Friday, September 28, 2007

HTP Predicts! (Eastern Conference)

On the eve of new season (Fowl/Kings set to drop the puck in Merry Olde London in a little more than 24 hours) I bring you the Official Hitting The Post Predictions for the 2007-2008 NHL season.


Atlantic Division

One-Liner: Three probable playoff teams and that's NOT including the "always-dangerous-to-underestimate" Devils.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Pittsburgh* Great job of building this team around a super-talented nuclues of youth. Only weakness is relative youth, but the veterans they brought in/retained will make up for that.
2. Rangers* Sure, it's big money hockey again in Big Apple, but how can you argue with who they brought in? Great job of cap management at the Garden. King Henrik is a stud.
3. Flyers* Huge props to Homer for doing an amazing job retooling this team on the fly - and building them back into a playoff team. Same expectations as last year, but better odds for success.
4. Devils Brutal 9-game road trip to start come home to a new building that will be half empty by Christmas. Gordian knot of not wanting to overplay Brodeur again, but no viable backup, combined with loss of key players means Lou's luck is on the wane.
5. Islanders Not much to like here. Guerin's a name for the marquee, but stalwarts/hope from last season bolted for greener pastures at first opportunity. At least the arena's nice....oops.

Northeast Division

One-liner: Still top-heavy, can Ottawa finally find playoff magic?

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Ottawa* All major pieces back, eyes firmly on the prize. Whether or not Emery is the real deal is the key here.
2. Buffalo* Lost two of top four players to free agency, had to overpay to keep third. They'll make the playoffs but guile and guts, not skill will have to get them over the hump.
3. Toronto* Can Toskala get it done? If not, will Raycroft get back to rookie form? Blake is a gamer, but depth issues linger. Playoffs? Probably. More than one round? Highly doubtful.
4. Montreal Nice stable of goaltending not enough to offset significant depth issues all over lineup. Once playoffs become remote possibility, will Gainey start re-tooling?
5. Boston Chara will rebound, upgrade in goal...not enough horses or firepower to make any real noise in division/conference.

Southeast Division

One-Liner: Recent success looks like outlier, not harbinger.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Tampa Bay* Last hurrah for three (overpaid, collectively) musketeers. Boyle/Kuba solid, but not going to deliver Bolts to promised land. Division title by default.
2. Atlanta* Sold soul for playoffs last season, have nothing left to show for it. Lehtonen needs to find consistency.
3. Washington AO is a stud. Kolzig looking for one more grab at the brass ring. Will take advantage of soft division, threaten Thrashers for last playoff spot.
4. Carolina Even the Karmanoses are starting to flee. Ward will rebound, but no depth, limited high-end skill. When does college hoops season tip off?
5. Florida Sooner or later these kids have to pan out, right? Big upgrade in goal with Vokoun, and, honestly, there's some reason for optimism.

Playoff matchups

Conference Quarterfinals
1. Ottawa
8. Toronto

2. Tampa Bay
7. Philadelphia

3. Pittsburgh
6. Atlanta

4. Buffalo
5. Rangers

Conference Semi-Finals
1. Ottawa
7. Philadelphia

3. Pittsburgh
5. Rangers

Conference Finals
1. Ottawa
5. Rangers

Eastern Conference Champion
New York Rangers


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