As always, every summer I put out my predictions for the upcoming NHL season.
This is my first edition on bleacher report.
Part two will be my awards thoughts for '09, but here is my 1-15 eastern conference prediction.
I have chosen the 'Caps to be first mainly on the fact that the southeast division pretty much is the NL west of the NHL.
Yes Tampa Bay has improved, but Mike Smith is not a No. 1 goalie.
Carolina is getting old, and well, Florida and Atlanta should be in the AHL.
Oh yeah, there is also a guy named Alexander who I hear can carry a team on his back to a great season.
Big surprise eh?
Yes the youth movement has arrived in full force in the NHL, and these two top teams will battle for eastern supremacy all season long.
The only reason why Pittsburgh will not finish first, is because, well, they don't play in the southeast.
They play in arguably, the toughest division in hockey.
This means that Crosby needs to fill out more before he can get through a season injury free.
Nothing in the Northeast has changed enough for someone to overtake the 10-point lead the Habs has at the end of last season.
Ottawa, Boston and Toronto all got worse.
Buffalo has improved, but only slightly, and possibly not enough to make the top eight this season.
Montreal will again be one of the top home teams in the league, and with some much needed experience, look for Carey Price to push for a Vezina nomination.
Business as usual for the Devils.
Expect another 45+ wins for Mr. Brodeur.
Really, does this surprise anybody?
It seems every year New Jersey just strolls along un-noticed, and at the end of the season, there they are.
Just a few points behind first and bound for the playoffs.
Sure the scoring talent isn't the best in the NHL, but who needs it when you have the best goalie on earth between the pipes?
Yes the blue-shirts will ease into the second season on the strengths of King Lundqvist, Gomez, and Drury.
Oh yeah, and a new guy named Naslund.
Markus will have a bounce back season after being the odd man out in a tight Canucks system.
Look for Marc Stall to emerge as the No. 1 “d-man” and Zherdev to put up a 30-30 season.
If we can all remember for a minute: The Sabres had two losing streaks last season of eight games, and 10 games.
If they could have won four out of those 18 games they would have been playing hockey in May last season.
Nothing has changed in Sabre-land.
Look for Roy and Pominville to continue to put up numbers.
As usual the Sabres will do their scoring by committee, which they have proven time and again, works.
Not too sure why I put the Leafs in the top eight.
Lets just say it's a feeling.
For the first time in three years the leafs will play game one of the season knowing who their No. 1 goalie will be.
Cujo is only there to help make Toskala better, and he knows his role.
Look for Antropov to put up career numbers playing on a line with guys who can keep up and the defense to get back to where they were three years ago.
Lets call this my dark horse pick, and even if it works out, watching what Pittsburgh would do to them in the playoffs would be a treat for every hockey fan.
The Flyers will beat and punch their way into the playoffs.
Berube is a new assistant coach.
Looking at their roster, it looks like a who's who of Canadian world juniors.
Briere, Carter, Upshall, Downie, Richards, Hartnall, Cobrun and Biron— enough said.
This team has heart and will not accept finishing outside the playoffs.
9. Ottawa Senators
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
11. Boston Bruins
12. Carolina Hurricanes
13. New York Islanders
14. Florida Panthers
15. Atlanta Thrashers