The start of the 2013-14 NHL season will be the beginning of a new era for the league with the new alignment. The Boston Bruins see the additions of three new team to the newly aligned “Atlantic Division” which will consist of three more teams in addition to the ones from the old Northeast division. With these new teams comes some challenges yet also the likelihood for a few easy wins against some weaker opponents.
The inclusion of the Detroit Red Wings immediately imposes some red flags from the Bruins. Although their team is aging, not helped any by the signing of Daniel Alfredsson, the winning tradition of Detroit is hard to ignore. Fans are excited about the prospects of having such storied franchises in the division, but with that comes some serious challenges to the Bruins’ perch. It will be hard for the Bruins to ignore the threat they pose. Every win will be highly contested between the two sides, especially since it appears likely that Detroit and the Montreal Canadiens will be battling it out for second place. Pavel Datsyuk is as dangerous as ever and the inclusion of Stephen Weiss into the squad will makes goals a lot easier on his shoulders. The news that the city is going into bankruptcy will make the team more determined than ever for the city to having something to take pride in. Detroit is going to battle hard, too, as their window for a deep playoff run closes in the coming years.
On the flip side of the coin, the two Floridian teams, the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Florida Panthers, are a whole different story. The Panthers have been mired in the bottom of their division in recent time. They are not going to be a playoff team next season either. However, they have a lot of young talent on the squad that is sure to get better with time. But, for now, the Panthers are not going to be a team that will be giving the Bruins too much trouble. On a side note, it will be interesting to see if goaltender Tim Thomas spends next season with Florida which will make for some intriguing games. Tampa Bay is going to be in a similar boat after still failing to address their defensive problems this offseason. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos will continue to produce and electrify, pun intended, the offensive for the Lighting, even without Vincent Lecavlier. The defensive side of the puck, especially the goalie situation, will continue to be a problem for them. While they may be able to score goals, Tampa Bay can not seem to keep them out of their own net. They are not going to be steamrolled, but their regression from their 2011 form will continue if they cannot address their problems that make it easier on the division opponents.
The volume of teams the Bruins will have to face in their division with a large, and unfair, number of eight will seriously be the Bruins’ biggest challenge. Regular trips down to Florida and out to the Midwest will likely take its toll on the squad who will no longer be able to enjoy traveling solely around the Northeast. Fortunately, these new additions should not be too much to handle for a superior Bruins squad. The biggest issue, hopefully, may just be jet lag.
Tim N. is a Boston Bruins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @timnikolou