Bruins, Lightning among top challengers to Capitals in East

It seems like no one in the Eastern Conference wants to be considered the team to beat.

Taylor Hall relishes that his Devils were counted out last year before making the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin would love for all the Capitals’ doubters to chime in again.

“Last year, nobody believe in us and we won the Cup,” Ovechkin said. “I hope you guys don’t believe in us again.”

There’s more outside belief in the Lightning, Maple Leafs and, of course, Sidney Crosby’s Penguins to come out of the East than New Jersey taking another step forward or Washington going back to the Stanley Cup Final and repeating. Perhaps that’s because the Eastern Conference is full of a mix of new challengers like Toronto and the familiar cast of contenders from Pittsburgh to Boston to Tampa Bay.

After back-to-back losses in the first round,…

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