Monday, September 21, 2009

5 Teams To Watch Out For In The East

It could be said that the Eastern Conference is the bridesmaid of the Stanley Cup. The East has only won the Cup 5 times in the last 13 Finals. In fact the Western Conference has a 46-29 record against the East in the Stanley Cup Finals during that same span. But the Eastern Conference is making a turn around through youth. The following list is of the five teams I believe the central, mountain and pacific time zones should keep an eye on. In no particular order.

The Washington Capitals. Well, duh. Second place finish in the East last year, a core team returning, and the leagues reigning MVP all leads to a dangerous Capital squad that felt if they had a better game 7, they might have been the ones with the silver chalice. The Caps have brought in some grit in the off season in Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison to replace skilled Russians Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov who joined KHL when their contracts expired. The Caps also have a competitive battle for second seat in the goalie department, which should make the Capitals very strong in net.

The Pittsburgh Penguins. Another team that rebuilt through youth and kept its core players intact. With the additions of defenseman Jay McKee and back up goaltender Brent Johnson, the moves seem almost minor. I guess when you when the Cup, there is not much to tinker with in the off-season. For the Pens, it was more about keeping the players they had. They resigned Billy Guerin, Alex Goligoski, Russlan Fedotenko and Craig Adams. Max Talbot will miss a portion of the season after successful shoulder surgery, but it shouldn't slow them down.

The Florida Panthers. Yea, I said it. The Panthers made some smart moves in the off season. They resigned franchise player David Booth and utility winger Radek Dvorak. Then they dealt dead wood in Jay Bouwmeester for Jordan Leopold and a third round pick. The Panthers are going to put all their eggs in the youth basket and hope that Booth, Keith Ballard and Stephen Weiss can pull the weight. They will have to with Richard Zednik and Ville Peltonen heading off to Europe. I think they are ready for the next step and I would expect this team to do well, if Tomas Vokoun plays to his potential. Add in a little animosity for missing the playoffs last season and this team has a lot of motivation to take that next step.

The Boston Bruins. Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic. Three major reasons teams will not like to play the Boston Bruins. The team hasn't changed their dynamic too much. The Phil Kessel saga is finally done and the Bruins can move on. There is some concern on the offense that Kessel takes with him to Toronto, but the Bruins defense will still be a tough nut to crack. The Bruins most likely will lean on their up-and-comers like Blake Wheeler and playmaker Marc Savard to produce a majority of their offense.

The Montreal Canadiens. The Habs decided to revamp their team. They have said good bye to a good number of players like Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang, Mike Komisarek, Alex Kovalev and captain Saku Koivu. Then they have added on Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Hal Gill, Paul Mara and goaltender Curtis Sanford. It is a new look and a new attitude and I think it will result in wins for the Canadiens. If they can keep the off ice distractions to a minimum, this team does have to potential to fight for home ice in the playoffs. They will also need a consistent effort from goaltending. Carey Price should have a capable back up in Sanford and that should make things easier.

Caps Notes:
  • The Caps have cut a fair number of guys yesterday for the start of the Hershey Bears' camp which starts today. Among some of the names that were sent down were Jake Hauswirth, Anton Gustafsson, Micheal Dubuc, Joe Finley and Josh Godfrey. Some of the notable stays are forwards Kyle Wilson (who had a goal and an assist in the preseason game against Chicago), Chris Bourque, Mathieu Perreault, Francois Bouchard, Andrew Gordon and Steve Pinnizzotto and defensemen Karl Alzner, Tyler Sloan, Sean Collins and Patrick McNeill.
  • The Caps play their first preseason game at home at the Verizon Center against Buffalo tonight. The Caps played them last Thursday and beat the Sabres in overtime off of a Brian Pothier point shot. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Mike Green will make their first appearance in preseason play tonight.
  • There has been a lot of chatter about Chris Bourque possibly being traded to Boston in the event he doesn't make the Caps starting roster. That was denied by Bourque on Tarik's blog. Since then, the Boston source that published the rumor took it down.
Go Caps!

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