Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NHL Preview: Atlantic Division

Congrats to the 2011 Boston Bruins now give the NHL the Cup back and let's do it over again. First game of the brand new season is around the corner, so I'll be giving you a division by division look at the teams. I am going to start with my favorite division in the NHL, Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. Some might wonder why I like this division. The reasons are the NYI and Martin Brodeur.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins: they are a very good team even without Crosby and Malkin who where both hurt lengthy periods of time last year. When and if they arrive in the new season healthy and ready to go, the Penguins are the team to beat in this division. When they are both on their A-games they could be considered the best two players in the Eastern Conference. If you add on players like Staal (who again was hurt last year) and Marc-Andre Fleury this teams possesses the ability to have a high GFA and a low GAA which usually means a very good playoff standing. Predictions: Win the division but that all depends on how healthy Crosby will be could go anywhere from 1st to 3rd in the division. (~100 pts)

2. Philadelphia Flyers: 2nd least favorite team in the NHL. Hate them and everything they stand for. They made a lot off season changes this year with a new goalie, getting rid of veteran players, in favor of young and excellent players. When looking at this team, this team big hopes relay on how healthy Pronger will be and if they can figure out their goalie situation which has been 2nd worst goalie situation in the league. I can see a high scoring team that limits goals against but only if the defense plays like a top ten defense in the league. If James van Riemsdyk plays excellent they will be a very good scoring team but that is a very hard thing to accomplish when you that team was 3rd in the league last year. Predictions: anywhere from 1st to 3rd will make the playoffs but dont see them as a number 1 seed. (~100 pts)

3. New York Rangers: LEAST FAVORITE TEAM IN THE NHL. I HATE THEM. They made the biggest addition this year in Brad Richards. Combine Richards and Gaborik equal possibly one of the best lines in the league, possibly. They will be in contention throughout the year for a division crown because of King Henrik. Best goalie in the division, can keep a team in the game long enough for scoring chances. If they can keep there GAA average around where they were last year (5th), and you add on better scoring chances they can certainly win this division. Prediction: 1st-3rd will make playoffs...still hate them. (95 pts)

4. New Jersey Devils: made a very strong playoff push last year after changing coaches and finally meshing well together. It hard to believe that this once awesome team wasnt as good last year. Still ranked in the top ten for GAA last year but horrible in GFA (30th). Only way to make the playoffs is to improve on Power Play and score more often on even strength. In goal, you have the incredible Martin Brodeur. He is the best goalie ever in my opinion. Can keep a team in the a game like Henrik but is getting older and it shows. Needs better protection in front of net on penalty killing. I like them as a dark horse in the league cause if the offense gets rolling could compete on every level. Prediction: Dark horse could be good enough to snag a spot in the playoffs. (90 pts)

5. NEW YORK ISLANDERS: favorite team in the league, been a faithful follower since I was little kid. This teams has what it takes to be a great team. Youth with veteran leadership with touch of too young to realize what they are doing to other teams. This team was one of the best teams on the ice last year from mid-February to the end of the season. Played excellent down the stretch, made a playoff stretch last year. They have mediocre special teams right around league average. They can score with legit scoring threats in every position on the 1st two lines. The ONLY problem this team has are 3 goalies via for 1 goalie position. Ricky D is my opinion is touch n go, Al Montoya could be the real deal and will probably get his chance, Nabokov is the intriguing one. He wants to play but not for the Islanders, he can be a top ten goalie. I see the Islanders use him often in the start and use him to shop him around and maybe get 1 veteran forward for him and young d-line men. The defense is lacking too but with Mark Steit coming back healthy maybe there is a hope in the 6 defensive men they select with at least 1 shutdown line. Prediction: can make a lot of noise with young players in Bailey, Nielsen, Tavares, Moulson, Grabner, and Oposko; I can definitely see a top 8 finish and a trip to the playoffs where if the goalie situation has a way to figure itself out, can make a lot of noise and scare some of the bigger teams. But realistic they just need to play consistent and they should make the playoffs. (85 pts)

As you can tell, I am a little bias for this division. I am predicting that all of them make the playoffs someway or another but it is the preseason everyone has the same record and they all could make the playoffs right now. I can seriously see all of them make it which leaves 1 open spot up for anyone else in the eastern conference (am including division winners). You all will have to see for final playoff predictions to really see if I am bias. 

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