The Atlantic division has shaped up to be a battle between three teams as there are only a couple points separating the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lighting. Each of the teams have games remaining in which they will play opposing Atlantic division teams. These games can pose a threat because valuable points are on the line in both locker rooms.
To start, Florida is looking ahead to an easier schedule to say the least. They play a hurting Montreal Canadiens team who have been without a stellar goalie in Carey Price between the pipes for quite some time now. They beat down on Toronto last night 4-1 to win their 40th game of the season. That win put the Panthers three points ahead of the second place Bruins in the standings for now. They look ahead to play Toronto and Montreal twice more and another low seed in the atlantic, the Ottawa Senators once. If they can win against these teams as they’ve done in the recent past, and secure wins against title contenders such as the Bruins and Lightning they they will stay atop the division and receive a favorable matchup come playoff time in about a month or so.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has lost 5 of their last 6 games. one of these games included a 1-0 overtime loss to Boston. They have one more away game in Arizona and them come home for a six game home stand with some key divisional games against Florida, Montreal and Toronto. As of right now, Tampa is one point out of second place and four points out of the top of the division with 85 points. After a lot of talk about where Steven Stamkos would end up come the trade deadline, the answer, for good reason, was Tampa. He is currently leading the team in points (57) and goals (33). But, he is not the only major contributor in the Lightnings run into the playoffs. After a mediocre start, goalie Ben Bishop has shaped up to be one of the best in the league and is making a serious case for the best goalie in Tampa Bay franchise history. He is tied for second in save percentage (.928) and is leading the league in GAA (2.02). With a solid forward core in Stamkos and other guys like Killorn and Callahan, and a solid brick wall in net with Bishop, whatever seed the Lightning end up at, look for them in the Eastern Conference finals.
Now, I had to save the hometown best for last,the Boston Bruins. They currently stand in second place in the Atlantic with 86 points and are currently going through one of the hardest end of season schedules in the league. They dropped two points to San Jose the other night and take on Anaheim tonight and Los Angeles tomorrow who quite frankly are the three top teams in the Pacific division and will be in the playoffs as dominant teams. A couple games later they take on Florida who is the only teams ahead of them in the Atlantic. However, their loss to San Jose while being winnable, was their first regulation loss in the past 8 games since the trade deadline. Brad Marchand is still working toward a 40 goal season which could very well happen as he is leading the team with 34. A couple good games and some points to end their trip to California could bring them back up to speed to finish strong to end the regular season. I don’t think any miracles of ending up in first place will happen but I also wouldn’t say a drop in the standings is likely either. They may trade back and forth with Tampa Bay a couple games and points.
This division is strong in the teams within it and all three will make valiant efforts to try and rise to the top but I think not much movement will happen and this will be the playoff picture come the end of the season.