Here are my Eastern Conference predictions:
10. New Jersey
13. Tampa Bay
This is a solid team. I expect a repeat performance from last year. They led the league in goals against per game with 2.32 and save percentage of .925. After topping 50 wins last year, I expect the same from them this year. The good start really helped them finish in first place. They posted a record of 23-2-1 in November and December last year.
AO and the Caps seek revenge this year. After a game seven collapse in the playoffs, expectations are higher once again this season. They have six 20-goal scorers returning from last season, including defenseman Mike Green, who tallied 31 goals alone (the rest of the defense scored 12). The only thing stopping them from the #1 spot is the goaltending.
Yes. I picked the Rangers to win the division. The team has added Brian Boyle, Chris Higgins, Marian Gaborik, Donald Brashear, and Ales Kotalik. They lost some guys as well, but this team is going to be revamped and ready to go this October. The team will get a lot of help from Henrik in goal. Also, John Torterella will make this team even better.
The Penguins look like they are going to be a real tough team to beat. I think that the short summer will begin to wear them down at some point in the season. They may have somewhat of a hangover from winning the Cup, but have a very good chance to make it to the finals again.
The Hurricanes didn't make any major moves as the rest of their division improved. It will be tough for the Canes to go as far as they did last year, but Cam Ward will help tremendously. As long as they get off to a good start unlike last season, this team will finish fifth in the conference.
The addition of Chris Pronger will improve the team, obviously. One of the biggest question marks for Philly is how Ray Emery will do in goal. If Emery plays well, this team will have enough support to make the playoffs.
The Sabres have taken some cheap shots the past few years, and no one stepped up and fought back. This season, teams are going to start respecting Buffalo. Steve Montador has arrived, and Mike Grier is back. The Sabres need to get a full season from Tim Connolly, who could greatly contribute. Also, a healthy Ryan Miller is always a good thing.
I don't believe Toronto is capable of winning a playoff round, but I can see them snatching the final spot from Montreal. With Brian Burke, Toronto will be much more competitive. They were dead last in save percentage last year (.885), which shows why they didn't have one month with a winning record. I expect this team to show significant improvements this season
The whole team has been remodeled. I don't think that the team will click right away. I think there are too many new players on the team. All of the chemistry will be messed up, and it will take some time before all of the lines are synced up. Montreal will struggle through the first half of the season, and won't be able to overcome it. They will fall short at the end.
The Devils are always a tough team to play against, especially with the trap. They did lose Brian Gionta, Scott Clemmensen, and John Madden, which puts more pressure on Brodeur. I can't see him doing better than he has been. If Brodeur gets injured, there isn't a reliable backup like last season. I expect the Devils to be a tough opponent, but not good enough for the playoffs.
The Panthers just don't have anyone capable of stepping up as a leader. By losing Jay Bo, Florida isn't going anywhere for a few years. It is time for them to build around the two solid goaltenders they have (Vokoun and Clemmensen). Florida is a hard working team that just needs a big name player or two.
They need a goalie. They have a good group of players, but they need to convince Kovalchuk to stay. If they lose him, they are going downhill. Atlanta needs some help before they make the playoffs again. Expect the same kind of outcome as they have had the last two seasons.
Almost the same situation as Atlanta. They need solid goaltending. They have plenty of talent on the team, but their biggest concern is on the defense. Last season, Tampa didn't have anyone with a positive plus/minus. However, they added Mattias Ohlund who was +14 last year, and Matt Walker who was +7. I believe Tampa will begin to improve this year, getting about 30 wins.
Rebuilding. A few years from now, the Isles will be a very good team, but right now, they just don't have what it takes to compete. Their goaltending is solid, but the offense needs to improve, which is just what they are working on.
With Heatley no longer there......(eventually) the team is going to suffer from the loss. They need Leclaire and Elliot to perform well to even have a chance at the playoffs. I don't see Ottawa having much success this year.
Prediction: From the East, I am choosing Washington to make it to the Finals
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