NHL Atlantic Division: 10 Predictions for the NHL's Best Division.

Joe Russomanno@@jriding4evrCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2011

NHL Atlantic Division: 10 Predictions for the NHL's Best Division.

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    The NHL Atlantic division is the best division in the league.  This same division boasts the most representatives in the Stanley Cup finals since the Lockout.

    The NHL Atlantic division was one of two Divisions to have two 100 point teams.  It also boasts four teams the Devils, Rangers, Flyers, and Penguins that no one can simply assume their team can beat on any given day.  The Flyers and Penguins are guaranteed to make the playoffs and contend for a cup year in and year out.

    With this article I hope to make some head turning predictions about the league's best collection of five teams.

10. Remain the Best Division.

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    When you have guys like Doug Weight on the Division's worst team, that speaks volumes.  Names like Weight and Jagr have their best days behind them but they do reside here.

    As I mentioned on the Introduction slide, this team had and will have two 100 point teams.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins did it last year with Crosby and Malkin out half the year.

    The Philadelphia Flyers did it while going into hibernation the second half.

    With Crosby and Malkin back and hopefully in good health (here's a hint for future slides) look for this team to do a lot more than break the 100 point mark.

    The Flyers settled whatever locker room issues they had and ended their goal-tending carousel. They and the Penguins will reignite their ever heated division rivalry.  The battle will be epic and (another hint here) be settled in late May.

    Even still look for the New York Rangers to sniff the 100 point total with newly added Brad Richards leading the way.

9. Rangers Get the First Round Monkey off Their Backs.

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    Brad Richards is a one time Conn Smythe winner.  On a team like the New York Rangers I see him giving this young squad the Veteran Presence they need to beat out whoever they face in the first round.

    Who will that team be?

    None other than their playoff nemesis the Washington Capitals.

    I see these two facing off in the first round again.  This time Henrik Lundqvist will show why Tomas Vokoun is worth 1.5 million as Vokoun crumbles in the first round.  Also Brad Richards will help provide the firepower the Rangers will need to win.

8. Martin Brodeur Retires

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    The best goalie to play in this division since Billy Smith and Bernie Parent will ride off into the sunset.

    Martin Brodeur is one of the best goalies to ever play.  Even still the Devils are in bit of a re-build mode.  They need to get younger and even Marty had to know his best days are behind him.

    He won't lower himself to playing in another jersey and the Devils really shouldn't extend his contract.  They need to get younger between the pipes.

    Hey Lou Amoriello, send Zach Parise over and the Flyers will send Sergei Bobrovsky, a second round Pick and Matt Carle!  Look I tried guys, ok?

    In all seriousness I say this on behalf of all hockey fans alike: We will miss you Marty!

7. Pittsburgh Penguins Win the Division.

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    With the Philadelphia Flyers experiencing some (and I stress the word some) growing pains, I see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin blazing the way to a division title.

    Who else is gonna challenge them?

    The Rangers added Brad Richards but he's not going to make them over night division winners.

6. Penguins Win the Presidents Trophy

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    With the Dynamic Duo reunited look for the Pittsburgh Penguins to really blaze it up in the regular season.

    I see some other teams chasing them down for this, especially the Detroit Redwings and Vancouver Canucks; again!

    Love them or hate them Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are great hockey players.  They play on a pretty good team too. 

    That being said I see them easily giving their team the push they need for the President's trophy.

5. Paul Holmgren Is GM of the Year.

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    When Paul Holmgren made the two biggest trades of the off season he probably put his job on the line.  Such a gutsy move when it pans out and will, should only get the highest accolades.

    What else is a GM's job but to make his team better now and in the future?

    Paul Holmgren moved two enormous contracts when he traded Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

    Until that humid afternoon in June everyone myself alike, doubted Mike Richards would be traded. Not only that but in an hour later Jeff Carter followed him out of town.  Six months earlier Jeff Carter just inked a 10 year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Paul Holmgren not only made those big moves but went out and got what looks like the team's answer to their 20 year drought at goal tender.

    The arguments will swirl until Bryzgalov shuts his critics mouth with a stellar season and playoffs. Holmgren will hear all kinds of criticism if Bryzgalov doesn't.  There's just one little detail everyone forgets about this huge contract.  It doesn't have a NTC or NMC clause in it; meaning the Flyers can dump him in the minors if they have to.

    This contract is not going to strangle the team. The Flyers and Holmgren have an exit strategy if things, which they won't, go sideways.

4. Chris Pronger Wins the Mark Messier Award.

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    If you follow the Philadelphia Flyers and know anything about hockey, you know this team is like night and day without Chris Pronger.

    The previous slide spoke of two big trades that the Flyers made.  Many people think those trades happened to free up cap space for Ilya Bryzgalov (jeopardy buzzer noise.)

    WRONG!  That only required dumping Chris Versteeg's salary and not both Mike Richards or Jeff Carter.  Those guys left because they were not the leaders Flyer management hoped for.

    Chris Pronger is that leader.  He engages the media, quite cunningly too I might add. He engages his team mates either positively or negatively.  His team is a totally different unit with him in the lineup.

    With the organization banking their hopes on him, look for Chris Pronger to rise to the occasion.

3. Claude Giroux Wins the Ted Lindsay Award.

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    This award is voted on by the Players.  While I think hockey players have the hardest minds to see into; I think they will see a lot of what they saw in last year's winner, Daniel Sedin in Claude Giroux.

    I don't get to watch a lot of the Canucks and the Sedin twins until playoff time.  This year I watched a lot them and couldn't help but feel the same way I did about them as I do Claude Giroux.

    Daniel Sedin has tons of skill and good hands.  Claude Giroux just fits that mold except with a little more sandpaper than Sedin.

    With all the off season moves and expectations now heaped on Giroux, eyes will be on him.

    Those eyes will see what I saw in Sedin and more.

2. Sidney Crosby Wins the Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophies.

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    Do I really need to explain this? Ok I will.

    Sidney Crosby played 41 games last year.  In that half season he posted 66 pts.  That's more points than most team's second liners.  He put up 32 goals in that time putting him on pace for 64 goals.

    Yes he had a concussion but I don't see hockey's golden child going down after one concussion.  It just can't happen, the hockey gods won't allow it.

    Look for Sidney Crosby to come back with a vengeance this year.

1. The Philadelphia Flyers Win the Stanley Cup!

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    No I am not a homer! I have watched the Philadelphia Flyers since the early 80's or as long as I can remember.

    I have never been this excited about this team in the summer as I am right now!

    There were serious issues with this team's attitude which were addressed.

    Just last year Chris Pronger propelled them to a finals appearance.  They did this with a waiver wire goalie mind you.

    Look for James Van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux to step up into their roles.

    The Philadelphia Flyers Management has anointed them not as captains but as the cornerstones to which they will lay this team's foundation.

    I have been a huge fan over the years but an objective critique.  One thing I always gave the front office credit for was their ability to judge young talent. Clarke, Barber, Pouland, Tocchet, Kerr, Recchi, Lindros, Richards, Carter, and now Van Riemsdyk, Giroux are all young names this team has stood behind.

    Sure they have busts from time to time but they usually are right on the money.

    The goal tending situation has been the biggest issue.  Ilya Bryzgalov will shine with this team in front of him. He won't be tired from carrying a team all season long like he did in Phoenix and will be fresh for the playoffs.

    Guys like Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot will give the push this team needs when the chips are down.

    Chris Pronger knows management threw their hat in his ring this year.  He will be determined and this team will respond.

    Peter Laviolette won't have the mutiny on his hands he had last year.

    Yes Jagr is old but he lives for the playoffs and when that playoff blood gets flowing he will forget about being 40.

    I mentioned earlier the Flyers and Penguins will settle their season long feud in late May.  They will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.  This time the Flyers will rise victorious into the Stanley Cup finals.

    They will go on to avenge their '97 sweep against the Detroit Redwings too!

    What better way for Bryzgalov to shut up his critics by beating them out for the hardest championship in sports!

    Don't let the haters fool you Flyers Fans, this is your year! Tell'em GENE!!!!!