After going over the New York Islanders season and showing how depth and goaltending helped them reach the 100 point plateau for a second straight season, it’s time to look at the other teams in the Eastern Conference from my predictions article back in October and see what has changed and what it may mean for the playoffs. I’m going to specifically look at the Islanders and Panthers after going over the rest of the teams and will be making my playoff predictions tomorrow morning based off what I’ve been able to find.
Core Teams: Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Washington.
My Take: Only Montreal did not make the playoffs out the core of 6. Thank you Carey Price. The Penguins made the most significant moves during the season before the trade deadline by trading Rod Scuderi for Trevor Daley, Acquiring Carl Hagelin from the Anaheim Ducks, firing their head coach Mike Johnston for the baby Pens coach Mike Sullivan and acquired defenseman Justin Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers. Since the trade deadline, the Pens went 16-5 to finish the season with 104 points and took second place in the Metro Division. That’s significant folks because for most of the season it was either the Rangers or Islanders in second place and the Pens were never out of it, but they were just there. They took away all momentum from both teams and now they are the hottest team entering the playoffs. Can the Islanders control the Penguins winning ways? Of course not, but if the Pens don’t go on that run, I think the Isles outcome would’ve been different. Maybe playing Florida is a consolation prize for not getting home ice advantage. Tampa Bay was hung over from their Cup run and did not come out of the gate as they should as many fans had them possibly repeating becoming Eastern Conference for a second straight year. The Rangers had a frustratingly good season as they acquired another 100 point season, but many fans are not happy with the effort that was shown during the season.
Bubble Teams: Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Ottawa
My Take: Columbus fired their coach before Halloween and right after the Islanders beat them. They hired John Tortorella and they never got out of last in the division. It’s back to the drawing board for them. Detroit and it’s depth makes the playoffs for the 25th consecutive year and will play an injury-riddled Tampa team. The Ottawa Senators just blew it. They needed 94 points, which is possible for this team and they just couldn’t get it together. Kyle Turris missing time was a reason, but their defense needs help.
Sophomores: Boston, Carolina, Philadelphia
See Ottawa when it comes to Boston. Carolina had an excellent season and I’m looking forward to see how they improve during the summer. Philadelphia, like Pittsburgh made moves during the season, getting rid of Lecavalier and Luke Schenn and they bounced back to make the playoffs. They now take on the Washington Capitals.
Lottery: Buffalo, New Jersey, Toronto
Buffalo was the only other bright spot in the Atlantic other than the Panthers. They improved significantly and they should be better for next season. Same goes for the Devils. They were in it up until the trade deadline and will not be surprised if I make the Devils a possible bubble team next year. Toronto? No Austin Mathews and there will be riots.
So here the Islanders are with the Florida Panthers, a team in a weaker division and yet the Isles have not done well against them over the years. The Canadiens had an implosion and collapsed and Tampa never got it together until the second half of the season, only to be ravaged with injuries to Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman. The Panthers never faced Carey Price at all this season while the Isles got spanked by the Canadiens before Price got hurt. Florida went 1-1-1 against their Florida rival Ben Bishop so there really wasn’t a major advantage for the Panthers. Boston and Ottawa were never factors to challenge the Panthers and only three teams from the Atlantic made it to the playoffs. No one caught up to the Capitals in the Metro, the Penguins came roaring back to dominate and the Rangers, despite a long season, ended up in 4th in the Conference. Along with the Isles, the first five teams in the Eastern Conference were from the Metro division. So yes, the Panthers did finish with 104 points and the Isles with 100, but it’s quality over quantity and from the looks of things, the edge may go to the Isles. Tomorrow morning, I’ll have my picks for the first round of the playoffs. I love this time of year.