The Ducks and Kings split a two game series to start the 07-08 NHL season in London. I personally can't wait for the season to get fully underway, but I can't lie, being a Leaf fan is one tough thing these days. Don't get me wrong, I bleed blue and white and I will forever, but there is going to be some awesome competition this year. Here's what to look out for in the Eastern conference.
Starting in the Atlantic division, I think the teams to beat are going to be the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers. There is no going wrong when Sid the Kid is on your side, I mean, the team was very good last year and gave the Senators a decent go in the first round of the playoffs, and they are only going to grow as all their young talent matures. With some more experience being added in the off season (Peter Sykora and Darryl Sydor) I think this Penguins team will be the team to beat in the Atlantic. The Rangers will be right behind them though, giving them a good run for their money. Their acquisition of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez is sure to add some talent up front and put up some big numbers, hopefully offsetting the loss of Michael Nylander, however, I don't think it will be enough to overcome young talent present in Pittsburgh. Come to think of it though, New York has always (for the last few years) looked good on paper without being able to perform. Last year we saw them actually perform, and hopefully this will continue into this year. Keep your eyes on this division, it is sure to be quite the battle.
As for the Northeast division, not a whole lot has changed (except for in Buffalo with the loss of Chris Drury and Danny Briere). I expect that this division will be similar to how it was last year, except I think my Leafs may have a legitimate shot at the post-season. After going undefeated in the pre-season, I think that the Sens are going come out of the gates real hot this season, and they are definitely the team to beat. After missing the playoffs by one point on the very last day of the season last year, I expect the acquisitions of Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to help the Leafs at least make it to the playoffs (but I doubt they will go very far). At least for once in Toronto there will be competition for the top goaltending spot, and Raycroft and Toskala will both work extra hard pushing for playing time. I think the team to look out for in the Northeast though is clearly the Senators (I know, it hurts).
Finally, the Southeast division will be interesting to watch as it is very unpredictable. With Michael Nylander in the mix, the Washington Capitals (Ovechkin and all) is expected perform better this year, but without the depth of many other teams, it will be difficult for Washington to go very far. We will see if some of the third and fourth liners on the Caps will be able to complement their top line, and of course, we will see if Olaf Kolzig can pull it together for a half decent year. The team to watch though, will be the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite their very hot/cold nature, I think missing the playoffs last year did this team well and they will be more competitive this year. Cam Ward is the key player here, as goaltending will play a big role in this division. For Carolina's sake, lets just hope that the Conn Smythe winning Ward shows up to play!
I think the division to watch this year though will be the Atlantic division. It will be very exciting to see how the many off-season changes will benefit these teams. Let the games begin! Be sure to stay tuned for my Western Conference predictions as well!
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