Last year we saw four teams from the Northeast Division (Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, & Boston) make the playoffs. Though none made it past the second round, it is very obvious that this division has one of the most depth in the league. I think three of the teams will make the playoffs and will be the closest and most exciting division in the Eastern Conference, if not the league.
Boston Bruins: (91 points last season, 6th in East)
State of the Union: The Bruins had to fight for a playoff spot last season because of injuries to Savard, Krejci, Sturm, Lucic among others. They shockingly defeated the Buffalo Sabres but collapsed in the second round after taking a 3-0 series lead, becoming the third team in NHL history to blow that series lead. They were led by spectacular goaltending by Tuukka Rask who stole the number one job away from Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas. Their offense was lackluster which produced some of the worst numbers in the league.
Offseason Moves: The Bruins addressed their number one problem early in the offseason: ability to score. After trading Kessel away, the team didn’t have a capable 30 goal scorer. Trading Denis Wideman landed the Bruins Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell, two players capable of scoring. With the number two pick in the draft, the Bruins acquired Tyler Seguin, a very gifted scorer.
Biggest Question: Will the duo of Thomas and Rask be able to shine once again?
Prediction: 3rd in the Northeast Division.
Buffalo Sabres: (100 points last season, 3rd in East)
State of the Union: The Buffalo Sabres possess arguably the greatest goalie in the league. The Sabres were stunned in the first round of the playoffs by the Bruins. The Sabres possess a strong offense with Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, and Thomas Vanek. They are led on defense by Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers.
Offseason Moves: The Sabres lost defensemen Tallinder and Lydman and fowards Torres and Kennedy leave via free agency. Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn have filled the gaps on defense while adding foward Rob Niedermayer.
Biggest Question: Will the offense be able to take over games so Miller doesn’t have to stand on his head?
Prediction: 2nd in the Northeast Division.
Montreal Canadians: (88 points last season, 8th in East)
State of the Union: The Canadians, led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak knocked both Ovechkin and Crosby out of the playoffs last season. Their run just fell short, losing to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are led by Gionta, Cammalieri, Plekanic, and Gomez on offense, Markov and Subban on the back end.
Offseason Moves: The Canadians decided their fate by trading playoff standout Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues, making Carey Price the starter. To backup Price, the Canadians signed Alex Auld. Sergei Kostitsyn, Dominic Moore, and Glen Metropolit left via free agency. The Canadians signed Jeff Halpern and Dustin Boyd to boost their offense.
Biggest Question: Which Carey Price will we see: last year’s mediocre performance or two year’s ago stellar play?
Prediction: 4th in the Northeast Division.
Ottawa Senators: (94 points last season, 5th in East)
State of the Union: The Senators were strong last year before getting outed by the Penguins in the first round. Solid goaltending by Elliot and LeClaire and offense from Alfredsson, Spezza and Cheechoo.
Offseason Moves: The Senators strengthed their defense by adding Sergei Gonchar while losing Kuba for the first part of the season with an ankle injury. They had a relatively quiet off-season, happy with the direction their team is going.
Biggest Question: Will aging Spezza and Alfredsson be able to carry this team?
Prediction: 5th in the Northeast Division.
Toronto Maple Leafs: (74 points last season, 15th in East)
State of the Union: the Maple Leaf’s had a very dissapointing season last year but are looking foward now. Phil Kessel is fully healthy after missing the first part of last season injured. Brian Burke made a few key moves landing J.S. Giguere and recently named captain Dion Phaneuf. The Leafs boost one of the strongest defenses with Phaneuf and Kaberle. The Leafs, young and talented, are ready to become the top dogs in the Northeast.
Offseason Moves: The biggest move the Leafs did this summer was actually not a trade. Rumors flew everywhere about Burke shopping Kaberle. Kaberle remains in blue and white because Burke didn’t like any deal he was offered. The Leafs also signed Stanley Cup winning Kris Versteeg to play alongside Kessel and Tyler Bozak. They have impressed so far in the preseason.
Biggest Question: Will the Maple Leaf’s young offensive core be able to put secondary scoring behind Phil Kessel.
Prediction: 1st in the Northeast Division.
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