Can the perennially-powerful Tampa Bay Lightning go back-to-back to claim the 2021 Eastern Conference crown. Will the Boston Bruins finally fulfill their Stanley Cup hopes after recording the best record in the east last season? Could both title favorites get upset by another Eastern Conference championship contender? With the 2020-21 NHL season slated to get underway in a mere matter of weeks, let’s get to my bold predictions for the Eastern Conference in 2021 so you can bet against their NHL odds.
Bold predictions for the NHL’s Eastern Conference
Back In Business!
The Tampa Bay Lightning may have just won the Stanley Cup this past season, but I’m not expecting a championship hangover from this team in 2021! The Lightning have a superstar net-minder in Andrei Vasilevskiy and a pair of elite scorers in Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. Hell, the Lightning got it done this past season with Stamkos out for almost the entire season. I’m going with the Lightning to reach the Eastern Conference finals at the very least!
Step Back Bobby Jack!
Boston has some legitimate Stanley Cup hopes heading into the new season, but I’m predicting the Bruins will take a significant step backwards in 2021. Yes, Boston finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season (44-14-12), but they also let star defenseman Torey Krug walk in free agency. I’m expecting Washington, Philly and Pittsburgh to be better than they were last season and that could mean trouble for the Bruins. Sorry, not sorry…Boston doesn’t win the Atlantic Division or reach the conference finals!
Ove Wan Kenobi!
Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin might be 35-years-old, but you’d never know it the way he still finds the back of the net with uncanny regularity. Ovechkin scored a league-high 48 goals last season to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the ninth time in his career and third straight season. While Boston’s David Pastrnak tied him for the league lead and Toronto’s Auston Matthews finished one back with 47 goals, I’m going with Alexander ‘Ove Wan Kenobi’ to claim his fourth straight Rocket award in 2021! On another note, I don’t see any reason why the Caps won’t challenge for a berth in the conference finals after adding veteran net-minder Henrik Lundqvist in the offseason. Washington finished second in scoring last season (3.4 gpg) and only needs to improve a defense that finished 18th in goals allowed last season (3.1 gpg) to challenge for the conference crown.
The Flyers went 41-21 -7 to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference, but I think Philly could make the leap to conference finalist after coming up just short last season. Philadelphia has a net-minder that could become the very best in the league in 22-year-old Carter Hart. In his first full season, Hart finished with a stellar 2.42 goals-against-average and .914 save percentage. The Flyers are finished an outstanding seventh in scoring (3.3 gpg) and identical seventh in goals allowed (2.8 gpg). If Philadelphia plays solid defense in 2021, the Flyers are one of my top three picks to reach the conference finals!
In order, I’m going with Toronto, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh to finish in the top four in the 2021 Eastern Conference postseason. The Maple Leafs finished third in goals scored last season, but need to up their play at the defensive end of the ice. The Islanders stunned everyone by reaching the conference finals last season and I believe the up-and-coming young club could flourish even more in 2021. As far as Pittsburgh is concerned, I just can’t count out a team with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.