Hi All! Hope all of you on the East Coast are enjoying this brutally hot stretch of weather! As I sit here and observe the temperature outside rising to over 100 degrees, I figured this would be a perfect time to try to predict the final standings in the Atlantic Division.
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Now granted, it is VERY early and there are certainly still roster decisions to be made by each club, and even perhaps a trade or two. So I will preface this by saying that these predictions are based on likely rosters as of TODAY!
Here is my predicted order of finish for the Atlantic Division. And asterisk after a team indicates that I believe they will make the playoffs.
1 - Pittsburgh Penguins 104 Pts **
2 - New York Rangers 98 Pts *
3 - New Jersey Devils 95 Pts *
4 - Philadelphia Flyers 89 Pts
5 - New York Islanders 74 Pts
Pittsburgh was a 100 point team last year, and that was without Sydney Crosby for half a season. Coach Dan Bylsma has them playing solid defense, Marc Andre Fleury is a solid netminder, and with a healthy Crosby and Malkin they are clearly the team to beat in the Atlantic.
The New York Rangers made a big splash with the Free-Agent signing of Brad Richards. Richards joins a young talented team that made the playoffs last year. The Rangers are solid in net with Henrik Lundqvist. The big question mark here is Marion Gaborik - can he return to his 40 goal form of seasons past? If so - the Rangers will be tough and could challenge Pittsburgh for the Division.
The big question in New Jersey is which NJ Devils team will show up this year? Will it be the bunch that started last season 10-29-2 or the same bunch that went on a 22-2-3 tear in the second half. I am betting they are closer to the second half team, as a healthy Zach Parise returns to join Kovy and Marty Brodeur for perhaps his final run at a cup.
The Flyers are the biggest question mark of the bunch. After a disappointing playoff ouster, GM Paul Holmgren felt it necessary to acquire a big time goalie, and he did in Ilya Bryzgalov. But the cost was prohibitive, as he was forced to deal both Mike Richards AND Jeff Carter to make Cap space for the Bryzgalov signing. Bryzgalov is certainly an upgrade over Brian Boucher, but who is going to make up for the 60+ goals and 120+ points lost, not to mentions Richards tenacity? Add an aging Chris Pronger, and Philly might take a drop in the standings this year.
Finally, the mess that is the New York Islanders continue to flounder out on Long Island. John Taveras is a gifted player, and Moulson and Grabner are nice compliments, but this team is still a mess. Gone is Doug Weight, the goalie situation is a mess with perpetually injured Rick Dipietro the probable number one, and the defense is thin. It looks like another long year on the Island.
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