Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Scouting the Enemy: Atlantic Division

Sorry for any funky format. I'm trying posting via email.

Either the Atlantic or the underrated Central will be the best division next
> season.
> In reverse predicted order of finish:
> New York Islanders
> Notable additions: Brian Rolston via trade
> Notable losses: Trent Hunter via trade
> Outlook: borderline playoff team
> The Islanders are a young team on the rise. They have had bad luck with
> injuries year after year, but look to be in good shape for next season. Mark
> Streit may not be the Norris caliber defenseman he was two years ago, but
> he's a legit 1D. Macdonald and Hamonic make a strong second pair, and
> combined with the Nielsen-Grabner-Okposo line they can outscore any top line
> in the league. Tavares also has an outside shot at 40 goals.
> Season series gameplan: Work hard. The Islanders always play the Caps well
> because they work hard, like the Caps under Hanlon. But there is still a big
> gulf in terms of talent.
> Playoff series gameplan: same. And push the pace against their inexperienced
> blueline.
> New Jersey Devils
> Notable additions: none
> Notable losses: none
> Outlook: playoff team
> The Devils had a crazy last season. I think they are closer to the Lemaire
> team than the Maclean team, though. They were a 51% Fenwick team under
> Maclean and about 55% under Lemaire, but of course had much better puck luck
> the second half of the season. We cannot expect Brodeur to play below
> replacement level for forty games again, and along with the return of Zach
> Parise I see this team as a low playoff team.
> Season series gameplan: push the pace and attack. The Devils have a young
> blueline that, aside from Volchenkov, Tallinder, and Greene, is very
> unproven.
> Playoff series gameplan: same. I would also slot Brouwer on the top line to
> hit Volchenkov, who is not especially durable.
> Philadelphia Flyers
> Notable additions: Jakub Voracek via trade, Brayden Schenn via trade, Wayne
> Simmonds via trade, Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Bryzgalov
> Notable losses: Jeff Carter via trade, Mike Richards via trade, Brian
> Boucher
> Outlook: playoff team
> Much has already been written about the Flyers' offseason makeover. I'd just
> like to add that now at least one of Schenn, Briere, or Voracek will need to
> play toughs. The first may be too inexperienced, the latter two not ideal.
> Giroux is still good enough to stabilize the forward corps, but not enough
> to make them elite, I think: he did have Carter on his wing, after all.
> Season series gameplan: attention to line matching. Philadelphia probably
> doesn't have the forward depth to handle two strong scoring lines.
> Playoff series gameplan: that plus playing very physically on Pronger and
> Timonen to wear them down.
> New York Rangers
> Notable additions: Brad Richards, Tim Erixon via trade
> Notable losses: none
> Outlook: playoff team
> The Rangers were already decent. They've added the best UFA and one of the
> two best defensemen in the world not already in the NHL (along with fellow
> Swede David Rundbland), and coupled with growth from Artem Anisimov, Mike
> Sauer, and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers should win plenty of games and
> challenge for home ice.
> Season series gameplan: offense versus offense. Richards and Gaborik should
> be the most vulnerable line defensively. Furthermore, given how sound the
> Rangers defensemen are in their zone--I'd take their top five defensemen
> over all save Philly's for pure defense--I think the Capitals defensemen
> need to be aggressive in joining the rush. With Green, Wideman, Carlson, and
> Hamrlik all better puck movers than any Ranger D, therein lies the Caps'
> biggest personnel edge. Offense from defense.
> Playoff series gameplan: same.
> Pittsburgh Penguins
> Notable additions: none
> Notable losses: none
> Outlook: Cup Contender
> There are still question marks surrounding this team. How will Malkin fare
> coming off a serious knee injury, one which typically sets a player at
> reduced effectiveness for a year or two? When will Crosby come back, and
> will he feel like Eric Lindros, who said that after the Stevens hit he
> actually had to think about what he was doing with the puck? Will Fleury
> build off his strong last season, or will he regress to his prior, league
> average self? Will James Neal figure it all out?
> Nonetheless, this is the best possession team since Bylsma took over, and I
> expect that strong play to lead them to a division title. Only their strong
> division prevents me from penciling them in as the East top seed.
> Season series gameplan: slow the game down. Prevent the Penguins from
> getting their forecheck going.
> Playoff series gameplan: any strategy I can think of is a mixed bag. Just
> win. If I had to choose I'd like to see the Capitals open it up, move the
> puck up the ice quickly, and exert a physical toll on the Pens top four,
> upon which Bylsma will rely upon heavily. I don't necessarily want run and
> gun, but this Capitals team thrives off the rush--did they even score five
> goals in the playoffs off an in-zone possession?--and playing a neutral zone
> game neutralizes the Caps transition game and puck moving blueline
> advantage.

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