HOCKEY — 14 November 2014

The Toronto Maple Leafs fans haven’t had much to cheer about when it comes to the playoffs over the last decade or so. With the epic collapse against the Boston Bruins still fresh in mind, Toronto fans expectations for this team are anything but high. The season is young, but the truth is if the Toronto Maple Leafs can stay healthy in a weakened Atlantic Division, they could squeeze out a playoff spot by default. The Boston Bruins are no longer the power house they used to be with an aging roster that appears to be on the decline, they’re lacking the depth they once had. The younger, more uptempo teams appear to be rising to the top of the standings, with teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators making early appearances in the playoff race.

I would think with Steven Stamkos back in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup this season they will be battling the Montreal Canadiens for the top two spots in the Atlantic. The remaining playoff spots are up for grabs and you can pretty much count out Buffalo, Columbus, Carolina, Florida and New Jersey. I would like to throw Philadelphia in that boat also but it’s still very early in the season and a lot can change. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Washington will all be battling for the final spots in the Eastern Conference.

In 2013-2014 the Boston Bruins lead the Atlantic with 117 points. You can be confident they will not boast that record this season. The Lightning and Canadiens both had great seasons with 101 and 100 points finishing 2 and 3 in the Atlantic. I still expect Boston to compete for a Wild Card but they could be one or two injuries more away from being done for the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs will need 43 wins to make it into the playoffs and will be lucky that Boston is a shadow of the team they used to be.

The reality is that the Eastern Conference is a lot weaker then it used to be and because of this the Toronto Maple Leafs should get a shot at the playoffs, but not likely past the first round. I expect teams like Montreal and Tampa Bay to make a few key moves before trade deadline to add to the depth for a long playoff run.

Don’t get too excited, but I believe that the 2014-2015 NHL Playoffs will feature the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans could only hope that the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs which would be a great series to welcome the Leafs back into the playoffs.

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