Eastern Conference- Rather that do the East by Divisions, I will do them by projected point total (out of 96) and a few sentences on each team that finishes in the top eight of the conference.
1) New York Rangers (75) Rick Nash will be a huge asset for the Rangers. Rest of the roster is solid and should be a strong Cup contender. Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Taylor Pyatt also return to lead the strong Rangers attack in the East. Veteran Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is ready for another Cup quest.
2) Boston Bruins (73) David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara will lead the Bruins to the another strong Cup run. Tuukka Rask will do just fine in net…
3) Washington Capitals (72) A coaching shuffle and some turmoil were in the mix last season though the highlight may have been their upset of the Boston Bruins in opening round of last seasons playoffs, and their near upset of the New York Rangers as that series would also go seven games. This year the Capitals will have a slightly different look but on paper look fairly solid. You don’t have to look far to see stalwarts Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera. The additions of Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski and others should bring additional fire power for first year Head Coach Adam Oates.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins (71) Like it or not, as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are together, the Penguins are about as certain for the post season as snow is certain for Maine in December. Crosby and Malkin are the two defined leaders of this well run team who seemingly rarely skips a beat. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net for the Penguins and is backed by Tomas Vokoun who came over via free agency. James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Kris Letang and former Anaheim Duck Chris Kunitz lead an attack which has only one goal in mind.
5) New Jersey Devils (68) Believe it or not, their trip to the finals last season was no accident. Also, the loss of Zach Parise though big is nothing the Devils cannot overcome. A roster that features Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Bryce Salvador, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and Dainius Zubrus is very solid and capable. Martin Brodeur may not be the goalie he wants was, but is still as reliable as any goalie in the league.
6) Florida Panthers (66) The Panthers last season despite their first round exit in the post season was arguably the most impressive team in the NHL last year. The Panthers took the Southeast Division and are coming back with a solid roster this year. Led by Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, ex-Shark Brian Campbell and others the Panthers have the depth to challage for the Eastern Conference. Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen are two net minders who hold their own in a game’s bigger moments.
7) Philadephia Flyers (65) – The Flyers may not always go though a season with the flashiest of records, but that’s okay. Their only concern in Philly is to make the post season and take it from their. Last season, their post season consisted of a hard six game beatting of the cross state rival Penguins. This season the Flyers have a new Captain in Claude Giroux, who is also the teams emotional leader as well. Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen lead the on ice attack for the Flyers. Veteran Goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton can both step in and shut the door on any opponent.
8) Tampa Bay Lightning (63)- The Lightning are looking to get back to the post season after a tough campaign in 2011-12. The Lightning has a loaded roster with players who have the skill sets to accomplish this feat, especially given the shorter season. Look for strong years from Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St.Louis, former Shark Matt Carle and Benoit Pouliot. In net for the Lightning are Mathieu Garon and Anders Lindback.
The Rest of the Eastern Confernce: 9) Carolina (60), 10) Ottawa (58), 11) Buffalo (56), 12) Toronto (55); 13) Winnipeg (52), 14) Montreal (49), 15) New York Islanders (46)…
Sharks Opener at Calgary: The San Jose Sharks official begin their 48 game schedule in Calgary against the Flames on Sunday January 20th. The game is scheduled to start at 3pm PT (4pm in Calgary). If all goes according to plan for TV Viewers and 49ers fans, the game will start shortly after (and hopefully after) the 49ers beat the Falcons to advance to the SuperBowl. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, then just turn the page and at that point just “sigh” and say to yourself “…it’s hockey season now!”…The game will be carried on Comcast Sports Net California as well as the Sharks Radio Network.
…and with all of that said, It’s Time (at long last) to drop the Puck!…
***Just My Two Cents***
(…and Go Sharks, Go 49ers!!!)
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