Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Bruins preview '18-19: Our experts predict where Bruins will finish & who will win the Cup

Matt Kalman
October 03, 2018 - 10:54 am

The benefit of the doubt is gone and dreams of at least a final-four finish are front and center.

The Bruins made strides last season by reaching the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs despite working five or six rookies into their lineup every night. Now they can’t take a step backwards and coach Bruce Cassidy is embracing the heightened expectations.

“We won a round and lost a series that we felt going in that we had as good a chance as the opposition to win, so ... this year I think more people are talking about the Bruins being a Stanley Cup contender than they were last year, quite simply,” Cassidy recently said. “So that raises the expectations, which is good. You want to have a level of pressure on your to perform and you want to be considered a good team. So I think our guys should embrace it. I certainly am and I’d rather be in the position this year where we build off a good year than going into a little bit of the unknown last year.”

We know what the Bruins expect from themselves, so on this opening day in the NHL let’s take a look at what the WEEI.com panel of experts predict for the Bruins and the rest of the league.

Matt Kalman

Atlantic

Tampa Bay

Toronto

Bruins

Florida

Buffalo

Detroit

Montreal

Ottawa

Metropolitan

Columbus

Pittsburgh

Washington

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Carolina

NY Rangers

NY Islanders

Central

Winnipeg

Nashville

St. Louis

Minnesota

Chicago

Dallas

Colorado

Pacific

San Jose

Vegas

Edmonton

Calgary

Arizona

Los Angeles

Anaheim

Vancouver

 

Eastern Conference final: Columbus over Philadelphia.

Western Conference final: Winnipeg over Edmonton.

Cup winner: Winnipeg over Columbus.

How the Bruins will fare: There are too many questions that have to be answered to pick them for higher than third in their division. Their overabundance of youth is going to catch up to them a little, and their one injury to one of their veteran core players from being in bigger trouble.

Why the Jets will win the Cup: They right mix of young players and players in their prime and have something to prove after last year’s disappointing second-round ouster. Patrik Laine is going to take his game to another level and Connor Hellebuyck will stake his claim to the title of best goaltender in the league.

Scott McLaughlin

Atlantic

Lightning

Maple Leafs

Bruins

Panthers

Sabres

Canadiens

Red Wings

Senators

 

Metro

Penguins

Capitals

Flyers

Blue Jackets

Devils

Hurricanes

Islanders

Rangers

 

Central

Jets

Predators

Blues

Wild

Stars

Avalanche

Blackhawks

 

Pacific

Sharks

Golden Knights

Kings

Flames

Ducks

Oilers

Coyotes

Canucks

Eastern Conference Final: Lightning over Penguins

Western Conference Final: Jets over Sharks

Stanley Cup Final: Lightning over Jets

How the Bruins will fare: They should be a top five or six team in the NHL, but unfortunately they could easily be the third-best in their own division. The B’s know what they’ll get from their top players, and they know they have depth. If they’re going to make a real run at the Cup, they’ll need some of the youngsters in the middle of the lineup to make some significant leaps, but that’s a lot to ask.

Why the Lightning will win the Cup: They have the most complete roster in the league. They have one of the most talented and deepest forward groups, led by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. They basically have three No. 1 defensemen in Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Ryan McDonagh. And they have a top goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy. They ran into a hot Capitals team in the conference finals last year, but should be the team to beat this year.

Related: Bruins preview '18-19: Breaking down the Bruins position by position

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