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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

2011/2012 Eastern Cnference Predictions

I'm back and this time I'll be predicting how the NHL's Eastern conference will shake out as well as why I think each team will be in that sport in the standings. The regular season starts up tomorrow so this is the perfect time to release my predictions. Now this is the first time I have ever publicly delivered my predictions so no hate guys!

1. Washington Capitals
2. Boston Bruins
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
6. New York Rangers
7. Montreal Canadians
8. Philadelphia Flyers
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
10. Carolina Hurricanes
11. New Jersey Devils
12. Winnipeg Jets
13. New York islanders
14. Florida Panthers
15. Ottawa Senators

Washington Capitals;
the last few years the Capitals have had a common theme to their season; a dominate regular season followed by a let downs in the post-season. Led by the leadership of Alexander Ovechkin the Capitals are going to have yet again another amazing season. Ovechkin production was down last season and was kind of embarrassed in the media and around the league, that is why I think Ovechkin is going to have a bounce-back season. It's put up or shut up for Ovechkin and the Capitals. If the Capitals don't get something big done this post season look for some major changes in DC. The Capitals also brought in some real character players and a real solid goalie; The Washington Capitals should clinch the conference title for the 3rd straight year and should go deeper in the playoffs this season.
New arrivals: Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward, Chris Hanson, Thomas Vokoun and a few others. Thomas Vokoun gives the Capitals some reliable goaltending that they can FINALLY count on! With the goaltending taken care of the Capitals can focus more on offense! This season the Capitals are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins:
After winning the cup in the 2010-2011 campaign, the Bruins are rested and ready to try to muster a repeat victory. The Bruins have kept most of the players from the Stanley cup winning team, which is a good start for next season. There is no doubt this team is poised for another outstanding season, and helping its cause with the contract extension of Brad Marchand. The Bruins surprised me last season, I did not see them having such a stellar season, but hey its hockey and anything can happen! Much of the success of the bruins will like last season come down to how well Tim Thomas will play. Last season Thomas one the Vezina and had unrealistic numbers, breaking the GAA all time for the NHL. But this season Thomas will likely see less time between the pipes, due to his age (37) and playing 82 games last season Tukka Rask should get his fair time this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning:
How can one not like Tampa; they have Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavilliar and several other great character players. A surprise sweep of the capitals in last years post season, turned a lot of heads and let fans know the Lightning are a force to be reckoned with, This season Tampa is hoping that lightning will strike twice so they can return to the post season. With new GM Steve Yzerman, the lightning have all the ingredients of success with a nice mixture of seasoned veterans mixed in with a spicy core of young players. Lightning should easily contend for the southeast division title. Key new additions include; Mathieu Garon and Ryan Shannon.
With Dwayne Roloson between the pipes the veteran should help tighten up the back end. With Teddy Purcell primed and ready to have a breakout season, and Steven Stamkos looking to rebound from last season the Lightning should be good to go this upcoming season.
Buffalo Sabres
Now this will come as a surprise to most that I ranked them 4th, but hey, I am a little bias.
Buffalo now has a new owner Terry Pegula. Pegula has shown the Buffalo faithful that he wants to win and isn't afraid to spend the money to do so, If something needs to be done he will get it done. The sabres made major off-season acquisitions bringing in; Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and shipped out Tim Connolly and Steve Montador, who just weren't cutting it in Buffalo anymore. Also having a strong minor team will help in case of injuries players like Luke Adam, Zach Kassian and Marcus Foligno can fill almost any void, or be moveable pieces for a trade. A major factor is the Sabres now have a legitimate back-up goalie who can take some of the pressure of Miller in Jonas Enroth. Enroth can hold his own and give Miller much needed break during the season. Now that Buffalo solved the defensive woes, Miller will have more support and help and could be well on his way to his 2nd Vezna trophy in 3 years. Buffalo Sabres fans should be super excited because the sabres have a real chance to make a valid run at the Holy Grail of hockey the Stanley Cup. The cup could very well be
making its way to Buffalo for the first time ever! There is optimism in Buffalo. So believe me when I say; The Buffalo Sabres are the REAL DEAL this season. I'm drinking the Buffalo Sabres kool-aid that this will be their breakout year. Either they Put up or shut up!

Pittsburgh Penguins
I am a little worried for the Penguins will likely be without their star player; Sidney Crosby for a good part of the season if not all. Crosby has been out since last January with a concussion is still not ready to come back. This mean other players like; Malkin and Staal are really going to have to step up and fill the offense Crosby provided. Malkin is motivated this season knowing he has to carry the team without Crosby there to bail them out, all the pressure is resting squarely on Malkin's shoulders. if Malkin plays well it Crosby who? if Malkin can't step up, he's going to hear it from the fans. I don't believe the Penguins will have a dominating season like they have enjoyed since 09, as the fear factor of playing the Penguins is gone. But they will finish somewhere around 5 or 6 in the division, but wont be able to win another Stanley Cup unless Crosby comes back in a hurry and has no ill effects from his concussion. 

New York Rangers;
Last season the rangers barely made it into the post-season as the 8th seed. But this off season the Rangers made a big splash by landing Free agent Brad Richards without giving up anything in return. Richards instantly improves the Rangers squad. With Richard and Gaborik working together there could be no stopping the random. New defenceman Tim Erixon is poised and ready to have a break-out campaign. As long as John Tortorella can keep Sean Avery under control and focoused on scoring instead of causing trouble the Rangers should be in for a great year that will bring them a little higher in the standings. Plus Rangers fans are rejoicing that their team is playing in the Winter Classic. As long as Gaborik and Richards play well together the rangers will be in the post season for sure. 

Montreal Canadians
The Montreal Canadians; well I don't really know what to say about the Canadians as they are one of my least favorite teams. They reluctantly got rid of all-star goalie Halak and stuck it out with Carey Price who had a very rough season a back in 2009/2010 season. As well as Carey Price played last season it was not enough when they play-offs rolled around and they lost in the first round. I think this season will be another tough grueling season for habs fans were every game matters. The Canadians are one of the lowest goal scoring teams and rarely "blow out" any team, scoring just 216 goals last season. They decided to take a chance by signing Erik Cole this off season to help enhance the offense. Canadians hope Max Pacioretty is able to recover from his concussion and broken vertebra sustained from a hit delivered by bruins Chara. P.K Subban should have lots ice time this upcoming season and come close to 50 points in helping the Canadians return to the post season. The Canadians will squeak into the post-season in the 6 or 7th position. Price will have another good season but will struggle a little due to a weaker defence. I see another first round playoffs exit in store for the habs with a few of the bigger contracts not living up to their money.

Philadelphia Flyers:
Well Flyers made some major shake-up moves this off season, trading away their captain Mike Richards and super star Jeff Carter for the 3 men you see in the picture on the right. Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jacob Voracek. The Flyers have gotten rid of 127 goals and 282 points and replaced it with 36 goals and 99 points and 2 stud prospects. Does the future look light or dim for the new faced Flyers? They have finally put an end to their forever spinning goaltending wheel, which spelled an end to any hopes of a Stanley cup final. They brought in former phoenix coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgolav. So was this a good or bad offseason for the Flyers... only time will tell, I think I may have ranked them a little high for all their new editions. Also added in the off season is former pittsburgh penguins Jaromir Jagr, who is trying to make a comeback to the NHL. It was a extremly risky move shaking the core of the Flyers and it will result in a drop of their stnadings If the flyers get solid goal tending from Bryzgolav and solid production from Brayden Schenn, then they should be able to make the post-season.

Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are looking to finally make the post-season for the first time since 2004. The leafs started off last season with 4 straight wins but were then out of the post-season picture by January by going long stretches without a victory. But then Jame Reimer turned up and resurrected the finally of the Leafs season. The leafs finished only 8 points out of a playoff spot. They made some major off season moves and found some nice rookie talent coming up for next season. The Biggest move this off season would be the addition of the Tim Connolly of the Buffalo Sabres, truth be told the leafs over paid for a player who is always hurt! There was a reason the Sabres let Connolly go for nothing (dumb Leafs). A player who can make have a break out season is defence man Jake Gardiner, who will be in the line-up come opening night. For the leafs it all comes down to the goal tending of James Reimer, if he plays well he'll give the Leafs some extra much needed wins if he does not play well it will be another long long season for leafs nation. The leafs defence and offence aren't the greatest BUT they are good enough to make the post-season. I think the leafs will be the dark horse in the east this coming season and could easily finish in 8th but will likely just miss out again like last season. If the leafs don't make the post-season, look for the GM and Coach to be gone! (Brian Burke and Ron Wilson) For the offence of the leafs to be good enough to make the playoffs; the *new top line of Kulemin-MacArthur-Grabovski needs to be the leafs top line against like last season.

Carolina Hurricanes.
Last season the hurricanes controlled their own playoff destiny, in a win and your in game verse the lightning, but the lightning smoked the canes 6-2. Who knows how the playoffs would have shaped up if the Canes had made it but probably not much different. The team relies to heavily on number one goalie Cam Ward and captain Erick Staal, the Hurricanes need a more "full team" effort if they intend to make the post-season. The bright spot was rookie Jeff Skinner who won the Calder trophy and toar up the rookies. this season Skinner needs to replicate his rookie season. Most of the "bubble" teams try to get much better in the off season but the Hurricanes did nothing and lost a couple key players, this team is far from the 2006 Cup winning team!

New Jersey Devils
The devils had an horrible start to their season but had an amazing 2nd half and ended up just, yes just missing the playoffs they caped off the year with 28-10-3 run. Due to a tight salary cap the Devils did very little in the off season, but will need to find a solid back-up goalie as this could be the 39 year old Martin Brodeur's last NHL season. Brodeur has had quite the career and is likely to be a Hall of Fame Candidate in the future. Kovalchuk the guy who was supposed to "save" the team, they even gave him 100 million bucks to watch him do nothing! But Zach Parise is back from injury and should help the offense of this team. The devils are likely to be on the bubble fighting for a play off spot but will likely fall just short of that elusive final ticket into the NHL's 2nd season.

Winnipeg Jets!
The Jets are back!!!! woo its been 15 long years since the old jets departed from Winnipeg too long for many fans. But the Jet faithful are excited as ever to welcome back their storied franchise. Unfortunetly for Jets fans, the team they have ended up with is the same Thrashers team who have made the playoffs once in 11 years. But luckily their is no shortage of big names and talent; Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien who both won a cup with Chicogo and Evander Kane the 4th overall pick from 2009. For the management of the new jets making the post season is a secondary thought, as they are focusing on molding a team that can win in the future. Antropov and Fehr will need to stay consistent if this team hopes to improve an offense that was 20th last season. Enstrom and Byfuglien can be one of the top defensive tandems in the league when both are on top of their game; but legal issues for Byfuglien may cause him to miss some time on the ice. Still stuck in the south east division a trip to the post season would be tough to conjure up, but hey anything other than dead last is positive news right? Mark your Calenders Jets fans October 9th is when the party kicks off!
But amidst the joy and celebration of having the jets back lets remember the jets are or were the Thrashers a team hastily ripped away from Atlanta, so lets have a moment of silence for thrashers fans.

New York Islanders
Now the Islanders aren't one of the better teams in the Eastern conference, they will become better, maybe not in the standings but as a tougher team to play. Its not as easy for teams to walk all over the Islanders any more. You gotta feel bad for John Tavares, super star player on a less than good team, the last two season Tavares has lead the islanders in scoring and its safe to say its his team now. The islanders need Rick DiPietro to stay healthy, if he can stay healthy and prove why he was a former #1 draft pick that the islanders are in business. With good goal tending and a healthy defence the Islanders should be able to take some teams by surprise and challenge for a playoffs spot right to the end. The islanders will be a fun team to watch with all their young talent but will fail to make the post season yet again.

Florida Panthers
ah sunny side Florida, hard to believe that we can ice a hockey team in Florida. Coming of last season which found the panthers as the 3rd worst team in the NHL, and missed the post season for a 10th straight time, this team needs to turn things around and pronto. This off season they showed that they are serious about becoming a top notch team, with some major moves this off season,  will see the panthers ice nearly a brand new team. they spent money on some pretty risky players that may or may not play well; Adding Sean Bergenheim and injury worry Tomas Fleischmann and spending a bit to much money for  Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky. But added the tiny guy with a ton of grit in Kris Versteeg. But this team will need help from the 2 best players on the team Stephen Weiss and David Booth if they are going to get anything accomplished. Unfortunately on the defensive end the panthers found them making some of the worst moves in a while signing veteran Ed Jovanovski the price was too much and the fact that Jovanovski has a history of injuries should have been a no go there sign for the panthers. The panthers also added former cup winning defence man Brian Campbell. In goal the panthers have taken some steps back having Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom as the goaltending Tandem. Theodore is mainly a back-up goaltender so it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressures of being the starter. not to forget the 3rd overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau who could be a break-out candidate with all the veterans around to help his development. It looks like the post season will be out of reach for the panthers yet again making it 11 straight seasons.

Ottawa Senators
Last but certainly not least the Ottawa senators. Sadly their 20th season will be nothing cheer about in the nations capital, wins are something that will be few and far between and its a secondary option for the Senators, developing the youth is the first and foremost mission for them. It is looking that the senators will have some stability in between the pipes with Craig Anderson, which is something for sens fans to cheer about! Andersons play may be the lone bright spot this season; as their focus is developing young rookies. But all eyes will be on the veteran leadership of Alfredsson, Spezza and Phillips, these three especially Spezza will need to "grow up" in a way; by logging big minutes playing more responsible hockey and putting the puck in the net as well as mentoring the next generation of senators. It is looking more and more like Spezza is the face of the franchise and will be the captain in a few years. The forecast is calling for a rough season in the nations capital, but hey once you hit rock bottom you can only go up.

So there you have it folks my breakdown on how the Eastern Conference will shake out. This Blog took a extremely long time and tons and tons of research so I'd appreciate if there was not real "hate" towards it. Any who hope you enjoy my blog.

With the today being the eve of the nhl regular season, thought it would a good time to release this, you guys should be stocking your shelves with nachos and wings and I'll see you guys in the couch starting tomorrow!
Here's to another great hockey season!

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