N.Y. Rangers: 4 Eastern Conference Teams to Fear in 2012-13
Even with the addition of Rick Nash, the Rangers are not the favored team in the Eastern Conference.
But as we often see during the playoffs, Vegas odds and even regular-season play become meaningless once the postseason starts. No. 7 and No. 8 seeds routinely upset the higher-seeded teams, and no team has won both the Presidents' Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season since the Red Wings in 2001-2002.
With high hopes for Rangers fans in 2013, let's take a look at who else will be threatening for those top Eastern Conference seeds:
The main reason the Penguins are the early favorites to win the Stanley Cup is because it is assumed that Sidney Crosby will remain healthy the whole season.
Crosby has only played in 69 games over the past two seasons, including the playoffs, and his health will be a key factor to Pittsburgh's success.
Even with the loss of Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh should be one of the top teams in the league. Defending Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin will hope his team doesn't need 109 points from him again, though he's capable of producing that and more.
Pittsburgh could have two Hart Trophy finalists and possibly a Presidents' Trophy in 2013.
The Boston Bruins will be very excited for the start of the 2012-13 season.
As the defending champions entering the playoffs last season, they must have been bitterly disappointed to lose in the first round in seven games to the Capitals.
With a new season on the cusp, 20-year-old Tyler Seguin should get even better, and with goalie Tim Thomas taking a year off (not a good strategy to regain his 2011 form), his replacement, Tuukka Rask, will have to get comfortable quickly.
Expect the Bruins to have a strong regular season again and be right near the top of the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference in 2013.
Claude Giroux deserves to have his face on a video game.
Giroux totaled 26 more points than his closest teammate, and the Flyers were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Giroux was also one of only two players to contribute more than 60 assists last season.
If goalie Ilya Bryzgalov can play more consistently, he won't have to talk so much about the universe.
New Jersey Devils
There's no doubt Zach Parise will be missed in Newark, but the Devils are the defending Eastern Conference champions, and they should not be dismissed because they will have a new team captain.
Another reason they should be considered a threat in the Eastern Conference is because Adam Henrique looks like he will become a bona fide star in the NHL. Henrique totaled 51 points during his rookie season and then impressed further in the playoffs, adding five goals and eight assists to a plus-12 postseason rating.
The Devils also had two players rank in the top 10 for most points last season and neither was named Parise (Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias).
The key for the Devils will be for 39-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur to play like his 29-year-old counterpart across the Hudson.
Of course, if every goalie in the Eastern Conference aspires to play like Henrik Lundqvist, then the Rangers should fear no team.