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NHL 2010-2011 Eastern Conference Preview & Predictions

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Scott Newman
Scott Newman

The NHL regular season is set to start on Thursday, October 7 2010. I am taking a look at each of the teams with a prediction of where each team may place in the standings. These are the teams that appear to be playoff bound. It's time to get excited for another close fight in the battle for home ice in the Eastern Conference.



The Boston Bruins mean business after the last playoff run failure against the Flyers! Zdeno Chara leads a “repaired” group. Everyone in beantown is holding their breath for the health of premier center Marc Savard who has post-concussion syndrome. The strength of the Bruins is down the middle with Savard (when or if healthy) joins Patrice Bergeron & David Krejci. The number two draft pick Tyler Seguin is surrounded by class to learn from including the ageless ironman of hockey Mark Recchi. Nathan Horton, Blake Wheeler & Marco Sturm (when back in line up) are going to put up good numbers. Tuukka Rask & Tim Thomas are arguably the best goalie combination in the Eastern Conference. Can Boston get it all together this time to claim the first cup since 1971-72?
The Capitals do not need any introduction as they are the offensive powerhouse of the East. They are in the easiest division in hockey (South East) and possess the hottest forward in hockey, Alexander Ovechkin. Mike Green is a stud on the blue line and will look for his first Norris Trophy this season. Tom Poti helps out the defense with his size and strength. The real excitement for the Caps is in their talented forwards joining Ovie are Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin & Brooks Laich. The goalies are two young and impressionable 22 year olds Semyon Varlamov & Michael Neuvirth who both have an opportunity to take this team all the way!
The Devils claimed the biggest free agent in Ilya Kovalchuk for a hundred or so million! Now he has to prove he is worth his salary by taking this talented team for a deep playoff run. Martin Brodeur is the heart & soul of this team and he is getting long in the tooth at 38. Marty is still the elite of goaltending in the league as you cannot deny his consistency. They have the makeup of serious cup contenders. With a top line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac & Zach Parise (wow!) allows the second line to be Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott & Jamie Langenbrunner! These are two of the best lines in hockey this second line could be first on some clubs! The defense is the real concern as they may leave Marty out high and dry some nights? Overall the outlook is very good for the Devils!
Sidney Crosby will be ready to go this season. The hero of the Winter Olympics will be itching to make a great performance this time out. You have to imagine that he will be gunning for the scoring title again with his mind firmly on the Stanley Cup this time. (much like Ovie!) Mike Comrie has come in as a free agent acquisition that has paired up nicely with Evgeni Malkin. Jordan Staal is injured for the start of the season which allows room for Chris Kunitz to step it up. The defense corp looks good with Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin, Kris Letang & Zbynek Michalek leading the charge. Marc-Andre Fleury will be happy with backup Brent Johnson & a better defense in front of him! The Pens look ready to improve on last season’s playoff run!
The Sabres have built their hopes and chances around the stellar net minding of Ryan Miller. He stood on his head the whole of last season including the Winter Olympics. This is where the Sabres will start and end with him. The forwards need to lift their game from last season. There is a good cast in Thomas Vanek, Tim Connelly, Derek Roy, Jochen Hecht & Jason Pominville. The huge 6’8” Tyler Myers looks to repeat his last season efforts as he compliments a steady defense including Jordan Leopold. You get the feeling that everyone needs to be firing on all cylinders to get it all working in Buffalo. Can this be the season in which Ryan Miller’s services are not a waste?
The Flyers have a very talented roster top to bottom. You just wonder about what kind of goalie controversy or crisis they are going to have this time? Michael Leighton is injured (already!) leaving Brian Boucher & Sergei Bobrovsky to hold the fort. The strength of the broad street bullies is up front! Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, Nikolay Zherdev, Claude Giroux & Ville Leino top off a strong depth of skill. The defense is in extremely good hands with Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle & Andrej Meszaros. They are looking for a return to the finals to press for higher honours! Chris Pronger can lead them back there but will they get the same level of goaltending needed to win it all?
The Habs may have made a big mistake in trading away Jaroslav Halak? Time will tell if this was a good idea resting the Canadiens faith in young Carey Price. Alex Auld will back him up who is a true and tested backup goalie. Brian Gionta is the new (American) captain of the team. Andrei Markov will be back in November and the Habs will be itching for his blue line abilities make them so much better when he is in the line up. PK Subban & Roman Hamrlik will be asked to step it up in his absence. Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri & Tomas Plekanec are the big guns of the Habs. There is plenty of work to be done to achieve a playoff spot. Carey Price will have to nail the number one spot to give these guys any chance!
This may come as a bit of a surprise but being in a weaker division will do the Lightning major favours in playoff aspirations. The new look Tampa Bay outfit is enough to get relatively excited about! Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos make an offensive juggernaut! Supporting the top line are Simon Gagne, Ryan Malone & (revelation) Steve Downie. There is plenty of offensive depth at the blue line too in Pavel Kubina, Victor Hedman & potentially Mattias Ohlund. There could be a slight weakness at goal with Dan Ellis & Mike Smith making main cast a ways as backup goalies who could be starters. Otherwise there is plenty of upside to this team which is sure to make a strong drive at the playoffs!
9. Ottawa Senators
The Sens will make a very strong case at making the playoffs. The Ottawa faithful have placed their hopes in Brian Elliot & Pascal Leclaire in the crease. Both need to prove they are fully capable of playing well over the entire season. They are both strong in doses so it will be a case of who can stay hot the longest. There is plenty of skill with the Senators with two top quality lines of (the ageless) Daniel Alfredsson & Alexei Kovalev. The young hopes are in Jason Spezza, & Milan Michalek. The big excitement for the team is the acquisition of Sergei Gonchar to boost the talent in Filip Kuba & Erik Karlsson. This team is strong but do they have what it take to nail the top 8?
10. New York Rangers
The Rangers are in around the same predicament as last season. They need a whole season from Marian Gaborik to have any success. They have a premier net minder in Swede Henrik Lundqvist. (trusty) Martin Biron will back him up. There may not be enough secondary scoring to make a real drive. Ruslan Fedotenko joins Chris Drury, (who needs to pick it up!) Alexander Frolov (needs to be better!) & Brandon Dubinsky (needs to break out now!) The Defense is young & agile with Marc Staal, Dan Girradi & Michael Del Zotto leading the charge. Is this going to be enough support for Lundqvist to steal games?
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs look set to get serious! (please don’t laugh too loud) The hopes of the Leafs are built around all of the recent free agent acquisitions to be brutally honest. Bringing in Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel (a whole healthy season?) Kris Versteeg, (Stanley Cup Champion) Mike Komisarek & Goalie, Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Holding on to Tomas Kaberle certainly helps! There is a slight concern down the middle resting hopes on Tyler Bozak & Mikhail Grabovski, both are skilled but inconsistent. Time will tell with the Leafs. It has been since 1967. Hockey is once again looking brighter in Ontario.
12. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are really not looking as strong as recent years as they have lost a lot of veteran depth & leadership. Eric Staal is the man in Carolina, for sure! He needs more help outside than the wildly inconsistent Erik Cole & Jussi Jokinen! The defense has had a bit of a change around with Joe Corvo returning. Jamie McBain looks ready to step it up. The upside for the Canes is that they possess a very good net minder in Cam Ward. Improvements are very much needed in any attempt at success for this group looking to find a new identity!  
13. Florida Panthers
The Panthers have some real concern with their depth chart. They have a nitty gritty line-up with some honest to goodness veteran presence in Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak & (hard) blue liner, Bryan McCabe. Stephen Weiss & Michael Frolik add some top talent. All hopes are rested in Tomas Vokoun in keeping them in games as long as possible. With the dependable back up Scott Clemmensen there are some chances of troubling teams. Can Dennis Wideman get back to the top level of his game? The panthers need to fend of the big guns of the South East Division to have any realistic chance!
14. New York Islanders
How about the return of goalie Rick DiPietro! 10 years in the league for only 281 games? About time we see what he really has got as the 2000 first round pick overall! 40 year old Dwayne Roloson may have to wear the puck more times than he bargained for this season? The upside for Doug Weight this season is that he has some good young talent in Matt Moulson & Kyle Okposo. John Tavares is the leader of this team and will look for a huge sophomore season. James Wisniewski carries a no name defense. The Islanders are looking for the young guns to succeed and some miracles to turn this once proud organization around!
15. Atlanta Thrashers
The Thrashers are a new team now without Ilya Kovalchuk. It has gained some new Stanley Cup Champion defenders in (big) Dustin Byfuglien & Brent Sopel. There is good talent in Rich Peverley, Evander Kane, Fredrik Modin & (the huge) Nik Antropov. The goaltending is a real concern with Chris Mason joining Ondrej Pavelec. All in all this may be a rebuilding lesson for the Thrashers who will be really struggling to compete in the east this season!
Let the best team from the best conference win! Welcome back to NHL Hockey!

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