As the NHL playoffs are about to begin, all eyes are on the Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division. With top teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Toronto Maple Leafs, the division has become increasingly competitive in recent seasons. However, it wasn’t always this way.
Just a few years ago, the Atlantic Division was considered one of the weakest in the league, with teams struggling to even make the playoffs. But with a sudden shift in power and the emergence of new talented players, the Atlantic Division has gone through a complete turnaround, going from the bottom of the conference to the top.
Back in the 2015-2016 season, three out of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference were filled by teams from the Atlantic Division, with the remaining five spots going to teams from the Metropolitan Division. The two top teams in the division were the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished the season with 103 and 97 points respectively. However, both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The following year, the Atlantic Division had another underwhelming season, with only two teams making it to the playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators both managed to grab a spot, but once again, they were unable to make it past the first round. The division seemed to be stuck at the bottom of the conference, with no signs of improvement.
But then came the 2017-2018 season, and everything changed. The Atlantic Division started the season with a bang, with teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Toronto Maple Leafs dominating the league. The Lightning and Bruins finished the season with 113 and 112 points respectively, securing the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs weren’t far behind, finishing with 105 points and clinching the third seed.
The turnaround of the Atlantic Division was evident in the playoffs as well. All three teams advanced to the second round and put up a strong fight against their opponents. The Lightning and Bruins even went on to face each other in the second round, with the Lightning ultimately advancing to the conference finals, where they fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.
The following season, the Atlantic Division continued to dominate the Eastern Conference, with the top three teams from the previous year once again securing playoff spots. The Lightning had a historic season, finishing with an impressive 128 points, tying for the most points in NHL history. The Bruins and Maple Leafs also had strong seasons, with 107 and 100 points respectively.
The standings in the Atlantic Division have completely flipped in just a few years. From being the weakest division in the Eastern Conference, it has become one of the strongest. So, what caused this drastic change?
One factor could be the emergence of young, talented players in teams like the Maple Leafs and Bruins. Players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Charlie McAvoy have quickly become stars in the league and have helped their teams reach new heights.
Another factor could be the coaching changes that some teams made. The Lightning hired Jon Cooper as their head coach in 2013, and he has helped turn them into a powerhouse in the league. Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach for the Bruins in 2017, and he has led them to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons with the team.
The competition within the division has also played a role in its turnaround. With top teams like the Lightning, Bruins, and Maple Leafs all vying for the division title, it has pushed other teams in the division to be better and more competitive.
It’s rare to see such a significant change in a division’s standings in just a few years. But the Atlantic Division has defied the odds and has become a force to be reckoned with in the NHL. As the playoffs are about to begin, the division is once again in the spotlight, with the top three teams all looking to make a run for the Stanley Cup.
From being at the bottom of the conference to now the top, the turnaround of the Atlantic Division is a testament to the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of the NHL. With talented players, strong coaching, and fierce competition, the division has quickly become one of the most exciting to watch in the league.