For the 2008 season two teams in the Southeast Division really catch my eye, the defending division champions, the Washington Capitals, and the newly face-lifted Tampa Bay Lighting.
With all the shake-ups in Tampa, can the Bolt’s unseat Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals? I say no. In the Southeast Division, what you see is what you get.
Likely finishing at the top of the division, the Capitals could still face a foot race against Tampa to finish at the top.
With young superstars like Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom threatening opposing defenses and a talented, playoff-tested defensive corps returning, the Caps are the team to beat in the division.
The only question marks will be in the crease. If Theodore plays well, the Capitals will be not just good, but great.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Women in South Beach aren’t the only ones getting facelifts this summer. Can anyone even recognize this team? Add Steven Stamkos, Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Vaclav Prospal, and many others and this team’s line combinations are almost brand new.
With some of the best first and second scoring line combos in the NHL, the Lightning will likely strike more than once a game. Defense is another story.
They traded Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich to San Jose, only weakening the blue line. Finally, minus veteran Olaf Kolzig in net, the Bolts are highly inexperienced. Projected starter Mike Smith has the talent, but with a defense needing some improvement it will be up to him to keep games close.
Tampa is also one of the most overrated teams entering this season. Don’t ignore them, but if I were a betting man, I’d avoid them.
The Southeast Division itself has plenty of talented players and many are young, only sweetening the deal. Problem is, they have generally been drafted by some of the worst teams in the NHL.
Alexander “The Great” Ovechkin—More of the same from the NHL’s top scorer—expect him to win another scoring title. Question is, can he lead his team deeper in the playoffs?
Niklas Backstrom—He’s got tons of talent. Then again, anyone who gets to play with Ovechkin will see a rise in his stats.
Mike Green—Green is a great puck moving defenseman, and will only improve his numbers in his third season. Much of the Caps' success this year will depend on the defense and great players like Green.
Jose Theodore—Theodore is looking for a new start in Washington. The question is, will we see the Montreal version of Theo, or the Colorado version? The Caps' defense could likely make his job easier.
Thomas Vokoun—He's the only hope for the Florida Panthers. At least if they get the first overall pick in the next draft they won’t need a goaltender.
Vincent Lecavalier—The leader of the Bolts will likely see resurgence in his numbers this season, thanks to all the new additions.
Martin St. Louis—Along with Lecavalier, it will be up to St. Louis to teach Steven Stamkos the ways of the NHL.
Steven Stamkos—Can he live up to the hype? Keep an eye on him, as only time will tell.
Ryan Malone—He's a great player who made a name for himself in the playoffs last season with the Penguins. Will he fit in South Beach like he did in Pittsburgh?
Gary Roberts—The beloved Penguin is now a Bolt. His veteran leadership will bring the spark back to Tampa Bay that the Lightning lost when Dave Andreychuk retired.
There are many other players to watch, but none will have the expectations on them that these men do.
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