Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Around the NHL - Eastern Conference Updates

Tyler Seguin showed up at camp weighing in at 190 lbs, which is ten pounds heavier then he ended last year at. Seguin is hoping the extra weight will make it harder for opponents to knock him off the puck in his second NHL season. He's in a battle with Rich Peverley for the second line right wing spot, alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. How good will Joe Corvo look on the Bruins power play this year? 5-on-5 may be another matter but he should be lethal on the man advantage.

The Sabres blueline has taken on a completely different look at camp this year, with off season additions Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff. Adding the duo to a backend that already included recently signed Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera and Jordan Leopold will make Buffalo a force on defence. Very interested to see how Ville Leno performs, now that he will be counted on to produce a lot more in Buffalo.

All eyes will be on last years super rookie Jeff Skinner...will he be hit with the dreaded sophomore slump? After taking a step back on the point production side of things, will Brandon Sutter regain his scoring touch? Two former Maple leafs are looking to rejuvenate their careers with the Canes, Tomas Kaberle and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Kaberle should be good on the power play but I am not sold on Ponikarovsky. Keegan Lowe was sent back to the Oil Kings on Wednesday but he apparently made a great impression on the Canes coaching staff.
While the Panthers added a lot of salary to reach the cap floor, don't look for those moves to translate into more points for Florida. That being said, the addition of a couple of vets to the backend gives the Panthers an interesting looking blueline: Ed Jovanovski, Erik Gudbranson, Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov make up a pretty interesting top four. 

The Habs are still too small upfront but look for Max Pacioretty to take another step in his development and help with the Canadiens size deficiencies. What will P.K.Subban do for an encore? The kid is a flat out stud and if Andrei Markov gets back and stays healthy, the Habs will have one of the best power plays in the league. As for Carey Price...look for last seasons performance to become the status quo.
New Jersey
Martin Brodeur is heading into what will likely be the last year of his Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately, his 39 year old body is continuing to cause the netminder problems as he already is suffering from a sore hamstring. Rookie Adam Larrson will be a regular on the blueline this season for the Devils, in what will likely be a very long career in New Jersey. Which Iyla Kovalchuk will show up to start the season? The one that had only 10 goals on December 31st or the player that scored 10 goals between February 3rd - March 6th?
New York Islanders
Is this the year that the Islanders start taking strides forward? Loaded with young talent upfront, you would think they could battle for a playoff spot in the weaker Eastern Conference. After signing their franchise player JohnTavares to a six year extension last week, the club named veteran Mark Streit team captain on Wednesday. If Rick DiPietro can somehow stay healthy, the Isles will battle for a playoff spot.

New York Rangers
The Rangers are such an enigma. They somehow managed to move Scott Gomez and Michal Rozsival's contracts via trade, buried Wade Redden in the minors and bought out Chris Drury to get themselves out of cap hell. The addition of Brad Richards this summer eats up pretty much all of that space and are they really any better off? Marc Stall's concussion problems have to be worrisome for the blue shirts moving forward and Brandon Dubinsky can play on my team any day of the week.

This season will be a challenge for the Sens but they have some great pieces already in place to help with their rebuild. I can't see them moving Jason Spezza but this might be the year that Daniel Alfredsson finds a new address. The return could be too substantial for Ottawa to pass up. Will the nations capital be the city that Nikita Filatov finds his game? It's hard to believe the talented winger is still only 21 years old.

No question the Flyers goaltending is better with the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov but at what cost? Move out leading goal scorer Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards...add in an old Jaromir Jagr and rookie Brayden Schenn.  Philly somehow thinks this makes them a better team? Chris Pronger can't seem to stay healthy but when he plays, he is still one of the best at what he does. Is it just me or was newly acquired Wayne Simmonds born to play for the Flyers? Funny, I thought the same thing about Richards!

Everything revolves around Sid the Kid!!! The Pens proved they can compete without Crosby but if they want to play with the big boys, Crosby has to be driving the bus. James Neal could have a huge year if Crosby is healthy but that's a big if at this point. Kris Letang

Tampa Bay
Can Steven Stamkos push the 60 goal mark? Everyone thought it was going to happen last season but he cooled right off in the second half. Can the Edmonton Oilers goaltending duo of just a few seasons ago, get the job done for Tampa Bay? I am not sold on a Dwayne Roloson/ Mathieu Garon tandem getting the job done over an 82 game schedule...though I have no problem with Roloson in the playoffs.

Could the Maple Leaf battle for a playoff spot? Sure they could. Will they earn a playoff spot? Nope. While they are decent on the backend, they have much of nothing up front. Phill Kessel will get his goals but not enough to make a difference. Put me in the non-believer crowd when it comes to James Reimer. Frankly, he's not that good and he owns one of the worst glove hands I've seen on an NHL goalie. Keep moving along people...nothing special to see here!!!

After taking a beating in the media from former and current teammates, will Alexander Semin decide to push his game to another level and quiet the critics? Not sure if he has it in him but I have little doubt the Alex Ovechkin rebounds from a sub par season. Will Tomas Vokoun deliver when it counts? I have no doubt that Vokoun will have a great season but he has yet to prove anything come playoff time. Can Mike Green rebound?

Opening night in Winnipeg was a resounding success as the Jets destroyed the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-1!!! It's awesome having NHL hockey back in Manitoba but the Jets will be in tough. Travel out of the Southeast will be terrible for the team but playing in the division will be a treat for Winnipeg hockey fans. With many star players playing in the what was only a shot while ago referred to as the "Southleast" division, Jets fans will be treated to the likes of Stamkos and Ovechkin more then any other city in Canada. Rookie Mark Scheifele has made quite the impression throughout camp. The kid could very well make the team...could he be this years Jeff Skinner? I wonder how excited the Jets brass are that Dustin Byfuglien was signed to a ridiculous contract by the Thrashers last season? I guess it is a small price too pay to have the NHL back in town!!!

Western Conference

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