The news of a potential division re-alignment for the upcoming 2021 NHL season, due to the pandemic, first broke when Vegas Knights owner Bill Foley let the cat out of the bag in a local Las Vegas radio interview. A few weeks have past, and we recently heard that Foley’s remarks on the new division may actually be correct. According to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, the new divisions could already be in place, and they look like this:
With the exception of the Buffalo Sabres, it looks like the Bruins have a whole new group of division foes to face of against next season. So how does this favor the Bruins in an upcoming season? Let’s take a look at the teams that we could see a lot of on 2021 to try to find out.
Before starting the predictions though, even its important to note with all the uncertainty floating around the league and each team, not even Nostradamus could accurately guess what’s going to happen next season. So in order to even make assumptions, how the Bruins played their new divisional rivals last season, and each team’s off-season moves will be considered.
Starting off with a team the B’s are extremely familiar with, the Buffalo Sabres once again got off to a hot start in the 2019-20 season, starting the year 7-1-1, only to lost 15 of their next 20 games, essentially ending their season before the calendar hit December. Against the Bruins, the Sabres lost all three games by scores of 3-2, 3-0, and 3-2.
However, things are looking much brighter in Buffalo these days after they signed prized free agent Taylor Hall to a 1 year deal this offseason. In addition the Sabres helped to solidify themselves down the middle by adding Eric Staal via trade and Cody Eakin in free agency. On top of this, former first round pick Rasmus Dahlin quietly had a great season last year putting up 40 points in 59 games and is prime to improve those numbers next year.
Does this mean the Sabres are now a cup contender? Absolutely not. After all, the October Sabres thing is still very strong. But you can expect them to be a much tougher team to beat next year than they’ve been in a long time. The Bruins will have their hands full trying to contain Hall, Eichel and Reinhart, but should still be able to beat the Sabres on most nights.
After a decent regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes season once again ended in the playoffs at the hands of your Boston Bruins. When you look at the scores from that 5 game series against Boston, the series seemed very close, but stats can sometimes lie, and if you watched the series, after Svechnikov was lost in game 3, it was all but over. The Bruins also won the only regular season matchup last season, shutting the Canes out: 2-0.
With the exception of the addition of Jasper Fast this off-season the Canes, haven’t really made much waves via free agency or trades. The Hurricanes do have a young core and stable defense, so they could continue to improve this next season, but adding the Bruins and a much improved Sabres team to their division doesn’t help their cause. Look for the Canes to regress next season, but still give the Bruins fits, as they’ve got to have a major chip on their shoulder at this point.
The New Jersey Devils were just butt last season. They finished last in the Metro Division and 26th overall. They couldn’t score (only 189 goals in 69 games) and they could stop other teams from scoring either, giving up 230 goals, good for 3rd worst in the league. One of the few bright spots for the Devils came when they beat the President’s Trophy winners, 3-2 in a New Year’s Eve matinee. The Bruins however, easily handled the Devils in their other two matchup last season though.
Besides some minor moves bringing in Andreas Johnsson from the Leafs and Ryan Murray from the Blue Jackets, not to mention a desperation move signing Corey Crawford to try to stop the bleeding in net, the Devils had a less than stellar offseason. Expect the Devils to not only lose to the Bruins, but pretty much lose to every team they face next season.
Speaking of teams who have had bad offseasons, The Isles have pretty much been held hostage by Mat Barzal contract negotiations, and will probably have to say goodbye to a few pieces that helped them reach the conference finals, in order to sign their star center. They were able to re-sign Ryan Pulock, a very underrated defenceman to a two year deal, but lost Johnny Boychuk to retirement days ago.
Despite how the Islanders’ offseason eventually plays out, you can expect Barry Trotz to get the absolute most out of his roster, and have them play Trotz’s signature defensive game that can frustrate the most talented of teams. The Bruins fortunately have had the Islanders number over the last 5 years, winning 12 out of their last 15 games, and Boston has also won 10 straight away games vs. NYI. Expect these two to engage in some very tight defensive matchup next year and to split the games they play.
The Rangers took a huge step forward last season finishing the shortened season 37-28-5; good enough to earn them a bid in the qualifying round of the 2020 playoffs. Unfortunately for the Blue Shirts, their playoff run came to a quick end, after being swept by the Hurricanes.
Nonetheless, the future looks promising for the Rangers. They are a very young and skilled team, that got even younger and more skilled this past offseason when they drafted Alexis Lafrenière first overall. Offensively, led by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, New York is becoming one of the most dangerous teams in the league. There young defense is also ready take a step forward, and the Rangers seems to have found their goalies for the future in Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin.
The Bruins were 3-0 against the Rangers last season, however a regular season sweep this upcoming season is unlikely. The Rangers are still a couple of years away from making a splash in the playoffs, but are more than capable of beating any team or any given night in the regular season.
The Flyers were the streakiest team in the NHL last season. All year long the Flyers would win 3 or 4 games in a row, and then lose 3 or 4 in a row. Near the end of the regular season they did catch fire though, winning 9 in a row prior to the pause in hockey. When hockey commenced they continued where they left off, winning all 4 games in their round robin and then eliminating the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs in six games. The Flyers season would come to in end in the next series however, losing a grueling seven game battle to the Islanders.
Although the Flyers have had a relatively quiet offseason to date, the Flyers are poised to be division title contenders, with a good mix of veterans and upcoming stars like Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Sean Couturier, Morgan Frost and Carter Hart. That being said, the Flyers have been quite up and down the last few years, so it probably wouldn’t surprise many, if they were awful next year as well. Philadelphia has been a thorn in Boston’s side the last few years though (2-1 versus the Bruins in 2019-20) and should be a tough match up for the B’s next year as well.
No team has dominated the Bruins over the last decade quite like the Washington Capitals.
To say the Capitals have had the B’s number since 2012 would be an understatement. The Caps are 20-5 against the Bruins since then, including a 12-game winning streak between 2014-2018.
BUT....their is some hope for Boston next season, as noted ‘Bruin Killer’ Braden Holtby is now a Vancouver Canuck. Perhaps Holtby’s departure may turn the tides for the Boston Bruins and they’ll finally beat Washington...or perhaps not.
The Washington Capitals have also had kind of a quiet offseason, with their biggest move being bringing Henrik Lundqvist to replace the aforementioned Holtby in net. The Capitals, much like the Bruins, are getting older and seeing their window closing with every passing year. The current Caps probably have one or two more good seasons left in them, and should contend for the division title with the Bruins.
If we’re going to preview all the other teams in this new division, we should probably also mention the Bruins as well. We all know how last season went and then ended, so no need to get into that, however the offseason in Boston has been quite eventful...for a lot of the wrong reasons.
The Bruins saw their top offensive defenseman, Torey Krug, leave in free agency, their captain, Zdeno Chara, remains unsigned, they added Craig Smith from Nashville, re-signed Jake DeBrusk and a few prospects, and learned that Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak will probably not be ready to go when next season begins due to injuries.
For Bruins’ fans that last bit of news is most concerning. The Bruins who were desperately seeking secondary scoring last season, could be searching for primary scoring as well when the 2021 season begins.
But it’s not all bad in Boston. They’re still ridiculously deep at center with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Charlie Coyle, and have Jack Studnicka waiting in the wings. Their defense, even without Krug and Chara, should be fine, and they still have one of the best goalies in the world in Tuukka Rask.
Expect a slow start to next season, but the Bruins still should be one of the top teams in their new division, if not division winners, when the regular season is said and done.
So what do you think about Boston’s chances next season?
How will the Bruins do against their new division rivals next season?
This poll is closed
Complete Bruin domination
The Bruins will finish in the top half of the division
The Bruins will struggle and miss the playoffs