I am a leaf fan, but I am not going to be while I write this article.
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One of the most exciting divisions in the NHL, the North Eastern division is one the deadliest in the league. All five teams have been in the playoffs the last 4 or 5 years. The Buffalo Sabres, The Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and the Boston Bruins. Last year, the Sabres were division leaders with Ottawa behind them by a few points. Behind Ottawa was the Leafs, and then followed by Montreal and Boston. This division started off very interestingly, with the sabres starting off the season with a 10 game winning streak, also, the NE division produced a Stanley cup finalist. Also worthy of mentioning was the last game of the season between the TML and Montreal Canadiens. However...i keep thinking to myself, what would it look like for next season? Here are my predictions:
The Ottawa Senators will be division leaders
It really hurts me to say this, but its inevitable. Heatley, Spezza and Alfredson will have another amazing year, and will be the bread and butter for this team through the whole season. Also, Emery should have a solid season in net. But to win the stanley cup, this will be their last chance to do so because key players like, Spezza, Heatley, Fisher, Kelly, Vermette, and Redden will all become free agents after this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will finish behind the Sens
Again, its not easy to say this, but I don't see the leafs finishing higher than the sens, however, the toronto maple leafs took care of the problems that kept them out of the playoffs last season. To take the load off of Raycroft's back, JFJ went out and got Toskala. This can be one of the deadliest 1-2 goaltending combinations in the league. Everyone knew that a well rested Raycroft was absolutely incredible. In scoring, they added Jason Blake, a 40 goal scorer to compliment Mats Sundin's or Wellwood's line. This adds to a formula that gave the leafs some sucess in the past years. Sundin + A scoring winger= sucess. They should do alright.
<b> the buffalo sabres will finish behind the leafs</b>
Lets face it, they lost Drury and Briere. No team can lose their top two players and win the division the next season. Vanek will not produce like he did last year, because his old line mates are not around anymore. Because they do have a young core of players, this team can either crash horribly during the season or have an exceptional year.
The Montreal Canadiens will finish behind the sabres and probably miss the playoffs
More loss than gain this season, losing their powerplay guy Sheldon Souray. His blistering slap shot will be missed on the point. However, if Huet can stay healthy and maintain his game, they might have a chance at the 8th and last spot. Those who think Halak might repeat the amazing performance he put up last season...I really don't think so because look at J.S Aubin, who put up incredible numbers in the 05-06 season and was undefeated in regulation for the last 10 games of the season. The next season, he was brutal.
The Boston Bruins will finish last
They improved very much this offseason, but it is not enough. Fernandez will probably have to steal the game in order for this team to stay afloat and attempt to compete for a playoff spot.