Bet Now

The Atlantic Division got a big surprise last season when the Florida Panthers edged the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings to win the division. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens were non-contenders as both had bad seasons by their standards. Can they bounce back, or will the Panthers continue to overcome the odds?

 

The Favourite

The Tampa Bay Lightning are +130 favourites to win the Atlantic after finishing six points behind the Panthers last season. They were one of the most balanced teams in the league, finishing 12th in goals scored and 5th in goals allowed. The latter was an improvement from 12th the year before.

The Lightning showed a lot of heart, getting to the Eastern Conference Finals after losing two of their best players. Many wrote off the Lightning after superstar centre Steven Stamkos went down for the season in April (although he did return for Game 7 against the Penguins). To make matters worse, they also lost starting goaltender Ben Bishop in the Eastern Conference Final. Stamkos is now healthy and has a new contract to lead the Lightning. He’ll have a lot of help with centre Tyler Johnson, and left wingers Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin, who finally broke out in the playoffs. Restricted free agent Nikita Kucherov is expected to eventually be back in the lineup too, but the 30-goal scorer has yet to sign his qualifying offer and is not reporting to training camp until a new deal is formalized.

As for goaltending, the Lightning have a surplus of talent with a healthy Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy (the backup for now) looking like a future star. This team is deep, talented and experienced after making it to the Conference Finals and beyond in the last two seasons.

 

The Best of the Rest

Many expect the Montreal Canadiens (+700 to win their division) to be back in the mix after a disastrous season that was marred by the injury to star goaltender Carey Price. The Canadiens have their main man back between the pipes, but the team’s headlines revolve around their blockbuster trade of the summer: PK Subban was sent to Nashville for Shea Weber in a swap of elite defensemen.

The Habs’ chances lie squarely on Price’s shoulders; this team started 18-4-2 last season before Price went down. Manufacturing some more offense would improve their chances. They brought in Alexander Radulov, but that might not be enough to improve their offensive production (16th in goals scored last season).

Florida (+400 to win their division) is out to prove that last season wasn't a fluke. Their strength is also at the back end. They allowed just 200 goals last season, which was the second-best in the Eastern Conference, and oddsmakers expect them to be just as strong this year. Florida added defensemen Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to an already competent unit featuring young star Aaron Ekblad.

The big questions will come from up front. The Panthers scored just 2.3 goals per game in the playoffs. They were led by the 44-year-old right wing Jaromir Jagr and the 33-year-old left wing Jussi Jokinen, and both are still very capable players, but Florida needs their young forwards like left wing Jonathan Huberdeau and centre Aleksander Barkov to take a bigger step forward this season.

 

*Odds as of October 4, 2016