The Boston Bruins are in a vastly different position to start off this season than they were last. The retirement of legendary centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci leaves Boston with a gaping hole at the center position, where they clearly lack NHL-caliber center depth. Pavel Zacha, the team’s new first-line center, is a solid player, but not an adequate replacement.
Nevertheless, David Pastrnak should score at least 50 goals, and Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk will help make up for the goals lost by Bergeron and Krejci’s retirements. The back end remains very strong with Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy leading the way, and with arguably the NHL’s second-best goalie tandem in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins will not allow many goals. They may not come close to touching the historic record they had last season, but with strong defensive and goaltending play, Boston should be a playoff team.
Bruins prediction: Playoff berth (third place in Atlantic Division, 96 points)
The Buffalo Sabres, coming off a much improved 2022–23 campaign, are looking to take the next step this season with a playoff berth. The club has its franchise cornerstone in place, with stars Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin all locked up on long-term contracts. The Sabres clearly have enough offensive starpower, and I expect up-and-coming goaltender Devon Levi to perform as a top 10 starting goalie. Despite the very competitive Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, the Sabres should have just enough power to squeak into the playoffs.
Sabres prediction: Playoff berth (fourth place in Atlantic Division, second wild card, 92 points)
The Detroit Red Wings are one of those teams stuck in the middle of nowhere: They’re neither a contending team nor a bottom-tier team. Apart from star center Dylan Larkin and star forward Alex DeBrincat, whom Detroit acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators this past July, the squad lacks offensive starpower and scorers, and their bottom six lacks any skill and is one of the worst in the league. Despite having star defenseman Moritz Seider, the back end is below average, and starting goalie Ville Husso will certainly not be able to make up for subpar defensive play. The Red Wings have a lot more work to do before they can get back to the playoffs.
Red Wings prediction: No playoff berth (seventh place in Atlantic Division, 78 points).
The Florida Panthers, coming off their Stanley Cup Final appearance, have multiple players who are expected to miss significant time at the start of the season due to injury, including Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad, the team’s top two defenders. The team will remain competitive thanks to their offensive stars Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov. But, given how competitive the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference are, they will not be able to accumulate enough points in the first half of the season due to their numerous injuries. And when factoring in the club’s extremely inconsistent goalie play, which will likely continue, the Panthers will not have enough to clinch a playoff berth.
Panthers prediction: No playoff berth (fifth place in Atlantic Division, 89 points)