The NHL season is a mere month away, and excitement is beginning to generate around the world for hockey fans.
As the season approaches the questions arise over who will win their respective divisions, and who will just sneak into the playoffs.
In the next couple of days I will give my opinions on who will finish where in each division. Today I will reveal my predictions for in my opinion the strongest division in the NHL, the Atlantic:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins- 103 Points
2. New York Rangers- 101 Points
3. Philadelphia Flyers- 100 Points
4. New Jersey Devils- 94 Points
5. New York Islanders- 71 Points
The Pittsburgh Penguins have an unbelievable core of young talent. Players like Jordan Stall, Tyler Kennedy, and Maxime Talbot are excellent complementary players with plenty of upside.
The Penguins also added veteran experience in the offseason, with the additions of Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedetenko to go along with Petr Sykora. These players will add extra offensive power to a lineup already featuring superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins also have solid defense and good goaltending. Despite the injury to defenseman Ryan Whitney, the Penguins defense remains solid, with puck-moving defenseman Sergie Gonchar and youngsters Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik.
The Penguins also have strong defensive blue-liners in Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi, and Darryl Sydor. Marc-Andre Fleury finally had his breakout season last year, and will look to continue to stay solid between the pipes.
It looks to be another fun season for the New York Rangers faithful, as they stayed solid at offense and vastly improved their defense.
The Rangers' offense definitely took a hit, with the loses of Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka, but added play-makers like Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev. Naslund is an excellent leader, who can still put up a decent amount of points.
The Rangers' bringing in of Zherdev was an excellent move, in my opinion. Zherdev has loads of potential, and put up 61 points for a bad Columbus Blue Jackets team. Imagine what he can do in New York, where he won't be a main focus of opposing teams.
The Rangers made excellent moves defensively, adding Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin. New York also has underrated defenseman Michal Roszival, who was excellent on the power play last season. Marc Stall and Dan Girardi also have much potential, and may break out this season.
The Philadelphia Flyers did not change much during the offseason, which is not a bad thing at all. The Flyers surprised everyone by making it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Danny Briere, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter provide a talented nucleus to go along with solid complementary players.
Players like Scottie Upshall, Joffry Lupul and Mike Knuble add solid blue-collar play to a very talented Flyers team—not to mention, Simon Gagne is finally coming back this season. Look for Gagne to be a huge boost to the Flyers' offense.
Philadelphia also possesses good defensemen and a solid tandem of goaltenders. Defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, and Randy Jones will provide good defensive play at the blue line, and with goaltenders Martin Biron and Antero Nittymaki, the Flyers will be set at both ends of the ice.
The New Jersey Devils added strength and offensive production by adding forwards Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik.
Rolston is a smooth skater who scores and gets in front of the net. Holik was good to the Devils in his last stint and will continue to be this time around, with his big body and decent amount of offensive production.
It seems each year the Devils defense is their strong suit, and it will continue to be this season—even with the lack of a true first defenseman. Paul Martin and Colin White will provide good stay-at-home defense, which will give the Devils' stars like Brian Gionta, Zach Parise, and Partick Elias more comfort in the offensive zone.
Goaltending will never be a problem for the Devils as long as they have Martin Brodeur. Brodeur had another fabulous season, leading the Devils to the playoffs. He will be relied on once again to put this team on his back and carry them to the postseason.
The dearth of talent for the New York Islanders will once again put them in the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
Veterans Bill Geurin, Mike Sillinger and Doug Weight will be the stronger players for the Islanders, and will get some help from Mike Comrie and Richard Park—but offensive production will be hard to find.
The Islanders slightly improved their defense by adding Mark Streit. Along with Bruno Gervais and Brendan Witt, the Islanders defense will be decent.
Goaltending won't be a problem as long as Rick Dipietro stays healthy. Despite the good goaltending, it will be a year to forget for the Islanders. The only positive may be at the NHL draft, if they can bring in John Taveras or Victor Hedman.
The Atlantic Division will once again be solid this season, as I believe the Penguins, Rangers, Flyers, and Devils will all make the playoffs. Apologies to the New York Islanders.
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