We check out the Eastern Conference for the 2021-22 NHL season and have a look at causes to imagine in every group, not imagine in every group, and have a look at whether or not or not they’re going to be a playoff group this season. To sustain with all of the NHL motion this season, subscribe to ESPN+


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Boston Bruins: Some questions, however the window continues to be open

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Bruins: They nonetheless have one of the best high line in hockey with Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand main the way in which, and have the potential for an awesome second line with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. They are an older group, they don’t have an awesome farm system, however they nonetheless have six or seven actually high-end gamers which might be going to hold them. Charlie McAvoy can be going to be a constant Norris Trophy contender for years. 

Reason to not imagine within the Bruins:  Unless Tuukka Rask returns I’m not certain how a lot confidence it’s best to have in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. It isn’t that it’s a dangerous duo. It is only a query mark. David Krejci’s absence goes to be important on the second line if Charlie Coyle or Jason Studnicka don’t step ahead to fill that spot. 

Playoff group: Yes. Fringe Stanley Cup contender. 


Buffalo Sabres: Time for another rebuild

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Sabres:  There are usually not many causes for optimism right here. At all. Rasmus Dahlin may lastly escape, and Owen Power is providing some hope sooner or later. Other than that, this can be a dismal scenario that’s going to lead to a tenth consecutive season exterior of the playoffs.

Reason to not imagine within the Sabres: The roster is awful. Sam Reinhart has already been traded, Jack Eichel will quickly be traded for pennies on the greenback, and the franchise is heading for one more rebuild to try to repair the latest rebuild that flopped (which is an effort to repair the rebuild that flopped earlier than that). 

Playoff group: No. They could be choosing No. 1 total once more. Or a minimum of have one of the best lottery odds for it. 


Carolina Hurricanes: Take warning of these forwards

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Hurricanes:  Just a ton of expertise right here at ahead and protection. Andrei Svechnikov is able to escape, Sebastian Aho is a star, Teuvo Teravainen is an underrated monster, and even with out Dougie Hamilton they nonetheless have a wonderful protection. They are a respectable Stanley Cup contender and could be one of the best group in one of the best division.

Reason to not imagine within the Hurricanes: While the protection continues to be excellent, dropping Hamilton IS a giant loss, and their goalie scenario is a little bit of a query mark. Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen have the power to be a extremely good duo, however their age and up to date damage historical past are a priority.

Playoff group: Yes. Top-tier Stanley Cup contender.  

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Columbus Blue Jackets: Salvaging Patrik Laine

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Reason to imagine within the Blue Jackets: Goaltending is the final word X-factor in hockey, and Columbus thinks it has a fairly good one in Elvis Merzlikins. And they could be proper. He has the potential to maintain them aggressive on most nights. They even have Patrik Laine who desperately wants a bounce-back yr. If he does (and the power and observe report is actually there) he might give the Blue Jackets an elite objective scorer to alter some video games. 

Reason to not imagine within the Blue Jackets: The remainder of the roster simply isn’t that good and has a whole lot of weaknesses and query marks. They additionally play in a brutal division that has a minimum of six potential playoff groups. At least one good group right here goes to overlook the playoffs. Maybe two of them.

Playoff group: No. If they keep away from final place it must be a optimistic yr. 


Detroit Red Wings: The rebuild marches on

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Red Wings: Moritz Seider brings some large potential on protection, and if Alex Nedeljkovic can repeat his 2020-21 efficiency in Carolina they may have the goalie place set for the foreseeable future. They are usually not able to compete but, however if you happen to squint you’ll be able to see some progress right here.

Reason to not imagine within the Red Wings: Just a really skinny roster with out many impression gamers. Jakub Vrana might have been one, however he’s going to overlook a lot of the season on account of damage which is a disappointment for everyone. He might need scored 35 objectives along with his top-line alternative right here.

Playoff group: No. Not with this roster fairly but, and definitely not on this division with this competitors round them. 


Florida Panthers: It is okay to believe

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Reason to imagine within the Panthers: The 2020-21 season was one of the best in franchise historical past, and so they spent the offseason including Sam Reinhart and Joe Thornton to that roster. Aleksander Barkov is a bonafide star, Jonathan Huberdeau is an elite offensive participant, and so they have a extremely robust supporting forged round them. This group is for actual. 

Reason to not imagine within the Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky has not been the goalie they anticipated him to be, and so they may want Spencer Knight — a rookie, however in all probability the highest goalie prospect in hockey — to emerge earlier than they will take the following step.

Playoff group: Yes, however possibly a Wild Card group in a tricky division. If they do make the playoffs will probably be simply the second time in franchise historical past they’ve made the playoffs in back-to-back years. 

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Montreal Canadiens: Can they recapture that magic?

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Canadiens: Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki are younger stars, and in the event that they go off and develop into impression gamers that may assist. Rather a lot. 

Reason to not imagine within the Canadiens:  They misplaced quite a bit. Phillip Danault is in Los Angeles, Tomas Tatar is in New Jersey, Jesperi Kotkaniemi is in Carolina, Shea Weber is finished for the season, and Carey Price is taking a private go away of absence from the group and it isn’t but recognized when he’ll make his season debut. Those are some key contributors to that magical Stanley Cup Final run. In many circumstances the largest contributors. Plus they’re out of the all-Canadian North Division and again in with a bunch of Stanley Cup contenders in Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, and Florida. Tough break.

Playoff group: No. It simply doesn’t appear possible with the roster as it’s and the division they’re again on this season. 


New Jersey Devils: Right direction, wrong division

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Devils:  Jack Hughes goes to be a famous person and so they made some nice offseason additions in Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar, and Jonathan Bernier. There is a few good, younger expertise right here with some robust veteran additions. 

Reason to not imagine within the Devils: Depth continues to be a little bit of a query mark and so they should leapfrog a minimum of a few the Islanders, Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, and Flyers. That isn’t going to be simple. 

Playoff group: Not possible, however undoubtedly a greater group that won’t be simple to play in opposition to. 


New York Islanders: They will ruin your playoff dreams

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Islanders:  They have two No. 1 caliber goalies in Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, an elite protection pairing in Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, an awesome coach, and a ahead group that doesn’t have many weaknesses, even when it lacks impression gamers past Mathew Barzal. They have been within the Eastern Conference Final two years in a row.

Reason to not imagine within the Islanders:  Would wish to see any person else aside from Barzal be capable to step ahead and make an impression. Losing Jordan Eberle hurts. They can generally be liable to lengthy stretches within the common season the place they don’t win many video games, and they won’t have a lot margin for error on this division. 

Playoff group: Yes, and one that may in all probability beat a “more talented” group or two on their option to one other deep playoff run. Maybe even a Stanley Cup Final look. 


New York Rangers: Pressure is on to win right now

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Reason to imagine within the Rangers:  Artemi Panarin is a respectable MVP candidate, Adam Fox is a literal Norris Trophy winner, and they’re oozing with proficient excessive draft picks which have famous person potential. They even have an impressive younger goaltending duo with Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. If every part clicks collectively on the proper time the sky is the restrict right here for this group.

Reason to not imagine within the Rangers: Ownership is a little bit nuts and made wholesale adjustments, growing the strain. They additionally might need fallen sufferer to the identical lure another Metropolitan Division groups have fallen into and let Tom Wilson dictate how they construct their roster. Never do this. They additionally really want these excessive draft picks and high prospects to pan out and develop into star gamers.

Playoff group: Maybe. They want some issues to go proper. But they’re one among six groups within the Metropolitan Division that would end anyplace between first and sixth place and it might not be a lot of a shock. 

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Ottawa Senators: Still waiting for the next step

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Senators: There is a whole lot of younger expertise right here, particularly once they get Brady Tkachuk signed. They might make this work long-term if possession makes the proper investments.

Reason to not imagine within the Senators: Why would you belief this possession group? They can’t even get Tkachuk, their finest participant and franchise constructing block, signed on time for the beginning of the 2021-22 season. 

Playoff group: No. The roster isn’t but ok and the division is brutal. 


Philadelphia Flyers: Will the real Carter Hart please stand up?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Flyers: This isn’t a foul roster by any means. There is a whole lot of expertise right here and so they made some nice pickups this offseason by including Cam Atkinson, Ryan Ellis, and Keith Yandle. Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t make a lot sense, nevertheless it does match the Flyers team-building operation by being a wildly daring and probably reckless transfer that grabs headlines. Even so, there’s a whole lot of expertise right here that may win. 

Reason to not imagine within the Flyers:  It looks like your complete season is using on the shoulders of Carter Hart. If he’s good and performs like he did his first two years within the NHL they are going to be a playoff group, possibly even an excellent playoff group. If he doesn’t, they are going to in all probability be a disappointment and return to in search of one other franchise goalie to lastly repair that place. 

Playoff group: Maybe. Let us see how Carter Hart performs. 


Pittsburgh Penguins: Do not bet against Sidney Crosby

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Penguins: When wholesome, they nonetheless have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Jake Guentzel. Some of them could be getting older and declining, however they will nonetheless be impression gamers. Do not guess in opposition to these guys. Jeff Carter, Bryan Rust, Kasperi Kapanen, and Brian Dumoulin are additionally robust complementary gamers to that core. 

Reason to not imagine within the Penguins: They misplaced some ahead depth and didn’t actually do an awesome job changing it, and so they nonetheless have the large query of whether or not or not Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith are ok goaltenders to assist them compete for a Stanley Cup. Goaltending fully modified their playoff collection in opposition to the New York Islanders. 

Playoff group: Probably. This would be the yr lots of people decide them to overlook the playoffs, and so they may finally be right, however this core and this teaching employees led by Mike Sullivan are usually not going to be counted out simply. 


Tampa Bay Lightning: Going for the three-peat

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Reason to imagine within the Lighting:  They have been the NHL’s finest group for seven years now and received back-to-back Stanley Cups. They have superstars at each stage of the roster, together with one of the best goalie within the league (Andrei Vasilevskiy) enjoying behind a ahead and protection group of All-Stars. It is sort of unfair.

Reason to not imagine within the Lightning:  They did lose 4 crucial complementary items this offseason as Tyler Johnson, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, and Yanni Gourde all exited in trades, free company or the enlargement draft. Eventually, the wage cap will get you. The latter three gamers (Coleman, Goodrow, and Gourde) fashioned one of many NHL’s finest, most dominant, and only traces the previous two years and performed a key function of their two Stanley Cup wins. They want their inner pipeline of expertise by way of the farm system to assist substitute them. 

Playoff group: Yes. Maybe the NHL’s first three-peat because the early Nineteen Eighties New York Islanders dynasty. 

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Do something

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Reason to imagine within the Maple Leafs:  They nonetheless have an awesome core of expertise with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly on the high of the lineup. For the entire criticism and flaws, this can be a good hockey group. It can be a really thrilling hockey group. It must be a Stanley Cup contending hockey group. 

Reason to not imagine within the Maple Leafs. The present roster in the beginning of the season might be a little bit bit worse than the roster that was not ok to win a playoff spherical a yr in the past, dropping its fifth consecutive First Round collection. So why ought to issues be totally different this season? They are additionally relying on Jack Campbell to repeat his 2020-21 efficiency in objective, which could be asking quite a bit.

Playoff group: Yes. But no one cares if this group makes the playoffs. The solely motive folks will care is that if they really win a playoff collection and do one thing once they get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Until then, it’s only a group that finishes in third place and can’t get out of the First Round.


Washington Capitals: Total wild card team

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Reason to imagine within the Capitals: They have been a continuing within the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a decade and a half now. They nonetheless have Alex Ovechkin. They nonetheless have an awesome core of veteran expertise. Also, Anthony Mantha goes to have a monster season on this group. 

Reason to not imagine within the Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom‘s hip is a priority, and so they want massive bounce-back seasons from Evgeny Kuznetsov and particularly beginning goaltender Ilya Samsonov. Those three issues might actually impression how this season goes for the Capitals. They are additionally one of many oldest groups within the NHL with their forwards and protection each averaging greater than 30 years of age. 

Playoff group: Probably. Very much like the Penguins in that lots of people will in all probability anticipate this to be the season they miss the playoffs. Also similar to the Penguins in that they nonetheless have a ton of expertise you in all probability shouldn’t guess in opposition to. 

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