With the NHL season not getting back in action until Tuesday I thought it would be a good time to blog about where I thought teams would end up this season. The race in the East looks tighter then it has ever been and it will be a fun ride seeing where all the teams end up. Below I will give the position I think the team will finish and why.
1:New York Rangers: With 66 points the Rangers come out of the break in first and I do not think that will change. They have given up the fewest goals in the NHL with the help of the best goalie in the league in King Henrik. Their defense has proven strong and I think they have the offense to hold off Boston.
2: Boston Bruins: Currently four points up on Ottawa for the division lead, the Bruins have shown they have the talent to make another run at the cup. With rumours of a Tim Thomas trade looming I feel like they are the only team that wouldn't be hurt by losing their number one goalie. Tukka Rask is a great young talent and if needed can take Boston on a great playoff run.
3: Washington Capitals: They only have 55 points currently but due to the division lead they sit in third. I think Washington has too much talent for Florida to knock them off their perch just yet. But if they don't pick it up this prediction could be wrong and Washington could miss out on the playoffs all together.
4: Pittsburgh Penguins: They sit in fifth but are coming out of the break on a hot streak. Malkin is playing like he did when he won the Art Ross and if Crosby can make his way back then Pittsburgh will take over the four spot. I do not think they can catch NYR but this is a team I would not want to run into in the playoffs.
5: Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers have been fairly consistent over the course of the season and I do not see them falling back any further then fifth. What a match up Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia could be though. The battle of Pennsylvania. Philly is talented but will be taken as far as their goaltending will carry them. This is where Bryzgalov earns that big contract.
6: Florida Panthers: This is a bit of an out there pick for me but I really like how Florida has played this year. Their goaltending needs to be better but I feel they can do it. This could potentially set up a Florida vs Washington matchup which plays into a division rivalry which is always good for hockey.
7: Toronto Maple Leafs: As much as I love the Leafs I still feel like I can't trust this pick. Until they make it into the playoffs I just will not feel comfortable. Depending on the moves Toronto makes at the deadline this pick could go up or down. Gustavsson must continue to play strong if Toronto is to have a chance. With my prediction Toronto would face Boston in the first round which could be ugly. It should be an interesting second half for Hogtown.
8: Ottawa Senators: I do feel Ottawa is going to drop off in the second half. However I do like the way they have played and I do think they can make it into the playoffs sooner then many thought with this rebuild. How well they do remains to be seen but you can never count a team out in the playoffs.
Non Playoff Teams
9: New Jersey Devils: Of the teams with 55 points currently I feel they will be the odd team out. Marty will wear down, Parise will have next season on his mind and the distractions will be too much.
10: Winnipeg Jets: I would love to see them make it in but I feel that it just won't happen. The fans are great and I don't think it will be long before we see Winnipeg playing playoff hockey.
11: Montreal Canadiens: The disappointment continues. Distractions on and off the ice have hurt Montreal. I think more moves are coming and a rebuild could be followed.
12: Tampa Bay: Perhaps the disappointment of the East. I think some moves will be made due to age and cap space. They need a talented young goalie. Roloson is just too old. Hopefully this a one year bump in the road for a talented team.
13: Buffalo Sabres: Another disappointment with all the money that was spent. This could be blown up by the end of the year. Miller could be gone. So could Derek Roy and maybe even more. Should be an interesting offseason in Buffalo.
14: Carolina Hurricanes: I don't think they will finish last but a rebuild looks to be in the works. They have some pieces with the likes of Jeff Skinner but this could take some time before we see Carolina in the playoff picture.
15: New York Islanders: The lowest scoring team in the East will finish last. Another high pick to help with the rebuild. They need to figure out who their goalie is. Three in the crease is too much.
There it is. My picks for the East this year. Lets get the rest of the season going so we can get to the playoffs. Watch out for the Big J B's predictions for how the West turns out. Remember to follow us on twitter @leafsdinosbirds.