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09-04-2011, 03:07 PM
  #34
Alphacat
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Boyle View Post
There are a lot of variables to consider within the Atlantic. A lot. Each team has big question marks, each team is relying on something that may not happen. With the Rangers, you have to question whether or not Richards/Gaborik will click. If they don't, there will be a major issue, although I don't see any reason to think that way — these situations are very unpredicatble, but Richards' style of play suits Gaborik's style very well. Also, even if these two don't find that synergy, Richards is still a player that can drive the offense, and Gaborik is still a #1 winger. It would be an issue, but it wouldn't completely derail the team, IMO. However, if they do click, it'll send the Rangers from "bubble" team to "contender".

Another thing to consider is if the pairing of McDonagh/Sauer can continue their stellar play. Personally, I believe they can, but I still have a twinge of doubt about those two — I do not question their ability in anyway whatsoever. What I question is, will things go as they did in 10-11 for them? When you transition from your rookie to your sophomore season, there are always so many questions. Will they get the bounces they got in the season prior? Will success go to their head? Will opposing teams "figure them out"? Fortunately for the Rangers, neither of these players showed any real "weakness" in their overall game, like Del Zotto before them. There were no consistent, noticeable mistakes. Just very strong, consistent defensive hockey, especially from Sauer.

Every young player on this young team is somewhat of a variable. Erixon, Del Zotto, Stepan, Anisimov, Wolski, Dubinsky, Boyle, McDonagh, Sauer. Can they continue to progress, or progress after a bad season? Or will they regress, and not contribute to the team's success as much as last season?

The Devils...I don't know what to make of them. They have two all-star wingers in Parise and Kovalchuk, a strong centerman in Travis Zajac, and an excellent veteran scoring option in Elias, but after that, their team lacks depth in both the forward position and the defensive position. Regarding the latter, it's simply awful. Greene, Tallinder, and Volchenkov are their 3 best defenseman. Greene is their best offensive defenseman. As long as their defensive core has Greene leading the team in points, the Devils will go nowhere in the playoffs. I would not be surprised in the slightest if they missed the playoffs. Their future on defense looks very bright with Larsson, Urbom, Burlon, Taormina, Sova, and Merrill in the system, but in the here in now, it's one of the worst in the league.

Brodeur isn't getting any younger, although he was phenomenal at the end of the season. Zajac is injured to start the year, and that would leave their best natural center being Jacob Josefson. A 20 year old rookie. Big fan of his, but that's a LOT of responsibility for a young kid like that. There's also the new coach factor to consider, yet again. Will DeBoer mesh with the team? I think the biggest issue with MacLean is that some of the players who had played with him didn't give him the respect a player should give his coach. Brodeur and Langenbrunner being the most notorious in that particular category.

The Islanders are a team I'm not too worried about. They have an excellent young core, but there is still a gaping hole on their defense, and PA Parenteau is a top line winger. Montoya is their best NHL goaltender. I have to admit, Montoya was actually pretty solid for the Isles, but he's still not a legitimate starting goaltender. They're going to need their young players to imropve tenfold for them to even consider making a run at the playoffs. I like their team a lot (the players, that is), but as of now, Snow still has a TON of work to do.

The Penguins are pretty self explanatory...the absence of Crosby is enormous. It will affect the entire offensive game of the Penguins; however, they still were a very good team at the end of last season, even without Malkin and Crosby. To me, that just shows what an amazing coach Dan Bylsma is, and what a great system can do for your team. Fleury was also possessed. Even without Crosby, with a healthy Malkin and an improved Fleury, they are still easily a top-2 team in the division.

Philadelphia is the biggest wild card, IMO. They have a lot of talent, but they completely overhauled their roster in the offseason, trading away their two best forwards. They turned the team over to Pronger, Briere, Giroux, and Jagr. And, while I love Jaromir, he doesn't exactly give off the vibe of "great leader" to me. While they did address their goaltending, I still think that moving Mike Richards is a move that will eventually get Paul Holmgren fired. Yes, Schenn is a very good prospect, but will he be able to replace Mike Richards? I doubt it. The Carter move was a good move, IMO, but trading Richards away is still mind boggling to me. Pronger also had a string of major injuries last year, so we have to see how he recovers.

All in all, it's a very intriguing division. IMO, this is how it'll end up on paper:

1. Rangers (if no Crosby
2. Penguins (if no Crosby)
3. Philadelphia
4. New Jersey
5. Islanders

Flip flop 1/2 if Crosby is healthy.

For the first time in a long time, the Rangers look primed for a legitimate run at the division, and a run at the cup. Unfortunately, these things don't always materialize. I still think the year that we should be excited for is 2012-2013.
Agreed, that is when we will have a legit chance to win division (even if Crosby is healthy). 2013-2014 & 2014-2015 will be the two key years though, where I think we will be at the top of the conference and be one the the favorites to win the Cup.

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