Saturday, October 1, 2011

NHL 2011 Preview-Northeast Division

5. Ottawa Senators-I'm not really sure where to start with this team. They have little offense, their defense consists of old veterans or inexperience young guys, and their goaltending does not feature anyone who should be a starter in this league. Besides their top line, which features Jason Spezza and Daniel Aflredsson, don't expect this team to put up many goals. In fact, don't expect much from this team at all. The Sens battle for last place in the East this year.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs-Last year James Reimer started 28 out of the Leafs final 33 games. He posted a 16-7-5 record with a .921 save percentage. Now moving forward to 11-12, the Leafs are hoping the netminder can produce similar results throughout a whole season. The Leafs bring in a very young team this year (average age is 26), and look to build off their final two months of success last year. Offensively, I think they will still struggle. Defensively, you should see some big improvements, lead by the 21 year old Luke Schenn, who the Leafs locked up for the next 5 seasons. If for whatever reason, the Leafs can put the puck in the net, they should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. But right now, I don’t see that happening this year.

3. Montreal Canadiens-I really like Montreal. In fact, I even considered putting them ahead of Buffalo. But the fact remains is they lack a good scoring punch. They did bring in Erik Cole fron Carolina, but he is not the answer for the “lack of punch” they have. They look to have a real solid defense, lead by the 22 year old P.K. Subban, in front of G Carey Price who had a tremendous season last year. If Price can continue his winning ways, the Habs should be able to win many games, if they can score more than three goals. If Montreal gets someone to step up, or find a way to acquire a scorer this year, they could be a darkhorse playoff team. But until they do, all they will be able to do is battle it out for a playoff spot at seasons end.

2. Buffalo Sabres-The Sabres were, by far, the most active team this offseason. They signed free agents F Ville Leino and D Christian Erhoff to multiyear deals, and traded for D Robyn Regehr from Calgary. With these additions, the Sabres now boast one of the best defensive cores in the NHL. Scoring wise, they are led by former Gopher Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, both coming off 30 goal seasons. Then add the fact they have all star Ryan Miller between the pipes, and Buffalo should have a contending team this year. But should they lose some players to injury, they have no cap space to make a deal, so they would have to promote from within. I believe this team will make a good run in the playoffs, but they will be looking up to the defending champs in the division standings.

1. Boston Bruins-The defending champs bring back essentially, the same team that won the Cup last year. In fact, their biggest offseason addition is Benoit Pouliot. That’s how quiet of an offseason Boston had. They have great depth in both their forwards and defense. That depth should carry over to another great regular season in Boston. The key for Boston is pretty simple: Goaltending. If Tim Thomas can remain solid, and Tuuka Rask can follow suit in his limited starts between the pipes, the Bruins should be in contention for the East’s top record this season. The Bruins are pretty much a lock to win this division. But the big question is: How far can they go in the postseason?

Tomorrow, I dive into the Western Conference and look at the Pacific Division.

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