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Post-Olympic Break Primer: Atlantic Division

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Eastern Conference 2.23.14

In order to get you ready for the final third(ish) of the season, we gathered together some of the best and the brightest around the hockey-blogging world to get their thoughts on the remaining portion of the season. They address their team's play prior to the Olympic-break, possible activity at the trade deadline (March 5), and predictions for the playoffs.

We continue our journey towards the end of the regular season with a look at the Atlantic Division.

(If you haven't already, check out the Pacific Division primer from Monday.)

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Boston Bruins (37-16-4, 78 pts.)

By: Greg Ezell, Days of Y'Orr

Pre-Break MVP: Reilly Smith was a player who was just another name in the Tyler Seguin trade but has shown he can play on a legit scoring line. He's 2nd on the team in goals (18) and 3rd in points (42). He has filled Seguin's spot well, w/o the need of a bodyguard.

Pre-Break LVP: Chris Kelly. After his injury, Ryan Spooner stepped in and after getting used to the NHL level, the third line didn't miss a beat. Other guys can kill penalties, but Spooner brings a play making ability lost on Kelly.

Pre-Break Team Grade: B (Met Expectations). People will hate that I gave this team a B, but my expectations of this team are pretty high given their talent and the rest of the Eastern Conference. Boston was expected to be one of the best two teams in the East and that's where they are.

At the trade deadline, the Bruins will ... be buyers only.

What do the Bruins need to buy at the deadline? A veteran defenseman who can fill Dennis Seidenberg's role. Losing Siedenberg was huge and right now Boston has three rookies (Krug, Miller, Bartkowski) playing significant minutes.

What are the Bruins willing to give up to get what they need? Boston was willing to give up Bartkowksi and Alex Khokhlachev for Iginla last season. I could see Bart and Koko still being trade bait. I wouldn't rule out Boston trading Adam McQuaid either.

At the end of the regular season, the Bruins will end up ... safely in a playoff spot.
Top 3 of Division or Wildcard? Top 3

When will the Bruins season end? Eliminated in Stanley Cup Final

Which EC team do the Bruins NOT want to play in the playoffs? Pittsburgh. People will look back at last year's ECF and think it'll be another cake walk, but Pittsburgh is the best team in the East. Roster is loaded with talent.

Western Conference Champ: Los Angeles Kings
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Los Angeles Kings

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Famous Flashdance scene, goalie style (Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning (33-20-5, 71 pts.)

By: John Fontana, Raw Charge

Pre-Break MVP: Goalie Ben Bishop ( 44 appearances, 28-8-4, .933 save percentage, 1.98 GAA and 4 shutouts)

Pre-Break LVP: LW Ryan Malone (42 games, 5 goals, 7 assists) who has battled injuries as well as been demoted to the 4th line

Pre-Break Team Grade: A (Exceeded Expectations). The team was written off after Steven Stamkos broke his leg in November. They continue to sit near the top of the Atlantic Division in spite of it.

At the trade deadline, the Lightning will ... do nothing. While there is a perceived need for atop-4 defenseman, cost will likely stop Steve Yzerman from making a deal.

At the end of the regular season, the Lightning will end up ... safely in a playoff spot.
Top 3 of Division or Wildcard? Top 3

When will the Lightning season end? Eliminated in semi-finals.

Which EC team do the Lightning NOT want to play in the playoffs? Bah-ston. The Beruins are incredible.

Western Conference Champ: Anaheim Ducks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Boston Bruins

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When you fight me, don't hit me in the face. It's the money maker (Getty Images)

Montreal Canadiens (32-21-6, 70 pts.)

By: Andrew Berkshire, Eyes on the Prize

Pre-Break MVP: Carey Price and it's not even close. The team defense has been atrocious for pretty much the entire year, yet he's putting up a career season. The offense hasn't been there either, but Price is so good he doesn't need it to be.

Pre-Break LVP: Douglas Murray. I'm not sure there's any player in the NHL that has a bigger negative impact on his team than Murray does. With Murray on the ice Montreal has been outscored 28-8, without him, they've outscored opponents 140-114.

Pre-Break Team Grade: D (Below Expectations). The Canadiens took a big step forward last year, and were easily one of the best teams in the NHL. They showed what they were capable of, and didn't need to rely on goaltending to win games. Therrien changed the system, now it's all on the goalies.

At the trade deadline, the Canadiens will ... do nothing. I don't think they'll do anything because Marc Bergevin truly believes this is the best his team can be at the moment, and is content to wait and see how they do instead of push them to the next level.

At the end of the regular season, the Canadiens will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Canadiens need to do to make the post-season? Getting rid of Douglas Murray would make them a lot stronger, but I don't think they'll do that unless Michel Therrien is fired, which doesn't look like it'll happen. If Price continues his dominance, they'll make the playoffs in spite of being bad.

Say the Canadiens do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Which EC team do the Canadiens NOT want to play in the playoffs? At this point I think any team would beat Montreal in a best of seven series, but I'd like to avoid the Bruins just to get around the embarrassment of losing to a rival.

Western Conference Champ: Chicago Blackhawks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Chicago Blackhawks

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Toronto Maple Leafs (32-33-6, 70 pts.)

By: Jason (@felixpotvin), Pension Plan Puppets

Pre-Break MVP: Phil Kessel. He's always been a gifted goal scorer but didn't have the same cachet of other top line players. A slick passer who skates like he has Acme rockets strapped to his feet Kessel is electric to watch.

Pre-Break LVP: David Clarkson. He doesn't score, the team record with him in the lineup is terrible and it's amazing when he's missing. Hilariously overpaid, he's everything wrong with the Leafs in one easy package. I vomit thinking about him.

Pre-Break Team Grade: A (Exceeded Expectations). The Leafs get crushed by any measure other than "actually won the games" but luckily for them "actually won the games" is more important in the standings than how you got there. Can't argue with their record, I suppose...

At the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs will ... be buyers only.

What do the Maple Leafs need to buy at the deadline?
A first line center.
A second line center.
A first pairing defenseman.
A new coach.
A new GM.

What are the Maple Leafs willing to give up to get what they need? Looking at Dave Nonis' player valuation work makes me burst into tears. The Leafs will likely move out useful pieces in Kulemin or Reimer to bring in marginal players.

At the end of the regular season, the Maple Leafs will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Maple Leafs need to do to make the post-season? Pray that Johnathan Bernier stays healthy or that James Reimer remembers what playing goalie is like if something happens to him.

Say the Maple Leafs do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Which EC team do the Maple Leafs NOT want to play in the playoffs? Honestly I'd be happy if the Leafs made the playoffs so I'm not terribly picky about who beats them in the first round.

Western Conference Champ: San Jose Sharks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: San Jose Sharks

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Detroit Red Wings (26-20-12, 64 pts.)

By: J.J. from Kansas, Winging It In Motown

Pre-Break MVP: Henrik Zetterberg. Without the captain's performance in the 45 games he actually played, the Wings wouldn't be looking at the possibility of extending their playoff streak.

Pre-Break LVP: Piet van Zant. Haha get it? He's not a player, but his name starts with P, so it counts! The head athletic trainer of the team has overseen his squad go down again and again with injuries, most-commonly to the groin.

Pre-Break Team Grade: D (Below Expectations). A team that should be fighting among the division leaders is fighting for their playoff lives. Injury excuses or not, this isn't good enough. Hell I'd say D-minus even.

At the trade deadline, the Red Wings will ... be buyers and sellers.

What do the Red Wings need to buy at the deadline? If there's a solid minute-munching defenseman, that's who they should grab. Otherwise a rental forward to get them into the playoffs should help.

What are the Red Wings willing to give up to get what they need? There are a handful of NHL-ready youngsters at both forward and defense that they can bolster with draft picks to make decent trade value. Just about anybody below Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar on the depth chart.

What are the Red Wings up to selling at the deadline? Jakub Kindl or Kyle Quincey could get lost in a trade to make room and nobody would bat an eye. Both may just need a change of scenery to add to a defense where they won't be so exposed.

What do the Red Wings want/need in return? Anybody who doesn't suck and can remain healthy.

At the end of the regular season, the Red Wings will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Red Wings need to do to make the post-season? Win more games than the other bubble teams. Generally they're middle-of-the-pack in just about every facet (offense, defense, special teams, goaltending). Improving a facet or two without getting worse elsewhere will do the trick.

Say the Red Wings do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Win Stanley Cup

Which EC team do the Red Wings NOT want to play in the playoffs? The 2001-02 Red Wings or the 2013-14 Florida Panthers. Both of those teams would smoke this year's Red Wings squad.

Western Conference Champ: Chicago Blackhawks
Eastern Conference Champ: Detroit Red Wings
Stanley Cup Winner: Detroit Red Wings

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Ottawa Senators (26-22-11, 63 pts.)

By: Mark Parisi, Silver Seven Sens

Pre-Break MVP: Erik Karlsson - Anyone who has watched Sweden in the Olympics probably knows why. Despite Matt Cooke pulling a Shane Stant, Karlsson has returned to form. He remains the engine for the Senators' offense, and is stronger, and playing more physically.

Pre-Break LVP: Jared Cowen - Cowen held out for a large contract and more responsibility. He got both, but has not come close to living up to his end of the deal. He’s being sheltered with the team’s best possession player—Karlsson—as a result.

Pre-Break Team Grade: D (Below Expectations). The entire Silver Seven staff thought the Senators would comfortably finish in the top 3 for the division. They were a trendy pick for a leap forward after much adversity last season and adding talent up front. They’re currently out of the playoffs. That is WELL below expectations for this group.

At the trade deadline, the Senators will ... be buyers only.

What do the Senators need to buy at the deadline? More than they can get, sadly. However, smart money should be placed on a power forward. GM Bryan Murray lists this as a team need every year, but this season he has the green light from owner Eugene Melnyk to go after one.

What are the Senators willing to give up to get what they need? Bottom-six guys, spare parts defensemen, and minor league prospects—which makes Murray’s goal more like a dream. Due to contracts, the team is carrying 8 D. That can’t continue. Karlsson, Methot, and Ceci won’t be moved. Do the rest have any value?

At the end of the regular season, the Senators will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Senators need to do to make the post-season? Play to their capabilities. Recently, the team beat St. Louis and Tampa Bay, and came a ridiculous Fleury save away from beating Pittsburgh in regulation. They’ve shown they can hang with good teams, but consistent performance eludes this group.

Say the Senators do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Which EC team do the Senators NOT want to play in the playoffs? The Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs, but especially the Bruins, who have been creaming us all year. The Penguins are just a bad matchup, and Toronto… well… they’re already insufferable. Also, Kessel has enough hat tricks against us. And Don Cherry has kissed enough crybabies.

Western Conference Champ: St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Boston Bruins

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WTF do you want? (Getty Images)

Florida Panthers (22-29-7, 51 pts.)

By: Todd Little, Litter Box Cats

Pre-Break MVP: It's close, but my nod for the MVP goes to Tim Thomas. When the Panthers put together a nice run in December / early January to get back in the playoff chase, it was largely due to Thomas providing the club with some seriously strong goaltending.

Pre-Break LVP: My Panthers LVP would have to Tomas Fleischmann. After leading the team in scoring the past two seasons, "Flash" has been a huge disappointment this year. Fleischmann has gone goalless is his last 22 games, and only has netted five on the season.

Pre-Break Team Grade: C (Not good, not terrible). After finishing last season with the league's worst record, I wasn't expecting that much from the Cats. I thought they would show improvement, just not enough to make the postseason.The team got off to a horrid start before firing Kevin Dineen, but they have been respectable under Peter Horachek.

At the trade deadline, the Panthers will ... be sellers only.

What are the Panthers up to selling at the deadline? The Panthers have some good pieces in place to build around, but need to get rid of their overpaid/underachieving veterans who aren't part of the long-term solution. There is also effort problem on the team that needs to be corrected.

What do the Panthers want/need in return? What the Cats need most are big, young wings who can actually find the back of the net and to solidify the goaltending position after this season. Neither of the objectives will be achieved at the deadline, so it's draft picks for shedding salary.

At the end of the regular season, the Panthers will end up ... praying for the top lottery pick
If the Panthers receive the first overall pick, they should draft ... a defenseman.

Western Conference Champ: Anaheim Ducks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Anaheim Ducks

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BOW TO YOUR SENSEI (Getty Images)

Buffalo Sabres (15-34-8, 38 pts.)

By: Andy Boron, Die By The Blade

Pre-Break MVP: Ryan Miller - if you search our game recaps this season for the phrase "Miller single-handedly kept his team in the game", you'll find about 27 examples of Miller's dominance. Without him, the Sabres might not have ten wins.

Pre-Break LVP: It's become cliche, but Ville Leino is just flat-out bad at hockey. With zero goals and ten assists in 38 games, he can't even be classified as a disappointment, more of a black hole. Remember, he's Buffalo's highest paid forward.

Pre-Break Team Grade: A (Exceeded Expectations). Why not an F? Well, before the season started, Sabres fans were conditioned to expect some "suffering" during a rebuilding year, and this season the Sabres have made us suffer more than we could have possibly imagined. Number one pick or bust.

At the trade deadline, the Sabres will ... be sellers only.

What are the Sabres up to selling at the deadline? Anyone and everything. Seriously, anyone outside of Zemgus Girgensons and Mark Pysyk should be up for grabs, and with plenty of names both big and small on the block, nobody's phone should ring more than Tim Murray's.

What do the Sabres want/need in return? The Sabres would obviously love first round draft picks, especially in 2015, but with nine combined picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts, they really could use some good young prospects or roster players as well.

At the end of the regular season, the Sabres will end up ... praying for the top lottery pick
If the Sabres receive the first overall pick, they should draft ... a center.

Western Conference Champ: St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: St. Louis Blues

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