Despite the strength in depth of the Atlantic Division, Boston may land a favourable first-round matchup if they face Carolina, who are down to their third-choice goaltender, and if they progress, the Bruins would likely be considered favourite against either the Rangers or Penguins.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Don't sleep on the Minnesota Wild. Sam, who are we sleeping on as a dark horse?
SAM CHANG: I like the answer for the Wild. I think that's-- I think that's a solid answer. I was going to say we're sleeping on the Leafs.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I thought about the Leafs. I thought about that.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Go through your process. Go through it.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Go through your process.
SAM CHANG: My process is, like, at some point, I know the easy thing to laugh at-- and then I do all the time-- is, like, aw, first-round exit, first-round exit. But, like, they look-- they look good this year. I feel like they've actually had some adversity over the last couple of years. I feel like maybe the Amazon series actually was embarrassing enough that maybe they developed some mental resiliency in response to it.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Maybe.
SAM CHANG: I don't know. It's-- my process is I think they look really good. Auston Matthews has been absolutely unbelievable. And, like, he's been good every season. But there's something-- there's just something that feels a little different to me this season. And that's-- it's my-- it's a gut feeling.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK. Omar are you also on the Leafs?
OMAR: Yeah, I have two answers, one that was, like, kind of like truth also kind of funny and, like, a-- like, a full-on answer. Go on the Leafs first, like, I-- Leafs because it's funny, but also, like, everything that Sam said is 100% true. And also you have to think that no one is expecting the Leafs to get out of the East because it's the East.
Like, the East is-- it's going to be a bloodbath for anyone. And, like, people are making jokes about the Leafs being able to win a round much less get out of the East. So, like, if there would be any, like, random season to do it, it would be hilarious if it was this one, again given the competition they have to get through-- again, Tampa in the first round probably. Then maybe you're facing-- what, I don't know. I actually don't even know how it would work out because of the divisions. Go back to one to eight, please.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yes, please. It's so much less confusing that way.
OMAR: So, yeah, so the Leafs would be one answer. Another answer, OK, so the Islanders aren't in the playoffs, right? And they have that horrendous start to the season, like, 13 games on the road. But then as the season progresses, started to be a little better. But at that point, you know, everything was gone. The whole eight teams were already passed through.
So Washington is a weird team for me because Washington's a team that, like, I think, if there is going to be a first-round exit, I wouldn't be surprised if Washington is the one to deal it to Florida. And also, like, I think of all the teams. I don't think people are expecting too much of Washington.
Like, for all the other teams, like, Carolina, like, you can make cases for Carolina. The Rangers have Shesterkin, who can literally-- in my opinion, could steal a series. Leafs are the Leafs. Tampa's Tampa. Boston-- Boston's done it. They still have their players, even though, yeah, they do have, you know, young, inexperienced goaltenders.
But, like, Washington, it would be-- well, it wouldn't be funny. But it would be very interesting, especially considering that a lot of people, I think, are waiting for that moment where Washington kind of takes a step back despite the fact that Ovechkin's still scoring 50 goals. So I think Washington could be or would be my other dark horse coming out of the East.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What about you, Cuth?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I feel like the Tampa Bay Lightning sort of shed the dark horse label this past week by obliterating the Leafs and then beating the Panthers a couple of nights later. Like, I think everyone was sleeping on them a little bit. They're like, ah, it's not gonna happen. That third line's not the same. Nick Paul, waste of time. Brandon Hagel, that was a mistake.
But then they kind of served notice to everyone. And I don't think you could put them in that category. So I'll go with the Boston Bruins. I mean, I think they're going to get a really nice draw, in that they're going to come fourth in the Atlantic. They're gonna cross over. Freddie Andersen's not going to be healthy. Antti Raanta's apparently not going to be ready either.
Carolina's going to be down to the third goaltender. It doesn't really matter with them, David Ayres being proof of that, they don't really-- they don't really care about who's in net. I mean, they showed it in the off season, getting rid of Alex Nedeljkovic, just turning over the position. It doesn't seem like it really matters because they play so well defensively.
But if you're Boston, you're getting them at a good time. And if you beat them, you again avoid Atlantic division teams, and you play either the Rangers or Penguins. I think you could be the favorite there as well. So I think Boston might be a team that could go on a deep run sneakily and maybe get into a Conference Finals.
So I just can't-- I can't-- I can't ignore the Atlantic Division. I think they're all four teams that are going to get in are just so good. And if one of them doesn't have to play the others, I think that's, you know, at least worth watching what they can potentially do-- the Bruins.