Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Team to Beat in the East?

Some changes over the course of the summer have altered some teams. I really like the Washington Capitals right now, with Vokoun. I think that was an incredible addition for them. Also, consider how good New Jersey was from January on, really meeting their full ability and you have consider them a top team. Flyers without Richards and Carter kind of slip but Bryz is good and its still a good roster. Anyway's, here are my top 5 picks for the East (regular season standings)

Key injuries to factor in:
Pronger out until ?? Dec?
Malkin returning from torn ACL+MCL, will he be 100% all year?
Savard - I'm just gonna count him out

Here's the picks and some rough line ups -

1. Washington Capitals:

Ovechkin - Backstrom - Semin
Knuble - Laich - Johanssen
Brouwer - Ward - Chimera
Hendricks- Halpern - King/Beagle

Hamrilik - Green
Schultz - Wideman
Erskine - Poti


I really think the Caps are looking grittier this year with Ward and Brouwer in there. Halpern is a nice veteran depth move, and I really like Johanssen. He was excellent in the playoffs and could be poised for some kind of breakout year.

2. Boston Bruins

Lucic - Bergeron - Horton
Marchand - Krejci - Peverly
Pouliot - Seguin - Kelly
Paille - Campbell - Thornton

Chara - Seidenberg
Ferrence - Boychuk
Corvo - McQuiad


Pretty workman-like group of FWD's, but with Chara out there half the game and 2 time Vezina winning goalie Tim Thomas in goal, I still think this is a great team. Losing Ryder takes some zip from the offense but they still have enough guys who can chip away offensively. I think Marchand is a really solid player and could have a good year. Also look for Caron to make the team out of camp and stick.

3. Philadelphia Flyers

Hartnell - Briere - Giroux
Voracek - VanRiemsdyk - Jagr
Simmonds - Talbot - Schenn
Laperierre - Betts - Shelley/Nodl

*Pronger - Timmonen
Carle - Coburn
Meszaros - Lilja


Not as much star power as before, obviously. But JVR was outstanding in the playoffs and could be a big factor. Voracek and Simmonds could both be poised for a bit of a breakout and even if only 1 gets there, they're looking good. Jagr is a wild card, I'm going on a limb and predicting 25 goals, and up over 60 points. I know a lot of people seem to think he'll be in the 40-50 pt range and they could be right but we will see. Obviously the biggest offseason addition for Philly was Bryzgalov who should take the guess work out of who their starter is for the first time in about 12 years.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

Neal - Crosby - Kunitz
Sullivan - Malkin - Dupuis
Kennedy - Staal - Letestu
Asham - Cooke - Adams/MacIntyre

Letang - Orpik
Michalek - Martin
Niskanen - Lovejoy


Take Crosby and Malkin out of the line up for 1/2 the games and its still a solid D, goaltending and hard working group of FWD's type of team. Their health is the biggest X-factor in the East. They could finish as high as 1st and as low as 10th or 11th in my opinion. Love the Sullivan addition he showed for Nashville in the playoffs last year that he can still play. I also think James Neal will have a really solid year overall.

5. New Jersey Devils:

Kovalchuk - Zajac - Parise
Elias - Zubrus - Tedenby
Hunter - Steckel - Clarkson
Janssen - Pelley - Boulton/Josefson

Volchenkov - Tallinder
Greene - Salvadore
Fraser - Corrente


The team doesn't seem as deep as last year's without Langenbrunner, Colin White, Rolston etc. But there are always a few good young players in the Devils' organization such as Matthias Tedenby who can fill in at an NHL level and sometimes even really surprise. The defense is solid and unspectacular and the goaltending is....old. But I like the star power and I think if the new coach isn't a dud it should be a solid enough group to fight for home ice and contend for a cup.

6-11 is tough but those are my top 5 as it stands right now. I think the next group of 6 in no particular order will include Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Toronto, New York Rangers, Montreal, and Carolina. Leaving the bottom 4 as Winnepeg, Florida, New York Islanders and Ottawa.