Rick Zamperin: Lightning still beasts of the East, Maple Leafs not far behind

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be playing with a dump truck-sized chip on their shoulder this National Hockey League season.Can you blame them? Tampa Bay blitzed through the 2018-19 regular season, tying the record for most wins (62), earning the fourth-most points (128) and becoming only the second team in history to win 30 road games in a season.But all of those incredible feats didn’t translate into playoff success because the Bolts became the first Presidents’ Trophy winners to be swept in the first round when they were bounced in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets.On Monday, I laid out how the Western Conference will play out this season, now it’s time to map out the East.READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Maple Leafs have a lot of new faces, but are they better?Metropolitan DivisionWashington CapitalsPittsburgh PenguinsCarolina HurricanesPhiladelphia FlyersNew York IslandersNew Jersey DevilsNew York RangersColumbus Blue JacketsWho wants #OviOs? Somebody?👉 https://t.co/quAPT1nOJ3 pic.twitter.com/jAefqnmVh4— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 22, 2019
The Capitals are the deepest team from top to bottom in the Metro and will retain top spot in the division.Pittsburgh will finish a close second to Washington and the Hurricanes will finish just ahead of Philly and the Isles for the third and final playoff spot.The Devils and Rangers have some young talent but will only finish ahead of Columbus, who are primed for a big drop in the standings.
Atlantic DivisionTampa Bay LightningToronto Maple LeafsBoston BruinsFlorida Panthers (wild card)Montreal Canadiens (wild card)Buffalo SabresDetroit Red WingsOttawa SenatorsStory continues below
READ MORE: Senators lock up Chabot with eight-year dealOdds are Tampa Bay won’t win 62 games again but they will surpass the 50-win plateau. Toronto will end up in second and Boston will finish third, meaning they are again destined to meet in the first round of the playoffs next spring. Florida will make some great strides this year, and Montreal will grab the second wild-card spot. Buffalo will be better than last year, but they’re not a playoff team just yet while the Red Wings are thankful the last-place Senators are also in the division.What will happen when playoff hockey begins? Come back Wednesday to learn how the Canadian teams will fare in the post-season and whether any of them will challenge for the Stanley Cup.Get daily local headlines and alerts