Welcome to quick takes, my new series of shorter posts with my sports opinions. I’m starting this series off with a post about the Bruins. I’ll be posting my full NHL predictions later, and I’m fairly high on Boston, but I want to point out why it might be tough for them to meet expectations this year.
All sports fans know just how easy the NFL’s NFC East was to win this year. 7-9 Washington snagged a playoff spot simply because they were the NFC East’s best team. They beat out the 6-10 Giants, 6-10 Cowboys, and 4-11-1 Eagles. Now think of the opposite of the NFC East. That’s like the NHL’s East Division this year.
This year, the regular season will utilize realigned divisions and make up of divisional play only, and the playoff bracket will be divided into four quadrants based on division. Four teams in each division will make it. When I was making my NHL predictions, I noticed that it was extremely hard to decide which East Division teams I’d put on my playoff bracket, because there were so many playoff caliber teams in the division. I calculated the combined points % of each of this year’s divisions. Notice the gap between the East Division and the other three:
Combined Points %
In addition to this, 5 of the last 7 President’s Trophy winners have come from this year’s East Division.
Don’t get me wrong, I like this realignment. It’s going to revive classic rivalries, and I’ve always liked the idea of an all-Canadian NHL Division. I even proposed a way to keep this realignment around beyond COVID in my article about What Should Stick Around from 2020 Sports. It’s not the NHL’s fault the East Division is the toughest division to play-in, they just didn’t want teams traveling so far. The competitiveness of this division will impact the season though.
Yes, I have the Bruins taking this division, because the duo of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is hard to beat. However, this feat won’t be easy, and even a short term absence of Pastrnak could hurt the Bruins in this merciless division. I don’t think any of these teams win the President’s Trophy; they’ll be too busy beating up on each other.
The Bruins will face competition from most of the teams in this division. The Flyers are coming off a big season thanks to the heroics of young goalie Carter Hart. The Rangers improved last year after bringing in Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere will help them get even better. Alex Ovechkin still leads a very strong Capitals squad. I think those four teams will end up in the playoffs, but none of these four are locks.
The Sabres, Penguins, or Islanders could all make a case for the playoffs too. Buffalo has slowly improved as the young talent develops, and the additions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal will only accelerate things. The Penguins are getting older but Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could still make a case for the playoffs. The Islanders lack big name superstars, but coach Barry Trotz has kept them competitive. I suspect the teams in this division will be beating up on the New Jersey Devils a lot. While the Devils are looking better than last year, they are no match for these other teams.
The Bruins may very well be the best team in this division or possibly even one of the best in the league. The issue is this division is so close that there’s going to be no margin for error. A bad stretch by the Bruins could cost them the division, or even cost them a playoff spot. For the Bruins this year, my expectations are low, but my hopes are high.
That’s all for my quick take today. Stay tuned for more NHL content on Twitter later today.