Previewing the Penguins, Flyers, Devils, Rangers & Islanders for the 2008-2009 NHL season
There is less than four weeks to go before the opening regular season game; it’s time for some divisional breakdowns, analysis and predictions. The NHL has six divisions all filled with five teams doing whatever it takes to win the division, make the playoffs and ultimately, win the Stanley Cup.
Without further adieu, the Atlantic Division.
This division had four of its five teams in the playoffs last season with the Islanders being the only team left to watch from the outside. NHL fans can almost expect the same results in the up coming season as Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Philadelphia will comfortably make the postseason while the New York Rangers will battle for a final spot. As for the New York Islanders; they will be the prey for the predators of the Atlantic yet again.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about this division without saying the words “Sidney Crosby”. An injury kept him off the roster for a good chunk of last season but Evgeni Malkin had no trouble filling Crosby’s skates. The loss of Marian Hossa to Detroit is a backbreaker for Pittsburgh and I seriously hope they don’t think Miroslav Satan is as talented as he will not provide the same numbers.
There is no reason why the Pens shouldn’t win the Atlantic but they will have a hard time repeating as a team that produces 248 goals. It may surprise everyone to know that Pittsburgh is one of the best defensive teams in the league which makes them a double threat.
Speaking of defence, the Devils only scored seven more goals than they allowed last year and still had a 99 point season. New Jersey still bases their entire franchise around keeping games low scoring and defending a lead intensely. Funny enough, they signed a high-quality point scorer in Brian Rolston to support Patrick Elias and Zach Parise on the offensive side.
New Jersey has a terrible record against their Atlantic Division rivals and it cost them in last years playoffs. Goals or no goals, with Martin Brodeur in net, the postseason is a guarantee while scoring goals won’t be.
The Rangers are going into 2009 without their leading goal scorer thanks to Jaromir Jagr’s departure to Russia. Is it really a loss? Of course it is. Jagr was either producing points and winning games or being blamed for the poor seasons that the Rangers finished. Now they need to find a new scapegoat and it can’t be Sean Avery who also left the team, to Dallas. Markus Naslund is coming in to help replace Jagr while Wade Redden was signed to an enormous deal to aide on the blue-line.
It will be interesting to watch this team without a “go-to” guy and to also see if Henrik Lundqvist can repeat a Vezina nominee season. The Rangers will struggle to make the playoffs but may sneak in as the eighth seed.
Philadelphia underachieved during the regular season having to go 7-2-1 in their last ten games in 08-09’ to make the playoffs; but then surprisingly overachieved in the playoffs. Scoring is not a problem for the Flyers. They are coming off a season where they scored one more goal than the powerful Penguins even with Simon Gagne missing over 50 games. Philly can be a true contender if, and only if, they find a way not allow nearly three goals a game.
Mike Richards will lead his team through every game while Martin Biron will prove critics wrong between the posts. There are no significant new faces on the Flyers this season and if we combine that with the weaker Rangers, Philadelphia should have a solid season.
Lastly, in more than one way, are the New York Islanders. It’s not a big surprise that the Islanders spent money during the offseason; this time on offensive defensemen Mark Streit. Definitely a good investment in the back but they are still extremely lacking everywhere else. New York also has nine players over 30 and are not very strong in young talent.
All respect to Mike Comrie but how far can a team really go when their forwards are led by Bill Guerin, Mike Sillinger and Doug Weight in the year 2009? This New York franchise is waiting for Rick DiPietro to master the skill of goaltending after signing him to a catastrophic 15 year contract. Enough said about where the Isles are going to end up at the end of the 2009 season.
Over/under compared to last season's overall points:
The NY Rangers finished with 97 points. The grass will not be greener without Jagr; under.
The NY Islanders finished with 79 points. The Isles will be competing against the Maple Leafs as the worst team in the Eastern Conference; under.
Philadelphia finished with 95 points. Expect an impressive season; over.
Pittsburgh finished with 102 points. It’s amazing what a year can do. The time has come for a 50 win season; over.
New Jersey finished with 99 points. Rolston would be an offensive threat on any other team but on New Jersey, he’s just another defender; under.
Predicted 2008-2009 Atlantic Division Standings:
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Director of Content
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