March's Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Pre-Season >
 
 

With the 2011-12 NHL nearly upon us, It’s time to take a look at where everyone will shake out.  The names are familiar, but will the end result be? I know there are 14 other teams that hope they are the Eastern Conference champions, but there can be only one. 

There will be tons of excitement right down to the wire, yet again. The final playoff spot will likely be decided in the 82nd game.  For some it will be a moment of triumph, for others the agony of a season lost will linger yet again.  There is no denying there is a ton of young talent up and down the Eastern Conference that will have an impact for years to come.  Plenty of exciting hockey awaits fans of any Eastern team.

Let’s see how they stack up come playoff time.  

 


 #1   The Capitals have done nothing but improve their team. Everyone knows how dynamic Ovechkin and company can be offensively. The addition of Vokoun goes a long way to solidify and improve their back end.  The real question becomes, what will the 2012 President’s trophy winning Capitals do once they reach the playoffs?

 
 #2   The Bruins will again be a force to be reckoned with.  With goaltending and defense being their strong suit.  I realize Thomas is a year older and a year slower, but if he has even half as good a season as last the Bruins will be just fine.  And besides even if Thomas does break down, does everyone forget they have Raask?  
 #3 Well someone has to win the Atlantic.  There are obviously major question marks surrounding this team.  Will that one guy return? What’s his name? You know, that guy.  But lost in the shuffle of will he or won’t he is the fact that Bylsma led a starless Penguins team to a 4th seed in the East last season.  With James Neal for an entire season, and Evgeni Malkin returning, look for the Penguins to impress. Crosby or not.

 #4
Ryan Miller. Ryan Miller! Ryan Miller? We all know how impressive the Buffalo net minder can be.  He can single handedly  snatch a game from the jaws of defeat.  The good news for Miller is all those young guys are a year older and a year hungrier.  There is no denying the Sabres have a ton of talent.  With the likes of Tyler Myers, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, and Drew Stafford there is no shortage of talented young guys.  With a healthy Derek Roy leading the charge the Buffalo Sabres will have a renaissance season and challenge Boston for the division crown right down to the wire.  

 #5
Tampa was by far the hardest team for me to place.  The duo of Stamkos and St. Louis was electrifying to watch last year.  But St. Louis is getting long in the tooth and the secondary scoring could be suspect this year.  The key to the success  lies in two areas, team defense and goaltending.  The Lightning employ the always exciting 1-3-1 and it more than made up for the lack of a solid defensive corps.  The biggest question mark is 41 year-old Dwayne Roloson.  Can he keep up the pace from last year or will the ageless wonder finally start to look his age? 

 #6   Name tags are a must as training camp kicks off for the orange and black.  There are more new faces peppering the lineup than familiar names.  The key to the Flyer’s success lies in two areas, goal scoring and chemistry. The two go hand in hand.  It will be interesting  to see how long it takes to hit their stride once the season starts.  For once the team has a number one puck stopper to keep the goals out, but who will make up for the 41% of goals lost from last year? Enter 39 year-old Jaromir Jagr.  He is the key piece to improving an abysmal power play and making up for lost production. It will certainly be and interesting season in South Philly to say the least. 

 #7   The Rangers landed yet another highly touted free agent in the off season, Brad Richards. The problem for the Rangers is that he is just like every other free agent they sign.  On the back end of a promising career, a huge price tag, and question marks galore. This time, he even has injury questions.  But I digress. The Rangers still have Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.  Callahan is returning from missing the second half with a broken leg.  He is hungry. He is talented. And the Rangers will be riding this horse into the playoffs. Oh yeah, forgot to mention. They still have that stud King Henrik stopping pucks.  That’s always a good thing for Ranger’s fans. 
 
 #8  

I had to think long and hard  (that’s what she said) about the 8 seed.  The Carolina Hurricanes will challenge for this spot, but I think the Candiens will hold them off, possibly even on the last day of the season.  Carey Price is the main reason.  Carey had a renaissance season last year and will continue his stellar play this one.  The main problem plaguing the diminutive Canadiens will be size.  They have a ton of young talent and the future is definitely promising for the team from Montreal, but this season might prove to be a growing one.  But who knows? They are playing the Caps in the first round, and after all, isn’t that a gimmie?

 
 #9  

The Hurricanes are a 8-9-10 team every year.  With the likes of Skinner, Staal, and other youngsters with bright futures it won’t be like that for long.  Unfortunately this won’t be the year they move up the Eastern Conference power rankings.  I think they challenge for the 8th spot right up to the bitter end, but don’t quite have enough to overcome the Canadiens.

 
 #10  

Oh the Maple Leafs.  It’s getting to the point where you almost feel sorry for their loyal fans.  Lucky for them they have James Reimer in net.  He will be a force this season.  However, the lack of scoring depth coupled with inexperience will do the Leafs in yet again as they miss the playoffs.

 
 #11  

The Panthers spent more money than MC Hammer this offseason just to get to the cap floor.  They added some solid players. Bad news for them? They are all overpriced players.  They will improve from last year, but the loss of Vokoun will prove too much to overcome. 

 
 #12   Parise is back.  That is where the good news ends for the Devils.  Brodeur is another year older and slower, and the Hedberg isn’t the net minder he once was.  Parise and Kovalchuk will be the lone bright spots for a struggling Devils team.  Good thing nobody will be there to see this sinking ship.
 
 #13   Get these guys a new arena.  This team has a very bright future. Soon enough the bad contracts from the past will be off the books and the Islanders will be able to become a competitive team.  Watch out for them in the future. I ♥ Grabner t-shirts will be seen all over the Eastern Seaboard. 
 
 #14  

At this point, does it matter that I wasn’t sure who would be the basement dweller in the East? Interchange the Jets or the Senators for #15.  I gave the Jets the edge because of their HEAVY attack now that Byfuglien and Wellwood are on the same team.  

 
 #15   .......it's the Senators 

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