On WFAN in New York, Rangers marquee goalie Henrik Lundqvist guaranteed a return to the playoffs this season after a one year absence this past season.
"Absolutely," said Lundqvist, "We will (be in the playoffs). I promise, we will bounce back."
Strong words by Lundqvist, who has been a more soft-spoken leader for the Rangers since taking over the starting goaltender position back in 2005-06, especially since the team hasn't really improved much this off-season.
There is a difference between confidence and cockiness. Sure, Lundqvist isn't pulling a Rex Ryan guaranteeing a championship this season, but let's wait until the games start, Hank.
The Rangers haven't improved much from last season, aside from the Martin Biron signing, and possibly Alex Frolov, who we're not sure will bounce back after a disappointing final season in Los Angeles will be looked upon to score 30 goals.
The rest of the East has improved quite a bit, especially in the Atlantic Division where the Rangers call home. Starting with their biggest rival, the New Jersey Devils added Ilya Kovalchuck and defenseman Anton Volchenkvo. We know what to expect from Kovalchuck, and Volchenkov is a hard-hitting, crease-clearing defender that will limit the shots Martin Broduer will face this season.
The Penguins also improved, swapping aging, often-injured defenseman Sergei Gonchar for ex-Devil Paul Martin. They also added a great depth and teammate in Aaron Asham, and Hillary Duff's ex-boyfriend Mike Comrie. Of course the latter two signings won't win them a championship, but when Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin are on your team, you don't need a whole lot more.
The Flyers didn't make big splashes this season, but when you're the defending Eastern Conference champion, you should not be taken lightly. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are a season older with a playoff run under their belts, making them even more dangerous.
Other teams that have improved are the Atlanta Thrashers with Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Eaves, the Boston Bruins with Tyler Seguin, and even the Toronto Maple Leafs with Kris Versteeg coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Don't forget the Washington Capitals with Alex Ovechkin and company.
I'm all for Lundqvist having confidence for the upcoming season. As a Rangers fan and now writer, I'm glad that the leader of the team is confident enough with his team to come out and say that, but let's not jump the gun. The team still failed to acquire a true first-line center, or any secondary scoring past the unpredictable Frolov.
Here's to hoping the King is right, because this past off-season was too long to bare.
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