Photo: Silver Seven Sens
With the start of the 2022-23 NHL season four days away (for the Eastern Conference), NoVa Caps continues their annual division previews. Today, we will preview the Atlantic Division.
2021-22 Result: 22-49-11, last in NHL
- RW Cole Canfield (23 goals)
- C Nick Suzuki (40 assists, 61 points)
- D David Savard (20:47 TOI/game)
- G Jake Allen (nine wins)
Key Offseason Additions: LW Juraj Slafkovsky, D Mike Matheson, C Kirby Dach, C Sean Monahan, RW Evgenii Dadonov
Key Offseason Subtractions: D Jeff Petry, C Ryan Poehling, D Kale Clague, D Alexander Romanov, D William Lagesson
The Canadiens are a team that is currently in a rebuild after going from a Stanley Cup finalist in 2021 to rock bottom last season.
Although they should improve after integrating some young talent up front in Slafkovsky (five goals, 10 points in 31 SM-Liiga games), the first overall pick in the NHL Draft, and Dach (17 assists, 26 points in 70 games with the Chicago Blackhawks), the third overall pick in 2019 who has yet to reach his potential. The two could help a power-play that ranked 31st in the NHL with a 13.7% efficiency.
Goaltender Carey Price will likely miss the entire season with a knee injury and the Canadiens’ defense is relatively thin, especially after parting with Petry, after allowing an average of 3.87 goals-per-game (an NHL-high) and earning a 75.6% penalty-killing rate (27th). It could improve with a full season from Joel Edmundson, who was limited to just 24 games in 2021-22. Allen (.905 save percentage, 3.30 goals-against average, two shutouts in 35 games) will head into the season as the Canadiens’ No. 1 again.
While the Canadiens have a thin blueline, they have a deep forward group after acquiring Dadonov, a four-time 20-goal scorer in the past five seasons. Suzuki will aim to develop even more after he took a huge step last season as Montreal has lacked a No. 1 center for years but the 23-year-old can fulfill that need with a big year. Suzuki (12 goals, 34 points) and Caufield (22 goals, 35 points) both took off when the team replaced head coach Dominique Ducharme with Martin St. Louis in the final 37 games of the season. Look out for those two to find another gear with St. Louis with the team from the start.
The Canadiens are currently in rebuild but expect to see some improvement from this team under St. Louis.
2021-22 Result: 33-42-7, seventh in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference
- RW Alex DeBrincat (41 goals, 78 points)
- RW Claude Giroux (44 assists)
- D Thomas Chabot (26:12 TOI/game)
- G Cam Talbot (32 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: DeBrincat, Giroux, Talbot, D Jacob Larsson, RW Tyler Motte, C Jayce Hawryluk
Key Offseason Subtractions: C Chris Tierney, D Victor Mete, RW Connor Brown, C Colin White, C Adam Gaudette, G Jonas Gustavsson, D Michael Del Zotto, G Matt Murray
After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, the Senators made some big upgrades to make them a threat in the Eastern Conference. They acquired two top-six right-wings in DeBrincat and Giroux (44 assists, 65 points in 75 games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers) after finishing 26th in the NHL with an average of 2.73 goals-per-game in 2021-22.
While a couple of big additions will put Ottawa in the race, they may need to do more to improve a defense that gave up 3.22 goals-per-game (22nd) after not making any significant changes in that area. Though, the acquisition of Talbot, who went 32-12-4 with a .911 save percentage, 2.77 goals-against average, and three shutouts in 49 games with the Minnesota Wild, should help once he returns after it was announced that he will miss the first four-to-six weeks of the season with an upper-body injury. The Senators are reportedly a top possible landing spot for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jacob Chychrun.
The Senators need 23-year-old left-wing Brady Tkachuk (30 goals, 67 points in 79 games), 23-year-old center Josh Norris (35 goals, 55 points in 66 games), and 20-year-old left-wing Tim Stutzle (22 goals, 58 points in 79 games) to build on their breakout seasons and take the next step.
In addition to the young stars already there, the team is expected to have 20-year-old defenseman Jake Sanderson (the fifth overall pick in 2020 who recorded eight goals, 26 points, and a +5 rating in 23 games at the University of North Dakota) and 21-year-old center Shane Pinto (who has seven assists and eight points in 17 NHL games over the last two seasons) step into the NHL.
There is a lot of excitement about the Senators’ offseason moves, which should put them in the mix for a wild-card spot if they can withstand the loss of Talbot for a little bit.
Detroit Red Wings
2021-22 Result: 32-40-10, sixth in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference
- C Dylan Larkin (31 goals, 69 points)
- D Moritz Seider (43 assists, 23:02 TOI/game)
- G Villie Husso (25 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: Husso, D Mark Pysyk, RW Austin Czarnik, RW Dominik Kubalik, D Ben Chiarot, LW David Perron, D Olli Maatta, C Andrew Copp, Head Coach Derek Lalonde, D Robert Hagg
Key Offseason Subtractions: G Thomas Greiss, Head Coach Jeff Blashill, D Marc Staal, C Sam Gagner, D Olli Juolevi
The Red Wings were perhaps the busiest team this offseason as they made several changes, most notably to their defense after allowing a league-high 4.33 goals-per-game in their final 30 games of last season as they signed Chiarot, Pysyk, and Maatta. They also acquired Husso after he had a breakout season with the St. Louis Blues where he went 25-7-6 with a .919 save percentage, 2.56 goals-against average (12th), and two shutouts.
The team added some reinforcements up front after signing Perron, Kubalik, and Copp. Having left-wing Jakub Vrana, who tallied 13 goals and 19 points in 26 games after missing the team’s first 56 with a shoulder injury, healthy for the start of the season should also provide a big boost up front.
The Red Wings will lean on Seider, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year, and left-wing Lucas Raymond, who’s 23 goals were tied for second among rookies while his 57 points ranked third, to build upon their rookie seasons for a franchise that is trending in the right direction.
After adding Husso, the Red Wings will enter the season with a goalie tandem that has just 145 games of NHL experience. Husso started 40 games last season while Alex Nedeljkovic started more than 24 games for the first time in his career and turned in just a .901 save percentage and 3.31 goals-against average in 59 games. While both have talent and shown signs of potential, there is some risk as to whether they are the answer in goal. Another thing to watch is how the defense in front of them reacts after adding three new pieces over the offseason.
The Red Wings’ young forwards should grow even more, especially with some help from a couple of big reinforcements, and the team added depth on defense and in goal. Look for them to grow even more this season.
2021-22 Result: 32-40-10, sixth in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference
- RW Tage Thompson (38 goals, 68 points)
- D Rasmus Dahlin (40 assists, 24:01 TOI/game)
- G Craig Anderson (17 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: Clague, D Lawrence Pilut, G Eric Comrie, D Ilya Lybushkin, C Riley Sheahan
Key Offseason Subtractions: Pysyk, C Mark Jankowski, C John Hayden, C Drake Caggiula, D Colin Miller, G Dustin Tokarski, D Will Butcher
The Sabres are a team still in rebuild after trading center Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights last season and did not make any major moves over the offseason.
The hope for them is that 21-year-old center Peyton Krebs (seven goals, 22 points in 57 games), who was acquired in the trade that sent Eichel to Vegas; Dahlin, 22 (53 points, 50.11% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 46.77% five-on-five expected goals-for and scoring chances-for percentages in 80 games); center Dylan Cozens, 21 (13 goals, 38 points in 79 games); right-wing Jack Quinn, 21 (one goal, two points in two NHL games and 26 goals, 61 points in 45 AHL games); and defenseman Owen Power, 19 (two goals, three points in eight NHL games and three goals, 32 points, +27 rating in 33 games at the University of Michigan) continue to grow.
The Sabres are doing a lot of good things and ended last season on a positive note, when they finished 16-9-3 after March 1, but still have ways to go.
2021-22 Result: 51-26-5, fourth in Atlantic Division, sixth in Eastern Conference; lost in first round to Carolina Hurricanes
- RW David Pastrnak (40 goals)
- LW Brad Marchand (48 assists, 80 points)
- D Charlie McAvoy (24:38 TOI/game)
- G Linus Ullmark (26 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: D Connor Carrick, G Keith Kinkaid, C Pavel Zacha, C David Krejci, Head Coach Jim Montgomery
Key Offseason Subtractions: D Josh Brown, C Curtis Lazar, C Erik Haula, LW Anton Blidh, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy
The Bruins will begin the season with some major players out due to injury as Marchand, McAvoy, and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk are all expected to miss the start of the season after each had surgery in the offseason.
After having a hole at second-line center last season, the Bruins brought Krejci (20 goals, 46 points in 51 Czech League games) and Zacha (15 goals and 36 points in 70 games with the New Jersey Devils) in. One of the two will fill the hole. Krejci thrived with left-wing Taylor Hall after the Bruins acquired him from the Sabres two years ago as he led the team with 15 assists and co-led them with 21 points in 16 games after the trade. The two rekindling the chemistry that they had would be a huge help while Marchand is out.
The goaltending duty in Boston was split very evenly between Ullmark (26-10-2, .917 save percentage, 2.45 goals-against average, one shutout) and Jeremy Swayman (23-14-3, .914 save percentage, 2.41 goals-against average, three shutouts) as each started 39 games and played in 41 last season. In addition, the results were very similar. However, Swayman started five of the Bruins’ seven first-round games. While the Bruins are in great hands with both netminders, will one pull himself in front of the other this season?
Another thing to watch with the Bruins this season is how they will play under a new head coach. The match between the two could be seamless as the team has averaged a league-low 2.53 goals-against per game and 82.8% penalty-killing rate (third-best) over the past five seasons. During his tenure with the Dallas Stars from 2018-19, Montgomery’s team was the only team better defensively than the Bruins as they allowed just 2.48 per game while Boston had 2.49. In addition to missing their top defenseman in McAvoy, the Bruins leaned heavily on Grzelcyk (1:25 average penalty-killing time per game) defensively.
The Bruins are in a position where their window is closing and with the amount of injuries that they have in a division that saw the Senators and Red Wings improve, this could be a difficult season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
2021-22 Result: 51-23-8, third in Atlantic Division, fifth in Eastern Conference; lost in Stanley Cup Final to Colorado Avalanche
- C Steven Stamkos (42 goals, 106 points)
- D Victor Hedman (65 assists, 25:05 TOI/game)
- RW Nikita Kucherov (1.47 points-per-game)
- G Andrei Vasilevskiy (39 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: Blashill (assistant), D Philippe Myers, LW Grant Mismash, D Hadyn Fleury, RW Vladislav Namestnikov, D Ian Cole
Key Offseason Subtractions: Lalonde, D Ryan McDonagh, LW Ondrej Palat, D Andrej Sustr
The three-time defending Eastern Conference Champions had a couple of massive losses over the offseason after trading McDonagh and letting Palat go. The team acquired a few reinforcements but none of them are expected to contribute to the level those two did. In addition, the team will be without center Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Zach Bogosian (each had shoulder surgery) for at least the first month of the season.
The Lightning have played 71 postseason games over the past three seasons, at least 26 more than anyone else, and while they have a talented team, the rust will eventually catch up to them like it appeared to at the end of last season when they finished the regular season 16-12-2.
While the Lightning will be without some key pieces from their previous runs, this team’s core cannot be matched by many (if any) with Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman, Vasilevskiy, and center Brayden Point (28 goals, 58 points in 66 regular-season games). However, the team will be forced to integrate new pieces around them due to salary cap constraints. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev is among those expected to see a bigger role this season after McDonagh was dealt.
The Lightning’s defense will have three new faces in Cole, Fleury, and Myers, which should bring a younger look to a defensive core that finished sixth in the NHL with a 2.78 goals-against per game last season. That could cause for some time for adjustment but the good news is that the best goaltender in the world will be playing behind them.
The Lightning’s core underwent a little bit of a shake up over the offseason but it will take a lot more for them to be removed from the NHL’s elite. Though, the start of the season could be a little bumpy.
Toronto Maple Leafs
2021-22 Result: 54-21-7, second in Atlantic Division, third in Eastern Conference; lost in first-round to Lightning
- C Auston Matthews (60 goals, 106 points)
- RW Mitch Marner (62 assists)
- D Morgan Reilly (23:44 TOI/game)
- G Ilya Samsonov (23 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: Samsonov, G Matt Murray, C Adam Gaudette, LW Calle Jarnkrok, D Jordie Benn, D Victor Mete, C Denis Malgin, LW Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Key Offseason Subtractions: Lybushkin, RW Ondrej Kase, RW Ilya Mikheyev, G Jack Campbell, G Petr Mrazek, C Jason Spezza
The Maple Leafs’ biggest shake-up after their sixth consecutive first-round exit came in goal as they let Campbell go and acquired Murray (5-12-2, .906 save percentage, 3.05 goals-against average, one shutout with Senators and was even assigned to the AHL) in a trade and Samsonov (23-12-5, .896 save percentage, 3.02 goals-against average, three shutouts with Washington Capitals) via free agency. The tandem is the biggest question facing this team and will likely make or break their season.
The team is led by Matthews, last season’s Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP, after he became the first player in the league to score 60 goals in a decade but they lost 47 goals when Mikheyev, Kase, and Spezza walked out of the door. This is already on a team that saw five players (Matthews, Marner, right-wings William Nylander and Michael Bunting, center John Tavares) score over 57% of their goals last season.
Until the Maple Leafs get over the hump in the postseason, there will always be pressure hanging over their heads. Another first-round exit this season could lead to some major changes after the team had the best regular campaign in franchise history last season, especially with Matthews set to eligible to sign a contract extension after this one.
The Maple Leafs had the best power-play in the NHL last season that scored at a rate of 27.3% and ranked second with 208 goals at five-on-five (Florida Panthers: 218). While the loss of Mikheyev will hurt, the offense should take some pressure off of the goaltending but will it to the degree that is necessary?
The Maple Leafs have one of the most talented rosters in hockey but the real assessment of this team will not come until the Spring.
2021-22 Result: 58-18-6, first in NHL; lost in second-round to Lightning
- RW Matthew Tkachuk (42 goals, 62 assists, 104 points)
- C Aleksander Barkov (1.31 points-per-game)
- D Aaron Ekblad (24:55 TOI/game)
- G Sergei Bobrovsky (39 wins)
Key Offseason Additions: Tkachuk, White, Del Zotto, LW Rudolfs Balcers, D Anthony Bitetto, D Marc Staal, C Nick Cousins, D Lucas Carlsson, Head Coach Paul Maurice
Key Offseason Subtractions: Chiarot, Giroux, Hagg, C Noel Acciari, RW Mason Marchment, Head Coach Andrew Brunette, LW Jonathan Huberdeau, D MacKenzie Weegar
After winning the Presidents’ Trophy and their first postseason series in 26 years, the Panthers lost a lot of valuable pieces including their leading scorer in Huberdeau, a top-pairing defenseman in Weegar, their head coach, and two of their top-six forwards in Marchment and Giroux. This team appears to be betting on players like Balcers (11 goals, 23 points in 61 games with the San Jose Sharks), Tierney (six goals, 18 points in 70 games), and White (three goals, 10 points in 24 games) to unleash some untapped potential.
Florida got a blow early in the offseason when they learned that they will be without 31-goal right-winger Anthony Duclair for the first half of the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. Of the eight players who scored at least 18 goals last season, just five of them are still on the roster (though, that does not include Tkachuk).
The Panthers’ starting goaltending job is up in the air with once highly-touted prospect Spencer Knight eying a larger role after a strong finish to last season. Though Bobrovsky had his best season in his three campaigns with Florida, he put up just a .913 save percentage.
The Panthers are also looking thin up the middle as the loss of Weegar created a big hole in the lineup. Defense was already not this team’s strength as their average of 2.95 goals-against per game was tied for 12th in the NHL last season. They signed four blueliners over the offseason but all are fringe NHL defensemen at best.
This team went from arguably the deepest in the league to one lacking of depth. The trade for Tkachuk was a huge risk as they not only parted with their top scorer but also created a big hole on defense on a team that had the best record in hockey. How will it impact the Panthers?
Caufield — Canadiens
He scored on a 49-goal and 78-point pace over a full 82-game stretch under St. Louis last season and should benefit from a full year under him and the Canadiens getting Slafkovsky. Caufield tallied four goals in 10 NHL games during 2020-21 and it is only a matter of time until the offense starts pouring for him.
Knight — Panthers
After a slow start last season, the 21-year-old finished 13-5-1 with a .919 save percentage, 2.39 goals-against average, and two shutouts in his final 19 games. It appears only a matter of time before Knight grabs the Panthers’ starting job as the organization is high on their 13th overall pick from 2019 and look for him to get more responsibility this season.
LW Brandon Hagel — Lightning
After Palat left, the 24-year-old will get more opportunity after scoring 25 goals and 44 points in 77 regular-season games. He scored just six in 45 regular- and postseason games after getting traded from the Blackhawks but should (and needs to) improve with a larger role.
C Pius Suter — Red Wings
The 24-year-old scored 14 and 15 goals, respectively, in his first two NHL seasons and should play with better forwards after the Red Wings added a few and with Vrana healthy for the start of the season. The addition of Copp could reduce his time but Copp played primarily on the wing with the Winnipeg Jets. Suter improved with 36 points in 82 games last season.
1. X – Lightning
2. X – Maple Leafs
3. X – Red Wings
4. X – Senators
* X – denotes postseason teams
Previous Division Previews
By Harrison Brown
“Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev is among those expected to see a bigger role this season after McDonagh was dealt.” Sergy left during the first period and did not return. This is one of Tampa’s problems this year — lack of depth. You mention on-ice leaders but Tampa’s strength is their cohesive club. That took a big hit.
None of their prospects impressed me.
If Tampa can make the playoffs, they could go far. “the start of the season could be a little bumpy.” I think the bumpiness will last longer than that.