NHL Season Preview 2017/2018 - Eastern Conference

The new NHL season is finally upon us! It’s been a long and eventful summer with the addition of Vegas Golden Knights, expansion draft and everything that goes with it. We’ve seen some movement through the free agency and a couple of intriguing trades as well, not to mention another batch of excellent draft picks who seem ready for NHL hockey already.

With the rosters being finalized before the puck drop tonight, it’s time to take a look at the pre-season predictions based on Accuscore’s simulations. We’ve compared the simulation results to Vegas betting lines in order to see where we disagree the most – and we do generally disagree!

This is how the Eastern Conference looks like after 1271 games of NHL regular season is done and dusted:

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF

DIV.WIN

WINS

LINE

DIFF.

 

PTS

LINE

DIFF.

1.

Pittsburgh Penguins

90.56%

28.52%

50

46.5

3.5

 

108

105

3

2.

Columbus B’Jackets

90.00%

27.54%

50

46.5

3.5

 

107

96.5

10.5

3.

Tampa Bay Lightning

85.64%

46.54%

48

44

4

 

105

102.5

2.5

4.

Washington Capitals

85.98%

20.64%

47

50.5

-3.5

 

104

104

0

5.

Toronto Maple Leafs

75.63%

28.44%

46

44.5

1.5

 

100

95.5

4.5

6.

New York Rangers

75.31%

11.43%

45

44.5

0.5

 

99

95.5

3.5

7.

Philadelphia Flyers

65.61%

7.56%

43

38

5

 

96

90.5

5.5

8.

Montreal Canadiens

58.50%

14.82%

42

44

-2

 

93

99.5

-6.5

9.

New York Islanders

45.66%

2.80%

40

42.5

-2.5

 

90

88.5

1.5

10.

Ottawa Senators

32.87%

5.14%

38

40

-2

 

86

91.5

-5.5

11.

Carolina Hurricanes

31.56%

1.27%

38

41.5

-3.5

 

86

92.5

-6.5

12.

Boston Bruins

21.85%

2.57%

36

44.5

-8.5

 

83

92.5

-9.5

13.

Detroit Red Wings

13.28%

1.29%

35

34.5

0.5

 

80

78

2

14.

Buffalo Sabres

11.72%

0.96%

34

37

-3

 

79

88

-9

15.

New Jersey Devils

11.65%

0.28%

33

31.5

1.5

 

77

74.5

2.5

16.

Florida Panthers

4.20%

0.25%

31

38.5

-7.5

 

72

86.5

-14.5

 

The top of the Eastern conference is occupied by the usual suspects: reigning Stanley Cup champions Penguins are looking for their third in a row and despite losing a couple of the more seasoned veterans, such as Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino, still boast one of the best teams in the league.

 Another metropolitan division team Columbus Blue Jackets, who enjoyed a fantastic season last year are up there as well. The team plays and looks like John Tortorella and the addition of skilled Artemi Panarin should provide an offensive boost as well. Their defense is rock solid and their aggressive playing style suits the team perfectly. It’ll be a tough team to beat.

After last years’ disappointment, Tampa Bay Lightning are ready to make a bounce back to the top. All the key pieces are now in place, with franchise players in each important position. Washington Capitals, on the other hand are still in the contest, but might not be as convincing as usual. The team has not gotten any better – quite the contrary: gone are Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and the deadline addition Kevin Shattenkirk. They should still make the playoffs comfortably.

Toronto Maple Leafs will continue where they left off last season and their young core is ready for another step. They’re seriously challenging for the Atlantic division top spot this season.

Healthy Carey Price will lift Montreal Canadiens into the playoffs as will Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. The teams are perhaps not heavy with top-of-the-league talent, but their routine will be enough to push through. The only bigger surprise taking a playoff berth is Philadelphia Flyers, who look to return to the mix after a horrible last season. Their underachieving key players Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux must do better, while the young talent Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Ivan Provorov are likely to step up.

Barely missing the playoffs this time around are New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes. The latter team is not quite there yet, despite having a bright future ahead. Senators rely too much on Erik Karlsson, who has suffered from injuries and Islanders team is just not good enough despite John Tavares and Jordan Eberle causing havoc.

Accuscore’s Eastern Conference Selections

Columbus Blue Jackets, over 96.5 points

Columbus gathered 108 points last season and are not getting any worse this year. They’re playing in a tough division, but have generally done well against their closest rivals. Line is definitely too low as Accuscore expects another 100+ point season.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs, over 95.5 points

Maple Leafs have constantly done better than expected under Mike Babcock and are likely to be better again this year. They finished with 95 points last year already and will improve once again.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning, over 44 wins

It’s understandable to undervalue Tampa after horrible last season, but they did still win 42 games despite missing the playoffs. Three wins more is not a lot to ask with healthy squad and no distractions (case Drouin and Bishop/Vasilievsky speculation)

 

Florida Panthers, under 38.5 wins

Panthers are far from what they were two seasons ago. A lot of good work has gone to waste and a lot rests on the shoulders of the top line. Last season saw Panthers take 35 wins and it’s hard to see them doing much better this time around

 

Boston Bruins, under 44.5 wins

Plenty of question marks hang over Boston Bruins. They have a decent squad with a couple of top notch players, but they’ve also underperformed heavily. Especially the defense is suspect, while Tuukka Rask is still an elite keeper. It’s a risky bet, but 45 wins seems a bit high for a team that gathered 44 last year while making playoffs.

 

Washington Capitals, under 50.5 wins

Capitals dominated last season and took 55 wins winning the whole league. They are not as good this year though and they’re more than likely to decline to less than 51 wins. To put things in perspective, Pittsburgh Penguins won 50 games last season.