The NHL season is here, and the battle for the Eastern Conference is looking to be one of the most intriguing in years. From strong teams getting better to teams with a chip on their shoulder, many teams will be fighting to reign supreme above the rest.
As the season begins to take form, several teams are vying for the chance at the Stanley Cup, but these five teams should have the upper hand if everything goes their way.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes might be the most obnoxious team in the NHL. They do not necessarily play the most standard offensive game on the planet, but their stifling defense gives other teams fit, and with Jake Gardiner strengthening their defense, the team could be even more obnoxious this year. If the offense can catch up, the Hurricanes could be even better this year.
4. Boston Bruins
After winning the East last season, the Bruins will no doubt want to right what they got wrong last year and hoist the trophy. However, as many teams across many sports have learned in the past, just because you get there one year does not mean that you can’t get better.
The Bruins will come into the season looking very similar to last year’s team, and if they are not careful, they could see their window close. Still, it’s hard to bet against a team that made it last year.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
Could Canada finally regain the Stanley Cup and end the dreaded curse? If they do, it could very well be because the Toronto Maple Leafs have an extraordinary year.
Although the city is still buzzing off of its NBA Championship, hockey reigns supreme in the land up north, and another Stanley Cup may revitalize a nation who is desperate to take the Cup back from the American hands who have held it for so long.
The Leafs were able to bring back Mitch Marner after much drama, and their defense should be brought to the next level after acquiring Tyson Barrie. The Maple Leafs have starting talent that can skate with any opponent that comes their way, but if they want to succeed they will need help from the bench, as well.
2. Washington Capitals
Desperate to experience another Stanley Cup after missing out on a shot at the repeat, the Capitals will come into the 2019-20 season hungry to get another shot. While the competition will be stiff in the Metro Division, the Capitals should be able to have another Stanley Cup Season thanks to their loaded roster and a still-dominant Alex Ovechkin.
While it took Ovechkin and company over a decade to finally get their Stanley Cup dreams, now they cannot be content with just that one. Last year was a chance to bring them back to earth, and with a hungry roster and added depth, don’t be surprised if the Capitals are facing off against the west in March.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay never met its full potential last season but they were not far off from making it to the next level. Their offense was the best in the NHL during the regular season, and their ability to get the puck into the goal was an absolute terror for opposing defenses throughout the season. All they needed to build off of what they already had was a good offseason, and they appear to have had just that.
Not only did the Lightning add another offensive weapon in Patrick Maroon to their already stifling unit, but they added Kevin Shattenkirk as a defenseman to bolster how they do on the other side of the ice. Between their natural development and roster improvement, there is no reason that the lightning can’t have a contending season.