( Photo Credit: Julia Nikhinson / Associated Press )

By: Theo Lander | Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo

The Atlantic Division of the NHL is a murder’s row of talent for the 2022-2023 regular season. Three of the league’s top-ten teams heading into this season call the Atlantic home. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Florida Panthers scored very high on Sportsnet’s NHL Power Rankings this week, which spells trouble for the Boston Bruins. With those three teams having that much of a (perceived) advantage over their competition, the battle for fourth place in the division, or a wild card spot, will be that much harder to come by for those “middle of the pack” teams.

While many Bruins fans are optimistic as ever for this season, it becomes increasingly important to distinguish between wishful thinking and reality. The Boston Bruins fail in comparison to the three aforementioned teams in virtually every category. Even with a fully healthy roster (which also goes against the reality of this team’s situation), the Bruins are far more incomplete than those teams. 

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The real race in the Atlantic will be for fourth place. That will be contested between the Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings. These are the teams that the fans should be comparing the Bruins to, not the three-headed monster up top. Conveniently, the Bruins stack up much better against their competition under this perspective.

While Boston doesn’t have the talent to completely blow these other teams out of the water, I think their experience will be the difference maker. There’s a reason why those three teams combine for one playoff berth in the last five seasons.

To me, it feels like the Bruins are going to be bailed out in a sense because Detroit, Buffalo, and Ottawa won’t be much of a threat to contend for a playoff spot. Lots of people are saying that since the Atlantic is so strong that Boston might not make the postseason.

I would argue that since this division is so top-heavy that it might make squeaking into the playoffs slightly easier than we previously expected. That is, until you look at the Metropolitan division and consider who they’ll have to go against to secure a wild card spot.

So let’s just say that the Bruins will finish fourth in the Atlantic, where does that put them in the playoff picture? They’ll still have to compete with the likes of the Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets to earn a wild card spot. I actually find the Capitals will be the most competitive with Boston this year, and they coincidentally have similar problems with injuries and aging stars.

Washington is the best of those three teams, in my opinion, but I do see some upside in Columbus since they recently acquired Johnny Gaudreau. Be on the lookout for Columbus and New Jersey to make a late push for the playoffs, but anticipate Washington being the litmus test for Boston throughout the regular season.

If I had to bet on it, I’d say the Bruins just barely miss the playoffs this season. After taking a look at how the Eastern Conference is currently shaped, I’d even go out on a limb and say the Bruins will be in a win-or-go-home scenario in the final game of the regular season. If it comes down to that, we must ask ourselves this; when was the last time this team won an elimination game?

It was 2019, in game seven of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. If I had my own sportsbook, I wouldn’t have even accepted bets for that game, the outcome between those two teams is the same every time. The last time the Bruins won an elimination game was when they beat up their little brother for the third time at home this decade.

But guess what, younger brother hit a growth spurt and is way stronger than you now. And with that, all his little friends have lapped you as well. The future is now, old man.