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‘22-23 Atlantic Preview: The teams to keep at bay.

As our previews continue on, we check in on the teams who could potentially give the B’s trouble.

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s getting to that time....again.

Which means of course we now need to start looking at the competition that surrounds this team, starting with the teams that, at least in my opinion, will be gunning for a shot at the wildcard or even for the third spot in the Atlantic. I wouldn’t call this a ringing endorsement of these teams going to the playoffs, but these are the teams in my estimation that will require actively keeping tabs on if they go on an early hot streak.

Buffalo Sabres

Key Signings: Matthew Savoie (draft), Ilya Lyubushkin, Eric Comrie, re-signed Victor Olofsson, Vinnie Hinestroza, and Jacob Bryson

Key Strengths: Lineup looks fairly balanced in the top six, didn’t panic and try to fix everything in free agency, cap flexibility for later in the season,

Key Weaknesses: Goaltending, Consistency

The Sabres didn’t exactly light the offseason on fire, preferring to instead fill roster spots and assume that their young talent will progress to the point that they can get back to the playoffs. And they have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the state of the franchise for once: guys like Tage Thompson were a revelation last year and got moneyed, Alex Tuch has found new life in blue and gold, Owen Power will be a full-time Sabre, and as much as Rasmus Dahlin has had his embarrassing moments, he’s begun to mature into a decent player. The second half of ‘21-’22 also saw some big improvement here and there in how the team played in large part thanks to their young stars, so it seems like this is the big chance for a ton of these players to find their true footing this year.

The big problem that they face, and indeed continue to keep facing, is that the Sabres goaltending is still a far cry from even their Ryan Miller days; the current tandem as it sits currently looks to be Craig Anderson and Eric Comrie. Not bad by any means could be a lot better, and the Atlantic prides itself on strong goaltending in it’s top half of the division.

Further, a team in the bottom 8 of xGF% last year better hope that they don’t go through any slumps, or their goose is cooked.

That said, I think the Sabres will test the B’s in a way they haven’t in quite awhile. They seem like the perfect measuring stick for a less-than-healthy opening months roster, and they’re going to get as close to contention as they’ve ever been in years....but a lot, and I mean a LOT...needs to break their way in order to actually make it; defense has to gel, offense has to keep pace with itself from last year, and the goaltending absolutely needs to be stellar. And they gotta do it for at least 50+ games.

Really, the best case scenario for them is just letting cooler heads prevail in Buffalo and reward the team if it’s managed to achieve what they think they’re capable of. It’s just not going to impact the Bruins...that much.

Next year might be a different story.

Detroit Red Wings

Key Signings: Andrew Copp, Ville Husso, Ben Chiarot, David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maata

Key Strengths: High-end young talent combining with high-end talent entering their prime,

Key Weaknesses: New look left-side of the defense is weaaaaaaaak outside of maybe Edvinsson, and even then that’s a rookie.

I think we can say that the Red Wings are at long last coming to the part of the rebuild where they are no longer actively rebuilding and are starting to contend. After some hard years of being “tough to play against but not hard to beat”, they’re finally at the cusp of becoming a good team, if they don’t actively make the step this year. I am sure the bean-counters at the NHL are ecstatic about this news.

And why not? They overhauled a ton in the offseason: their 2nd line is almost entirely different, Filip Zadina gets a fellow countryman in Dominik Kubalik to play off of, and their defense got almost entirely overhauled; combine that with the add of a very good goaltender in Ville Husso, they seem as poised as any team in the NHL to make a spirited return to the playoffs.

You know. If everything breaks right. Specifically, that left side of their defense.

They definitely overhauled it, but I can’t in good conscience say they improved it: any list that starts with Ben “First Round pick-worthy according to the Panthers“ Chiarot and just gets more and more concerning as time goes on. Olli Maata has been mister depth defenseman for many many years and I think is there almost exclusively to ensure that there will be a body in their top four just in case Simon Edvinsson can’t handle it. And Simon Edvinsson is pretty good, I hear! He’s gonna need to be so in order for their aspirations to come true otherwise that is a lot to put on a rookie and also recent Calder winner Moritz Sieder, who was previously the sole positive highlight on this particular squad.

They’re still gonna be a massive pain in the rear to play. I’m not looking forward to watching them in transition against Boston at all.

Finally, we complain about the teams who’ve been good and why it isn’t effing fair.