It’s the day before the Bruins start the NHL season, so as far as we’re concerned the season hasn’t started yet.
Anyway, let’s have a look at the rest of the division and see how they look to start the season, in alphabetical order.
Biggest good ideas: Genuinely (kind of) out of the box coaching hire whose built a reputation with the Swiss hockey club of sound fundamentals and getting the best he can out of relatively little. Got some nice depth in Johansson and Chiller.
Biggest bad ideas: Jack Eichel might as well still be the General Manager. Carter Hutton might not be the be-all, end-all answer in goal. Dahlin will continue to be saddled with the enormous finnish boat anchor made by Ristolainen until either he breaks or the anchor does.
Look, there’s a lot of good things about the Sabres. They have a bunch of really good all-american dudes like Mittelstadt and Eichel and have some really fantastic players like Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin and Ralph Krueger was a fantastic choice for a coach given that he has made himself a name as a guy who can take disparate parts and turn them into gold. Even across sports!
But those parts n the case of the Sabres may just be too disparate to matter for what he’s good at. The team is enormously top heavy, and while that might be enough to bouy them into a wildcard spot, the glaring deficiencies may not give them the results they hope for.
...And of course given the shocking amount of sway one Jack Eichel has over the entire organization, sweeping change could happen at any time. It’s gonna be “fun”, in all the right and wrong ways.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: 3-1 B’s, and the one L will be an extremely goofy one.
Detroit Red Wings
Biggest Good Ideas: Steve Yzerman is in charge now! The future is going to look a lot brighter!
Biggest Bad Ideas: The best parts of your team are in Grand Rapids.
This season is a wash for Detroit, who will probably begin to make hard reboots to what they are and to what they look like over the course of the season. That said, the Wings usually make things as difficult as humanly possible for Boston in most of their meetings lately, so while they spend their time looking to get a french-canadian center, they’ll likely steal a game here or there.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: 2-2.
Biggest Good ideas: Getting above-replacement level goaltending and a world class coach in Joel Quennville. Fourth line isn’t a complete mess anymore now that Acciari is there. Top 2 lines are really good.
Biggest Bad Ideas: Anton Stralman would’ve been a great pickup five years ago, not the 2019 Stralman. Your goaltending lives and dies by Bobrovsky’s health. Aaron Eckblad is uh...still not doing great.
Injuries have always been the single biggest thing that Florida has had to deal with over and over and over. And it doesn’t seem to be changing much on that front as they have a good situation in having six forwards who are genuinely good to absolutely fantastic (Barkov), but have some major deficiencies in their depth, and doubly so on their defense pairings. A single injury could hamstring their ability to get wins or points for months.
But! Unlike other years, they have a coach that, in the right context, could absolutely take this team back to the postseason given his pedigree. Coach Q already showed during preseason that his team will be fast and high-flying, and will never truly be out of it...but if you can defend that first two lines, you can break them. Combine that with a mercurial Bobrovsky, and you have a recipe for either a fantastic feel-good comeback season, or one of the best lottery teams about to make a lot of people very nervous...next year.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: 3-1 B’s.
Biggest good ideas: Got Younger at forward! Plenty of fantastic skilled players playing good hockey! Carey Price is still there!
Biggest bad ideas: The Defense did not get younger, nor any better at defense. Carey Price isn’t getting any younger. Jonathan Drouin shockingly ended up being a major problem and not the answer at center in any way and is now part of a miserable third line.
I genuinely don’t understand why Nick Suzuki has been playing wing for Montreal when he was so good at center. I just don’t understand the logic. But, their weaknesses are getting worked on, that’s a positive at least. The Habs have a pretty solid offensive squad that can definitely has enough individual talent to drag some of their less fortunate lines to at least a secondary assist every other game and their center corps (assuming they actually play them at center) is slowly coming into shape.
Where their problems lie is in their defense; which has the two prong problem of being generally old and bad, and they don’t have enough talented young guys to make up for that.
But as it usually goes with this squad, Carey Price is the one who will decide whether or not the Habs return to the playoffs. Even with nagging injury, he still has the annoying ability to take over games if he wants to. Can he keep it up over 82 games? Well, with their depth starting and ending at Keith Kinkaid, they’d better hope so!
Of course, the B’s and Habs tend to drag each other into the single dumbest, tightest, and stressful games either squad plays all year, so I’m thankful most of the games are at least moderately spaced out across the year.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: 3-1 B’s, but I’m being generous because it could be 2-2 or 1-3 just as easily.
Biggest good ideas: traded and drafted some real special players on the cusp of being NHL stars very soon. Haven’t heard much from Eugene Melnyk...at all. Thomas Chabot is good at everything and is now a Sen until 2028. Batherson, Tkachuk, and Chlapik are gonna be something fantastic at some point soon. Erik Brannstrom is going to be absolutely disgusting.
Biggest bad ideas: Eugene Melnyk still owns the team. Defense outside Chabot and Brannstrom is an absolute mess. Goaltending isn’t great and is getting exceptionally old.
Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey, and Mark Borowiecki are on at least one half of a defense pairing on this team. Also Craig Anderson is 39.
That tells you more about the Ottawa Senators in 2019 than anything I can say.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: 4-0 B’s unless Bergeron or Krejci miss significant time.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Biggest good ideas: Not panicking. Getting rid of dead weight, re-signing Point.
Biggest bad ideas: Letting the world know you do in fact bleed. 4th line looks pretty bad but on a team this talented that’s more of a nitpick than anything.
The hope in shock defeats of great teams like the 2018-19 Lightning in the playoffs is that they panic, start moving everybody that breathes, and ends up worse off as a result. Regrettably the Tampa Bay Lightning are one of those teams that are so good they couldn’t even catch themselves doing that, instead making shrewd decisions that ultimately ensured that they won’t be any better or worse than they were last year...which means they’re going to be contending for the division. That doesn’t mean they’re not mortal! We definitely know that now! If you get them off their game, they crumble like a house of cards. Even if they look scary, they can bleed.
It’s just uh...some things that bleed don’t always take it lying down. Sometimes they just start snarling and get angrier.
It can happen.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: Thinking 2-2 but those two losses are gonna make someone really angry.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Biggest good ideas: Not letting Mitch Marner become a blue jacket or something. Got rid of all the disastrously awful and old players on their right side defense. Probably making John Tavares a captain again, which is always nice.
Biggest Bad ideas: Almost letting actual gremlin Auston Matthews be the captain of their team, effectively nickle and diming the actually weak part of their team (their defense) to the point that from here on out they’re gonna have to constantly replace it with fantastic players on ELCs while still being a good team. Cody Ceci in general. Mike Babcock’s bad traits are still ingrained in him.
There is nothing I can say or suggest that says that the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs don’t end up facing each other in the first round again. The current playoff format is absolutely busted, it’s going to ensure we do this forever and ever unless it is changed.
See you blue-shirted goons for Round One.
Season Series Wild Guess prediction: Bruins in 7.