The 2011-12 season is quickly approaching. We here at The Rat Trick are taking a closer look at each division in hopes of providing some insight as to what the division may look like come April. Today’s spotlight is on the Northeast.
The division consists of five teams, three of which made the playoffs last season. One of those three teams went on to hoist the Stanley Cup, the Boston Bruins, which included
our old buddy “Trade Me Please” Nathan Horton (pictured above). Many questions are posed by contemplating this division. Are the Bruins going to repeat? Is our old buddy Jacques Martin going to get the Canadiens to play as well as they do at home; away from the Bell Centre? Did the Sabres spend enough money? Are the Leafs, who haven’t been to the playoffs since before the lockout (I’m one to talk), going to be different? Will the rebuilding Senators be a surprise and capture some of their success from 2007?
Boston Bruins (46-25-11, 103 pts. 1st)
This is not a team that rolls over when all seems lost. Prevailing even after being down 0-2 in both the first round and Stanley Cup Finals. They also swept a Flyers team that was looking to make it back into the Finals. Raising the Stanley Cup makes them obvious forerunners for doing it again, especially since their roster has not changed dramatically. They have the talent to repeat, but it is too early to tell if they will at this point. They will cruise to the top of the division and stay there, ranking in the first three spots atop the Eastern Conference. FanSided’s Causeway Crowd offers their preview.
Montreal Canadiens (44-30-8, 96 pts. 2nd)
The Bell Centre has an atmosphere that few arena’s in the NHL can muster. With such a supportive fan base, it is no wonder they preform well at home (24-11-6). While they are not as good on the road (20-19-2), they still remain a team with a good chance to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Two seasons ago, the Canadiens did just that before they were dispatched by the Flyers in 5 games. Last season, Montreal encountered the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. The Canadiens lost game 7 at Boston’s TD Garden, after they dropped games 3 and 4 at the Bell Centre. Adding a few new faces like Erik Cole to an already potent lineup will generate some points, however they have lost a few players; Benoit Pouliot, James Wisnewski, and Roman Hamrlik among others. FanSided’s A Winning Habit with their preview.
Buffalo Sabres (43-29-10, 96 pts. 3rd)
The team with the biggest payroll of any other NHL team, the Sabres, are hoping that the new regime led by owner Terry Pegula and the roster moves made by GM Darcy Regier will finally bring the Cup to Buffalo. Leaving in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons, Buffalo has made a few additions to try and sure up playoff success. Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff, and Robyn Regehr make this team one to watch. They should be a surprise, following close behind the Bruins in the divison. FanSided’s Sabre Noise offers this preview.
Toronto Maple Leafs (37-34-11, 85 pts. 4th)
With former Sabre Tim Connolly centering their top line, the Maple Leafs will look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Adding blueliner John-Michael Liles should serve to bolster the defense, but being in such a difficult division could prove detrimental to their playoff chances yet again. They have a tough season ahead of them, it is too early to call them out of it, but I don’t think they have what they need to be a consistent winner, an untested Reimer in net could make or break it. Too Many Men’s preview.
Ottawa Senators (32-40-10, 74 pts. 5th)
While Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson remain constants, the Senators are constantly having problems making it back to the Finals. Like the Leafs, their saving grace may be in net. Craig Anderson, who Panthers’ fans will remember for his NHL record 93 consecutive saves over two shutouts in 07-08, returns after an 11-5-1 performance for the Senators; after being traded from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Brian Elliot at last season’s trade deadline. New coach Paul MacLean will have a challenge, but the stars could possibly align; just don’t expect them to be as bright as they were in 2007. They will need more seasoning to compete in this division. Too Many Men’s preview.
1. Boston Bruins
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Tomorrow, Josh Luecht will preview the Southeast.
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Tags: Bell Centre Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Christian Ehrhoff Colorado Avalanche Daniel Alfredsson Eastern Conference Erik Cole Jacques Martin Jason Spezza Jason Spezza Daniel Alfredsson Jm The Gm Jmart Montreal Canadiens Nathan Horton Northeast Ottawa Senators Paul Maclean Playoffs Robyn Regehr Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Champions Td Garden Tim Connolly Toronto Maple Leafs Ville Leino