We here at Hockey Jabber have decided to look upon each conference and see who the real contenders in each conference are likely to be in the 2009-10 NHL season. We’ll start with the East today, and take care of the West sometime early next week!
The Stanley Cup Champions will be the favorites in the East entering the NHL 2009-10 season.
The Penguins have won the Prince of Wales trophy two years running and are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They minimized losses this off season, their only everyday players that left being Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill.
The signings of Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Jay McKee all for less than market value was a great achievement by General Manager Ray Shero. He has also been able to re-sign young offensively minded defensmen Alex Goligoski who will be an every day player in the NHL for years to come.
The Penguins will look to keep hot all throughout the season, unlike the previous two where they have struggled in spurts, especially in the middle of the season. The Penguins have to be the favorite to come back to the Stanley Cup Finals out of the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals took the Penguins to seven games last year in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, and have done nothing but improved during the offseason.
The addition of Mike Knuble is exactly what the Caps needed, a veteran gritty winger that can bury some garbage in front of the net, especially if he can keep up with the speed of Alexander Ovechkin.
The Capitals, however, will have to rely on either veteran Jose Theodore or rookie Simeon Valarmov between the pipes. Both goaltenders have their pros and cons, Theodore has the experience of the NHL 82-game season and the everyday grind, however it looks like Valarmov might be one of the up and coming goalies in the NHL.
It will be very interesting to see how head coach Bruce Boudreau and GM George McPhee handle the goaltending situation in Washington, but if they can get it figured out, they will pose the best threat to the Penguins in the East.
The Boston Bruins were the number one seed heading into the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, however, they suffered an early exit at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Bruins haven’t done much in the offseason, only re-signing David Krejci and Mark Recchi, but why mess with something that worked last season. The Bruins were only eliminated in Game seven by the Hurricanes, and that was in overtime.
They will return the reigning Veniza trophy award winner Tim Thomas in net. He will be a mainstay for the Bs in years to come. The Bruins will likely win the Northeast division and be one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference next season. They again will be a team to be reckoned with, and could manage to pull things together and start playing well in the playoffs, making a run for the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers have attempted to sure up their defense with the acquisition of defensemen Chris Pronger from Anaheim.
However they did have to give up a lot and it will absolutely hurt their secondary scoring dramatically. That's all well and good, their defense may be the best in the league now (or second, hello Calgary), but they have a joke in goal.
The Flyers made a big mistake by going to Russia to sign former Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery. Sure, Martin Biron was not the one that was going to get your team a Stanley Cup, but in no way is Ray Emery.
The Flyers will have a problem with their secondary scoring and in net, but players like Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne will convert their chances, and Chris Pronger will cheap shot his way around the Wachovia rink, and the Flyers will push the Penguins in the Atlantic Division this season.
Carolina—They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and their roster seems pretty much the same. When Cam Ward is on his game he is one of the best goaltenders in the world, but when he’s not, well he’s not. I think they’ll make it into the playoffs as a five or six seed, similar to this year and maybe they can pull together another run.
NY Rangers—If, and it's a big if, Marian Gaborik can stay healthy, I will wager that he’ll have a career year in scoring. When he played in Minnesota he was always hampered by having to play a defensive style of hockey once the Wild got the lead. With Head Coach John Torterella, Gaborik will have free reign to take chances, because one of the best goalies in the world, Henrik Lundqvist, will be behind him to bail him out.
My Current Eastern Conference Playoff Seed Prediction:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Washington Capitals
3. Boston Bruins
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. NY Rangers
6. Carolina Hurricanes
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
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