Colin Dambrauskas: Eastern Conference Thoughts & Predictions!

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As the preseason progresses and roster sizes begin to diminish while teams prepare for their 2014-15 regular season campaign, I felt that it would be a good idea to open the discussion with respect to predictions for each conference!

With that being said, today’s blog will offer some thoughts and comments towards Eastern Conference teams who I feel will do well during this upcoming season, but also speak toward those who I feel may regress.

The 2014 summer saw many transactions league wide and with that, I feel there will be a greater shuffle in terms of teams who made the playoffs most recently, with those who were not as fortunate.

Rather than getting out of hand and possibly relying too heavily on my crystal ball, I will break down the predictions in terms of each division, rather than the conference as a whole. Trying to predict complete standings this early in the year is, well, a little too asinine for this writer. So without further ramble, here’s what I have to offer.

Also, for those who didn’t catch my Western Conference Predictions from yesterday, please check them out at the bottom of this page!

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Atlantic Division Boston Bruins

As per usual the Bruins are favoured to win the Atlantic division and probably the Eastern Conference but last year Montreal was their demise come playoffs. If that taught us anything it’s that getting under the skin of the Boston Bruins can actually work, if you’re able to do nothing but draw them in without getting caught in the mix yourself. In fact that may be the only way to beat this squad because they have been, and continue to be solid all around.

The only move they made in the offseason was dumping Jarome Iginla. This won’t affect a strong offensive line built around Bergeron and Krejci with a lot of strong supporting characters. Defensively they are sound, although last season seemed pretty tough on Chara, who might start slowing down just like Thornton did last season with the Sharks. Rask will remain between the pipes and he looked great last season, leading the league with 7 shutouts. Montreal Canadiens

Even though their season ended in heart ache, overall the Canadiens had a pretty successful season. The alternate captain move after dumping Gionta and other vets is a clear indication that the Canadians are relying on their youth.

On the whole, I think the Canadiens have set themselves up quite nicely for a good run this season. Until last year P.K. Subban was often a question mark given his tendencies to take too many risks, but it wouldn’t take him long to quiet skeptics as he was a phenom come playoffs.

Montreal kept their leading goal scorer Pacioretty on offense and added P.A. Parenteau from the Avalanche to the mix. If things go right for Parenteau he could be a solid acquisition for the Canadiens as he can create plays with good passing and also finish them when needed; he’ll pair up nicely with their younger squad. Price continues to be the shining star in Montreal and if he plays half as well as he did last season, the Canadiens will be in good…glove hands.

That being said, Montreal can be a tossup this season. After losing their captain, they may need a year or two to adjust but if the talent and if the determination they played with last season carries over, they could once again surprise the masses. Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings barely made the playoffs last year after being bombarded with injuries and they hardly made any moves in the offseason. I guess they are just hoping their players stay healthy. It’s a risky plan, especially since Alfredsson may not be healthy enough to return. Looking to extend their postseason to 24 straight playoffs, the Wings know how to get it done and it would not surprise me if they squeeze in again.

All things considered, and even though the Red Wings have a good balance on their roaster, they just don’t excite me this year. Hopefully they prove me wrong. Toronto Maple Leafs

After the 2012/2013 season the Leafs seemed to be trending in the right direction, but last season – in Maple Leafs fashion – they lost their last 14 games and didn’t make it to the playoffs. In direct response to ultimately shitting the bed once again, MLSE decided to bring in Brennan Shanahan to get this team on the right track once and for all.

The Leafs have talented offense but a lot of their roster can be very streaky. Clarkson was projected to be much more impactful, Lupul pas plagued by injury and Kessel and Kadri tend to run hot and cold. If their offense is good, they can definitely score but they need to start scoring right away this season. The additions which the Leafs brought in with respect to their bottom six could very well help cure what ailed them last season.

Defensively they do tend to breakdown, but Bernier gives them a chance to win just about every night and Reimer is looking to bounce back himself. So long as the tenders battle and remain healthy, there aren’t too many reasons I can see why the Leafs don’t have a good shot at the P word…knock on wood if you must. Atlantic Predictions:

Bruins

Canadiens

Lightning

Maple Leafs

Red Wings

Senators

Panthers

Sabres

Metropolitan Division Pittsburgh Penguins

I don’t expect much difference for the Penguins this year, as we’ve seen over the previous couple of seasons. The team has been quite steady and depending on injuries, can be very deadly. This year they will likely remain atop the Metro standings and compete with the Boston Bruins for conference standings.

Of course, the biggest question this year for the Pens will be whether or not they have improved enough in terms of their overall depth to succeed beyond the first round of the playoffs. Trading James Neal may or may not work out for this club, as Hornqvist has been streaky in recent years, doesn’t really play with any level of grit, and Spaling isn’t exactly anything flashy. Spaling will add depth to their 3rd line while Hornqvist will add depth to their top six. James Neal had a bad rep, wasn’t ultimately getting it done, and the GM felt there was no room for the player on his club and shipped him out.

All things considered, I don’t feel that with the way the team stands at this time that they will get too deep into the playoffs, barring any trades. New York Rangers

It was hard not to like the Rangers last year, especially as we all cheered on Marty St Louis. That said, I don’t believe they do as well as last season saw. A respectable year is likely ahead of them, but I feel that this team will regress. Expect playoffs, but I can see an early exit if teams like Toronto or Montreal push their way in and up the standings. Philadelphia Flyers

Frankly, I don’t really want to discuss the Flyers too much. They have been and are tough to watch of late only because they can’t seem to get things together. This team has the tools needed to put together a solid year and make a splash in the postseason, problem is you need to get there and they will need their goaltending to…well…actually show up.

With a decent group of vets and rookies on this roster who offer both pure skill and the level of tenacity needed to succeed in the NHL, expect the Flyers to work their butts off this year. New York Islanders

These guys are due. They really are, and I think the 2014-15 NHL season will be one where the Islanders prove to the rest of the hockey world that they can compete. I do not expect these guys to make the playoffs this year, but I strongly believe they will be much more respected than previous years have shown. Columbus Blue Jackets

This is going to be my Metro wildcard. These guys are either going to make a strong push in the standings this year, or flop. With teams like the Islanders, Leafs, Canadiens, and Bolts all looking to be playoff contenders, this team may have a little bit of difficulty finding a spot atop the leaderboard.

Conversely, with an epic collapse which teams like the Leafs often produce, a team like Columbus is very likely the one to squeeze them out of the playoffs. Metropolitan Predictions

Penguins

Flyers

Rangers

Blue Jackets

Islanders

Capitals

Hurricanes

Devils

That’s all for tonight folks, hope you enjoyed my thoughts/predictions on the Eastern and Western divisions!

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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