We got a taste of the 8 game series last year, no matter what division your team is in. I know that every time we played the Devils, Flyers, Islanders and Pittsburgh, everything about the game was intense; the fans, the players.. just the overall mood in the games.
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This off season, there have been many significant changes to the teams in our division.. Let's start off with the Flyers.
I would consider them my mortal enemies, but even I admit, I am glad about their off-season acquisitions because I live in central NJ.. I watch every Ranger and almost every Flyer game, so I have followed both teams.
Briere is a great pickup because he is young, and they will have him for a while. The Gagne - Briere - Knuble line is going to be frightening.
Timonen is a major upgrade over Pitkanen. Kudos on that acquisition (I'll admit I'm a little jealous). I think there is definitely a gamble on Hartnell, so hopefully for you Philly fans, he will be a solid 2nd or 3rd liner.
Biron > Nitty, plain and simple. I don't know how he will do if he plays 60 games, but he will be very effective when his game is on.. especially with help from Timonen.
You have Marty. Who knows how much longer he will play, but while he still is active, he will be the Devils' #1 asset. Your only concern should be the losses of Gomez and Rafalski.
Zubrus is a good pickup, but coming from a Ranger fan, Rachunek is a liability.
Weekes is a solid backup when he's on his game. I never hated him in New York, and if Lou uses him at least 15-20 games, he will definitely win you 60-70% of them.
I think you have felt the worst blow of all in this off season.. not just in the Atlantic, but in the whole league. Yes, Smyth only played 20 games or so, but he put up some crucial points. I would argue he and Blake are the most responsible for making the playoffs, in addition to DiPietro.
Blake.. I'll admit, I still think he's a fluke and Toronto will regret signing him long-term, but he did put up 40 goals last year, so he will be missed.
I liked Poti on my team, and he was effective on the Island as well, so I think he will be missed. All is not lost though. Guerin is a good pickup for leadership and he scored 36 last year, and Fedotenko is not bad at all, neither is Comrie. I think you will definitely have a slow start, getting used to the absence of Blake.
You are instant favors because of boy wonder. But in all seriousness, you did make some nice additions in the off season. Sykora is a solid winger for the second line, and Sydor is a great d-man. Fleury is a great goalie, but having the extra blueline support will probably make him even better. Staal is also an offensive machine on the PK.. I know he annoyed us a lot and will continue to do so.
I guess I decided to save the best for last. Along with the Pens, we will dominate the Atlantic this season. We lost Nylander, but replaced him with Gomez. We never really had a 2nd line center, but we did okay with Cullen.. but now we replaced him with Captain Clutch. Add in the readditions of Shanahan, Avery and Lundqvist, we will be scary.
Our only hole seems to be on the third line, especially with Peca signing in Columbus. We will rely heavily on Hartford to fill this gap, and I've been hearing nothing but the name "Dubinsky" regarding this.
The Ranger haters say we have a horrible defense, but you are wrong on so many levels. We had a sluggish start, but from January-May, we had one of the best in the game.. Now, we have Staal to add into the mix, and Roszival to help him out from a leadership standpoint.
Girardi was an undrafted gem, and we all know he will improve, as well as Tyutin. Mara has a blast and Malik can be effective when he wants.. We also have some of the best prospects dominating the AHL, OHL and ECHL, so we will have to wait and see what camp brings.
All in all, the 07/08 season is going to be "make or break" year for every team in the Atlantic. There have been so many changes, and their significance will be felt almost instantly. I cannot wait until October 4th!
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