Atlantic Division Preview
New Jersey– The Devils made some great moves in the offseason to already improve a team that finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference last season. The Devils added Anton Volchenkov and former Sabre Henrik Tallinder. Along with those two big defenseman, the Devils also acquired Johan Hedberg, who will backup Martin Brodeur, and Jason Arnott, who is now in his second stint with the club.
The Devils remain a dangerous team with Brodeur in net, even though he is past his prime. Brodeur is still one of the best in the league at 38 years old. Zach Parise is the new star in New Jersey as he put up 82 points last season. The Devils have good veteran experience with players like Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston, Jason Arnott, and captain Jamie Langenbrunner.
New Jersey lost Paul Martin, who was very underrated, but adding Volchenkov and Tallinder will improve their defense from last season. The player to watch this season for the Devils will be Zach Parise as you can look to see him continuing to light the lamp for the Devils.
Pittsburgh– The Penguins remain dangerous with having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on their team. The Penguins had a disappointing end to their season when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd round of the playoffs. They have added Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, both of which will help greatly on the defensive end of the rink.
Martin and Michalek are underrated and can help their defense out since they lost Sergei Gonchar. The team relies heavily on Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been decent in net, but still has a lot of potential. The factor that may keep the Penguins from winning the cup this season is the fact they don’t have much support surrounding Crosby and Malkin.
Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cooke need to step up and play to their full abilities for this team to go far into the playoffs. No doubt this team will make the playoffs but they will have to battle to win the division over the Devils.
Philadelphia– The Flyers surprised many by making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Philadelphia relies on its defense to win games. Michael Leighton appears to be the starter after playing terrific in the first three rounds of the playoffs, but turned into a sieve against the Blackhawks.
Mike Richards proved that he is the heart of the team and should be considered one of the best in the game; yet it seems as though he does not garner the attention of names such as Crosby and Ovechkin. Philadelphia also lost Simon Gagne, but added Nikolai Zherdev and Anrej Meszaros.
The Flyers got much tougher with the additions of Jody Shelley and resigning Daniel Carcillo. Philadelphia should make the playoffs but it’s hard to imagine they can go deep in the playoffs again with their weak goaltending. The player to watch on the Flyers this season is Mike Richards.
New York Rangers– should finish 4th in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers missed the playoffs last season despite having one of the leading scorers in the league in Marian Gaborik, who recorded 42 goals last season. The Rangers added Alexander Frolov, Todd White, Derek Boogard, Steve Eminger, and former Sabre Martin Biron this offseason.
New York hopes that by signing Frolov, it will help him reach his full potential that he never was able to achieve while in Los Angeles. Gaborik can score goals at will, but the team relies heavily on the other forwards who did not step it up last year.
The weakest part of the Rangers is their defense, but Henrik Lundqvist can certainly bail them out despite a below average season. The question is for how long can Lundqvist keep them in the hunt for the playoffs. The player to watch this season on the Rangers is Alexander Frolov.
New York Islanders– have a bright future ahead of them, but it’s just not happening this season. John Tavares gives the team hope, but there is not enough around him to make the playoffs just yet. The Islanders are very young and don’t have enough scoring up front.
The Islanders added James Wisniewski, Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina and Zenon Konopka this offseason. The team is certainly moving in the right direction, but I wouldn’t look to see them get out of the Atlantic division cellar quite yet. The player to watch on the Islanders this season is John Tavares.