce from the Lightning. 

The Crimson Wings additionally acquired Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes and defenseman Nick Leddy, two important additions for the struggling Crimson Wings.

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BUFFALO SABRES

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) makes a save against Buffalo Sabres left wing Anders Bjork (96) to secure a Pens victory during a shootout Oct. 5, 2021, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won, 5-4, in a shootout.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) makes a save in opposition to Buffalo Sabres left wing Anders Bjork (96) to safe a Pens victory throughout a shootout Oct. 5, 2021, at PPG Paints Area in Pittsburgh. The Penguins gained, 5-4, in a shootout.
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Sabres sit on the backside of the pack, and the scenario surrounding former captain Jack Eichel performs an enormous function in that prediction.

Final season the Sabres completed eighth within the East Division with a grim 15-34-7 document. Eichel missed half the season with a severe neck harm, however after a failed bodily earlier than the beginning of coaching camp and being at odds with the membership over his therapy, the group may stand to lose its greatest risk. Buying and selling Eichel stands out as the group’s finest transfer after dropping prime scorer Sam Reinhart, who was traded to the Panthers after six seasons with the Sabres.

The goaltending scenario shouldn’t be significantly better after dropping Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton. Craig Anderson was signed within the offseason, however he performed in simply 4 video games final season with the Capitals. 



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