May 25, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; The New York Rangers celebrate a goal by New York Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan (24) during the second period in game six of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

Are The New York Rangers The Team To Beat In The Eastern Conference?

After a disappointing end to their fabulous 2012 season at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, many people were left wondering what could have been.

After finishing the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference last year, it was either Championship or bust in the eyes of the New York fans. They had the Hollywood goaltender in King Henrik, the sharp shooting Marian Gaborik and the smooth skating forward in Brad Richards, how could they lose?

Unfortunately for New York, New Jersey was not impressed.

With the offseason almost complete and most of the big name free agents signed (except Doan), reviewing all the moves, New York looks primed to make another Stanley cup run. But are they the team to beat?

Certainly one can make a case for New York, especially after signing probably the biggest fish out there in Rick Nash. Just think, Rick Nash averaged just a tad under 61 points on a Columbus team who had only managed to make the postseason once since he was drafted 1st overall in 2002. With New York giving up Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first round pick, it certainly looks right now that New York got the better part of the deal. To put it into perspective, if you combine the points from last season from all 3 players from New York you’ll get 70 points, compared to Rick Nash’s 59. Also, combine the goals you get 26 from the 3 players from New York and 30 from Rick Nash. Let’s also not forget that Nash was unhappy for about 65% of the season last year and Anisimov and Dubinsky were playing night after night with players like Richards and Gaborik. So as of right now, New York ended up with a major steal. Rick Nash is far from hitting his peak, and at the age of 28 he still has at least 5 more years of All Star caliber hockey left in him.

Does the acquisition of Rick Nash make the New York Rangers the team to beat? Many will say so, but to me, it’s going to take more than that to take down the team I believe will be the team to beat.

Just think, this team hasn’t had their best player for a full season since the 2009-2010 season. They were a mere one point behind the Rangers last year, still without their best player for 75% of the year. That’s right; The Pittsburgh Penguins have to be the team to beat in the East.

Just the fact that Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are on the same team frightens me. Malkin, who was the face of the franchise for the first time in his career didn’t disappoint at all with the absence of Crosby. Night after night Malkin would dangle, deke straight down the ice like the opposing players were cones, Malkin looked immaculate last year. Just look at this resume from last year. 2012 All Star, 2012 NHL First All-Star Team, Hart Memorial Trophy Winner, Ted Lindsay Award Winner, Art Ross Trophy Winner, Pittsburgh Penguins MVP, 2012 World Championships All Star Team, 2012 World Championships Best Forward, 2012 World Championships MVP, Kharlamov Trophy (Best Russian Player in NHL) and a 2012 World Championships Gold Medal; and you think Lebron James had a great 2012? His 50 goals were a career high, and his 109 points were 12 points higher than whoever finished 2nd place, oh and he only played 75 games.

Yeah, they lost Jordan Staal, but that’s okay, they got plenty back. They traded Staal to Carolina and got in return Brandon Sutter (23), Brian Duomoulin (20) and the 8th overall pick from the 2012 draft who they used to select Derrick Pouliot. So although they lost Staal, they were handsomely rewarded for his loss. Top to bottom this team is stacked. Defensively, they have probably a top 5 NHL defenseman in Kris Letang, and probably the goalie for team Canada in the 2014 Olympics in Marc Andre Fleury.

Philadelphia also poses a serious threat to be the team to beat, if they can solve their goaltending issue and get Chris Pronger back; although he’s been pretty much a bust for the last two years. Another team could be Boston, but for some reason I’m Anti Boston, maybe Horton has something to do with that; so I won’t say anything nice about them.

Thus, I believe the Pittsburgh Penguins will be the team to beat, no questions asked. If Crosby can stay healthy, this team is destined for the Stanley Cup.

Thanks for reading.

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God bless

Tags: Artem Anisimov Boston Bruins Brad Richards Brandon Dubinsky Brandon Sutter Brian Duomoulin Chris Pronger Derrick Pouliot Evgeni Malkin Jordan Staal Kris Letang Lebron James Marc Andre Fleury Marian Gaborik New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Post Rick Nash Sidney Crosby Tim Erixon

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