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Atlantic Division – First Round Picks

How will the Atlantic Division series play out this year?

The first round of the NHL playoffs is finally set in the Eastern Conference, and we cannot wait for things to get underway. Like every year, each matchup brings storylines and intrigue in the East. Today, we’ll go over what to follow in the Atlantic Division as well as our predictions for both series in the first round. After reading, you can take our picks or bet against us in our FREE NHL Bracket Contest at! 

Tampa Bay vs Florida

The Battle of Florida. One of these two teams has represented the East in each of the last four Stanley Cup Finals, so both know how to succeed in the postseason. While Florida shocked the world a year ago, they won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time around as Atlantic Division champs. Despite taking that crown, their first round meeting with the Lightning isn’t much to celebrate. The Bolts caught fire at the end of the year, and everyone knows just how seriously they need to be taken in the playoffs. They’re also the most rested they’ve been before playoffs since 2020 and Nikita Kucherov is looking as good as ever. 

This series will be a hard-fought war. Florida won two of three meetings this season, but last time these teams faced off in the playoffs two years ago, the Bolts swept the Panthers in a second round matchup. However, that was before Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk was incredible for Florida during last year’s run to the Cup, making his presence felt both on and off the scoresheet. He was ultimately slowed down by serious injuries in the Finals, which served as a testament to just how tough his game was in the postseason. He’ll be Tampa Bay’s main concern.

I think both of these teams are great. The Panthers will be favored given last year’s run and their terrific season this year, but the Bolts should never be counted out. Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn’t been quite his usual self since coming back from injury this year, but when he gets hot, Tampa Bay is extremely tough to beat. For this series, I’ve got the battle-tested Bolts giving it one more go this year and taking down their in-state rivals in seven tightly contested games. LIGHTNING IN SEVEN. 

Toronto vs. Boston

This Atlantic Division rivalry has been brewing for a long time, but it’s been a one-sided one in the postseason recently. Toronto and Boston have met three times in the playoffs since 2013, and each year, Boston moved on with a victory in Game 7. This year, the Maple Leafs will once again come in as underdogs, but after finally winning at least a series last year, this group at least knows what it takes to win in the postseason. On the other side, the Bruins will be eager to erase memories of last year’s early exit from the playoffs. Although the team has changed significantly, there are many players remaining who will remember just how much that stung after their historically good 2022/23 regular season. 

Boston’s biggest advantage in this series is in the crease. After going with Linus Ullmark last year, there’s a good chance that Jeremy Swayman will get the net and for good reason. Swayman has been one of the league’s best goaltenders all year, but if his play does waiver, the Bs do have a great second option in Ullmark to rely on. When playing against an offensive powerhouse like the Maple Leafs, a good goaltender can be the difference in each and every game.

Overall, this series will be another great one. With the Atlantic division being so competitive, there really isn’t much that separates the #2 seed and the #3 seed. Toronto certainly can score with the best teams in the league, but will their defense be enough to hold Boston’s own talented scorers off the scoresheet? Often, that’s what makes the difference in close series. In this Atlantic division clash, we think Boston will do just enough offensively to take care of the Maple Leafs once again. We’re going BRUINS IN SIX. 

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