NHL Season Preview 2013: Eastern Conference

In an earlier post, we’ve previewed the NHL’s Western Conference, now it is time for our preview of the Eastern Conference. With NHL realignment, the Eastern Conference consists of 16 teams.  The composition of the East is as follows:

NHL Eastern ConferenceThe Atlantic Division teams are: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Red Wings and Blue Jackets have moved from the Western Conference to the Eastern.

The Metropolitan Division includes the three New York-area teams — New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils — along with the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are joining the Red Wings in the move east.

NHL Season Preview 2013:  Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

The newly formed Atlantic division see the Red Wings rightfully moving to the Eastern Conference so we are going to see a lot of Original Six matchups which is great for the NHL hockey fan.  Here’s a look at how we think they will finish in the Atlantic division.

Boston Bruins – the Bruins pulled off a major deal with the Dallas Stars sending Tyler Seguin West for Loui Eriksson.  The Bruins also added Jarome Iginla.  The Bruins have a very solid team and should be one of the top two team to come out of the East again.  The odds for the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup are currently 9-1.

Ottawa Senators – surprised to see us rank the Sens at #2 in the Atlantic division?  Don’t be, the Sens have added Bobby Ryan and have one of the most solid goaltenders in the League in Craig Anderson.  Throw in a healthy Erik Karlsson and you have solid players at all three positions.  Not to mention, we like the way this team is coached.  If the Sens stay healthy, they will secure a playoff spot.

Montreal Canadiens – we think that Carey Price will have a solid season and we like what the Habs have started to put together in Montreal.  This is a hard working team that again if they can remain healthy will outwork a lot of team and win a lot of 2-1, 3-2 games this season.

Detroit Red Wings – the Red Wings surprised us last season as we didn’t think they would make the playoffs.  There is some solid talent on this team, but how will this talent perform in a stronger division with more physical teams?

Tampa Bay Lightning – this team should really be better then they are.  They have some great young players including arguably the League’s top scorer in Steven Stamkos.  We like Ben Bishop as a starting goalie and Anders Lindback is waiting in the wings.  The Bolts selected Johnathan Drouin in June’s NHL draft, and he might get the chance to play with Stamkos and could rack up some easy assists.  They were 19th on the PP last year and you can bet they will be better.

Toronto Maple Leafs – the Leafs surprised many in last years playoffs and really should have eliminated the Bruins.  They’ve added some solid role players and grit.  They have also added a goaltender who is looking to prove that he can be a starter in Johnathan Bernier.  The Leafs are a team that could finish as high as fourth and as low as tenth in the East, but we think that they are projecting up.  Sounds like there may be some dressing room issues and we wouldn’t be surprised if they traded Nazem Kadri this season or next.

Buffalo Sabres – really not sure what to think about the Sabres this year.  Will Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek be Sabres at the end of the season?  Hard to say.  We think the Sabres will be out of it by the Olympic break.

Florida Panthers – this team is getting better and has added some young talent, but this non-traditional hockey market will be in tough to be competitive for a playoff spot.  Too many strong teams in this division as the Panthers may become a regular also-ran.

Metropolitan Division

Ah the new Patrick Division.  Could this become the NHL’s worst division?  Hard to say at this stage but there are a couple of strong teams within the division.

Pittsburgh Penguins – look for Sidney Crosby to mature.  He’ll want to win Olympic Gold and a Stanley Cup in the same season to solidify his “legend” .  The Pens are 7-1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup.  The biggest question for us is in goal.  We have never been a fan of Marc-Andre Fleury and he has been terrible in the post season.  They’ve added former Pen Rob Scuderi on the backend so they’ll be a little stronger in their own end.

Philadelphia Flyers – we like the Flyers a lot.  This is a very solid team and if Ray Emery plays as well in Philly as he did in Chicago last season the Flyers are bound to return to the post season.  Always a big strong team, the Flyers will be solid and will get some easy wins from some of the weaker teams in the division.

New York Rangers – Alain Vigneault is a great coach.  We think he will get more out of the Rangers than Torterella did.  Rick Nash should be more comfortable this season and the blueshirts should make the playoffs easily.

Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin was good last year but he can be better and with the Olympics in his native Russia just how focused will he be?  Adam Oates will lead this team to be a hardworking bunch.  The Caps could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh.

New York Islanders – John Tavares is a solid player and has been quietly improving each and every year.  This team surprised many last year and will continue to do the same this season.  Goaltending might be  question but the Isles could be fun to watch this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets – John Davidson is a solid hockey guy and has done a great job in St. Louis and now in Columbus.  This team will be competitive and perhaps might even be a dark horse to sneak into the playoffs with all of the young talent on the team.  With Nathan Horton and Marian Gaboruk on the right side the Jackets may have finally found some fire power.

Carolina Hurricanes – we still can’t get over the fact that the Canes defeated the Oilers for the Cup in 2006.  Hockey has never been the same since then for this hockey fan.  Goaltending and defense will be questionable with the Hurricanes this season.

New Jersey Devils – we like the Devils and they still have some good players, but they will be in tough this season.  Having said that they have a great goaltending tandem and we may get to see just how good (or not) Cory Schneider is.