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B/R NHL Staff Roundtable: Way-Too-Early Playoff Predictions

bleacherreport.com
4 min read
fairly easy
Our intrepid B/R NHL staff predicted which teams will win their respective divisions last week. We're taking it one step further this week and projecting the 16 teams that will make the postseason...
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David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay Lightning

New York Islanders

Florida Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes

Toronto Maple Leafs

Boston Bruins

New York Jersey Devils

Washington Capitals

We used to be able to pencil in a Pens-Caps series every spring. Now it's an Isles-Lightning series. We're looking at the potential for a third straight Tampa Bay-New York Eastern Conference Final.

If there is one thing I've learned covering hockey, it's to never underestimate a Barry Trotz-coached team. Defensemen Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech established themselves as stars during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff run, Mathew Barzal has been a star since he entered the league in 2018 and a healthy Anders Lee is set to return.

This Lightning roster might look different than the one that won the Stanley Cup the last two years in a row, but the core remains the same. Nikita Kucherov is a deadly playoff weapon, and Andrei Vasilevskiy is a brick wall, Vezina-caliber goalie. Plus, Tampa Bay has Patrick Maroon, who has somehow become the good luck charm in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins are lacking depth up the middle with David Krejci playing in his native Czech Republic, but they should still be one of the better teams in the conference, especially if goalie Jeremy Swayman locks it down in net.

Alex Ovechkin could score 40 goals in a season at age 36 and no one would be surprised. There are legitimate questions about whether or not the window of contention has closed, but as long as Ovi, T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and John Carlson are around, the club will try to keep it open.

The Maple Leafs have the firepower to win the Presidents' Trophy, but it all will be for naught if they don't make out it out of the first round.

The Hurricanes lost defenseman Dougie Hamilton to another team in the Metropolitan Division, the Devils. New Jersey could end up being a scrappy playoff…
Bleacher Report NHL Staff
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