Sunday, January 13, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Northeast Division

5. Montreal Canadiens-Those who think Montreal has a chance to make the playoffs this year can quit reading this now. The Canadiens retooled their hockey operations staff (New GM, New head coach), but the on ice talent remains the same from last year's cellar dwellers in the Northeast. The only solid addition this team made in the offseason, was drafting Alex Galchenyuk #3 overall. The team has too many overrated and overpaid players on this roster (Plekanec, Gionta, Cole, Kaberle, Markov). They do have Carey Price, who is pretty solid betweeen the pipes, but when your offense can't score, its hard to win games. Montreal will be painful to watch in 2013, so please don't expect them to do anything but come in last in this division.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs-If Toronto had a halfway defense in 2011-12, they would of made the playoffs. But when you boast the second worst defense in the league (259 Goals Allowed), you won't be going anywhere. The Leafs brought in F James van Riemsdyk in a trade with Philly (Giving up D-man Luke Schenn in return), but did virtually nothing to help their suffering defensive core. Their top defenseman (Phaneuf, Liles) take more chances offensively, and find themselves finishing games with -1 and -2 next to their names. James Reimer will open the season as the #1 goalie again for Toronto, but he could very well be a backup by the end of the season (*cough* Luongo!). Barring any major moves, Toronto misses the playoffs again.

3. Ottawa Senators-Ottawa was picked to finish dead last in the East on this blog last year. And all they did was make the playoffs and took the #1 seeded Rangers to a 7th game in the East Quarterfinals. They were lead by ridiculous scoring on their top line (Michalek-Spezza-Alfredsson), they saw Erik Karlsson become the best defenseman in the league, and they got surprisingly stellar goaltending from Craig Anderson. But behind their top line, Ottawa did not have much to offer, so they brought in former Wild player Guillaume Latendresse to give some depth to their scoring lines. Ottawa brings back the same core of players from last year, so they should contend for a playoff spot, but will they have enough to make the playoffs?

2. Buffalo Sabres-Last year, Buffalo probably learned more about themselves, than any other team in the league. Problem was, it took them a while to figure that out. Because they were a very hot team from February on, and  they just narrowly missed a playoff spot (Finished 3 points behind Ottawa for the 8th seed). Buffalo addressed a huge issue this offseason, by adding some tough guys to their lineup (Steve Ott, John Scott). Perhaps the biggest need for the Sabres heading into the season is at center, after trading away Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy in 2012. And in addition to Ryan Miller, the Sabres have Jhonas Enroth (After his breakout year, filling in for the injured Miller) as a back up, between the pipes, giving them one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Buffalo has potential to be a playoff team. But they too like Ottawa are on the bubble, and will leave us questioning whether they can get in the playoffs.

1. Boston Bruins-Please, just hand this division to Boston. They are essentially returning the same roster from their Stanley Cup team of 2 years ago, minus the outspoken goaltender Tim Thomas. Now that Thomas is gone, Tuukka Rask gets the #1 job, after being a stellar back to Thomas over the past few years. Boston is incredibly deep on their forward lines, and defensively too. They will be graced by the presence of star prospect Dougie Hamilton (Kessel trade strikes again), on the blue line this year, adding to an already solid core. Boston will win the division, and will once again be competing for the Stanley Cup. They just have to avoid getting upset in the first round of the playoffs again.

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