Puck Daddy - NHL

Puck Daddy’s 2011-12 NHL Eastern Conference Staff Prognostications

To understand the unprecedented level of soothsaying accuracy you're about to experience in the Puck Daddy Staff Prognostications, look no further than last October when no less than ONE PERSON picked the Boston Bruins to emerge from the East.

(That one person was Ryan Lambert, by the way, and no the gloating hasn't stopped.)

That said, we mostly had the conference playoff teams figured out, taking the mulligan on the Devils like everyone else who wrote a preview before last season. What will 2011-12 hold for the Eastern Conference?

We predict the division winners and the conference standings, offering pithy justification for both. Enjoy.

The panel consists of Sean Leahy, associate editor; Harrison Mooney, associate editor; Dmitry Chesnokov, senior writer; Ryan Lambert, columnist and man about town; Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs, fantasy hockey guru and founder of DobberHockey.com; and Greg Wyshynski, editor.

Puck Daddy’s 2011-12 NHL Eastern Conference Staff Prognostications
Puck Daddy’s 2011-12 NHL Eastern Conference Staff Prognostications
Puck Daddy’s 2011-12 NHL Eastern Conference Staff Prognostications

Greg Wyshynski, Editor

1. Washington Capitals
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Boston Bruins
5. New York Rangers
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. Tampa Bay Lightning
8. New Jersey Devils

East champ: Pittsburgh

The Sabres take the Northeast Division over the Cup champs if they can stay healthy up front, with improvements on their blue line, with Ryan Miller(notes) between the pipes and with the joyous vibes of Pegulaville carrying through the season. The Capitals, with a rejuvenated Alex Ovechkin(notes), plow through the East for a Presidents' Trophy but, once again, fall short of advancing to the Cup Final. The Atlantic sends four teams including the New Jersey Devils, who weather the loss of Travis Zajac(notes) and then finish strong.

I have the Montreal Canadiens just outside the playoff picture, despite the fact that a full season of Michael Cammalleri(notes) should change their offensive fortunes; but injuries (like Markov) and a lingering wait-and-see on Carey Price(notes) have me slotting them ninth — despite Jacques Martin believing they're better than last season.

The Penguins advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a healthy Sidney Crosby(notes) and a few deadline additions by Ray Shero. Remember: Each Winter Classic has produced a Cup Finalist in the following season. And if it ain't the Capitals in 2012 …

Sean Leahy, Associate Editor

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Boston Bruins
3. Washington Capitals
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. New York Rangers
7. Montreal Canadiens
8. Buffalo Sabres

East champ: Boston

Despite how hard it is to be a repeat team in the Stanley Cup Final, the fact that GM Peter Chiarelli kept a majority of the championship team intact over the summer, along with Tuukka Rask(notes) getting more playing time thereby giving 37-year Tim Thomas(notes) rest, puts the Bruins in a great spot to repeat. If Milan Lucic(notes) can build off his career season, David Krejci(notes) can parlay a productive playoffs and Tyler Seguin(notes) can erase the inconsistency that plagued him last season, the B's should have no problem defending their crown.

Harrison Mooney, Associate Editor

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Washington Capitals
3. Buffalo Sabres
4. Boston Bruins
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. New York Rangers
8. Philadelphia Flyers

East champ: Pittsburgh

The Penguins will be fantastic this season, even before Sidney Crosby comes back; and when he does, they'll be even better. They'll run away with the division and the conference, which will be especially impressive because the Atlantic Division is going to be a freaking dogfight. Even the Islanders will be competitive, narrowly missing out on the final playoff spot to the Flyers, who will start slow, but finish the season strong and cohesive. In the Southeast, the Capitals and Lightning will flip-flop like gubernatorial candidates all season long, but the Capitals will finish on top. And then they'll lose in the first round, as is tradition.

Puck Daddy’s 2011-12 NHL Eastern Conference Staff Prognostications

Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Washington Capitals
3. Boston Bruins
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. New York Rangers
8. Toronto Maple Leafs

East champ: Philadelphia

Evgeni Malkin(notes) is back and he will show that he's back with a vengeance after admitting that he may have been lazy at times before. With Crosby's return sometime during the season and Dan Bylsma's coaching style, the Penguins will be back.  Washington is a different team from the one that was swept by the Lightning last postseason, and it will probably take some time for them to gel together, including developing chemistry with Vokoun. But the skill will pull them through to be the second in the conference.

I keep picking Toronto to make the playoffs every year now, and with Kulemin and Grabovski both in their contract year, they should provide the extra push top get there. The loss of Richards and Carter will undoubtedly show, I would think, for Philadelphia, who will have to adjust to their new high-priced goaltender.

Ryan Lambert, Columnist

1. Washington Capitals
2. Boston Bruins
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. New York Rangers
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. Buffalo Sabres
7. Montreal Canadiens
8. Philadelphia Flyers

East champ: Washington

The Capitals' offensive woes last year were much-discussed but they still won top seed in the East. Do you really think, with improved goaltending (go look up the last time Vokoun had a save percentage below .919) that the team wouldn't win the conference again? The Bruins aren't likely to change much given their defensive system and the Penguins are still the best in an improved division.

Dobber, Fantasy Columnist

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Washington Capitals
3. Boston Bruins
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. New York Rangers
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. New Jersey Devils

East champ: Pittsburgh

Say what you want about Pittsburgh ranking ahead of a seemingly flawless Washington team, but if Crosby and Malkin play even 140 games between them, it's lights out. We have yet to see the two of them in their prime. Together. At the same time. Of course, if they manage fewer than 90 games again, then you can slide the Pens down to sixth. As usual, there will be a couple of other teams in the playoff conversation in the final week -- Montreal and the Islanders. Even Leaf fans hold onto a thread of hope with two weeks remaining, before it's snatched away like so many Tim Connolly(notes) injuries.

Related Articles

Puck Daddy

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Related Photo Gallery

Y! Sports Blog