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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

NHL Eastern Conference Preview


Photo courtesy of Reading Tom via

The time has come to drop the puck on the start of another NHL season. The Pittsburgh Penguins reign supreme after they defeated the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, and are one of the favorites to repeat. This year should be an exciting one, with some teams on the rise and others on the decline. Expect a race to the finish in all four divisions this year, especially in the Eastern Conference.


Metropolitan Division:


Washington Capitals

 The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy last year as the best team in the regular season, but were once again eliminated in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals have not made it past the second round of the playoffs in the Alex Ovechkin era, and now is the time to end that slump and even possibly win the Stanley Cup. They have a plethora of highly skilled forwards led by Ovechkin and one of the best goalies in the league in Braden Holtby. With a solid defensive core as well, the Capitals remain the favorite to win the Metropolitan. But when it comes playoff time, will they finally get over the hump and make it past the second round?


Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins are the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, and they should be one of the favorites to repeat again as they return almost everyone from their Stanley Cup roster a year ago. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will lead the offense, but the depth that they have up front in players like Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, and Patric Hornqvist will help to make this one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Add in a blue line led by Kris Letang and a one-two tandem in goal with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, and this is one of the most complete teams in the NHL.


New York Rangers

Scoring shouldn’t be a problem for the Rangers this year as they added three young stars in Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, and Pavel Buchnevich to add to the already strong forward core up front for the Rangers. Defenseman Keith Yandle was a huge loss this summer, and the defense still remains a huge question mark for the Rangers. Players like Marc Staal and Dan Girardi will have to have huge bounce back seasons if the Rangers want to be considered a true contender come playoff time. Henrik Lundqvist will certainly shadow some of the Rangers problems on defense as he remains one of the elite goaltenders in the league.


Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers surprised everyone last year by making the playoffs in the final week of the season, and they should be able to improve on last year’s success. The Flyers will continue to add talented youth to the picture with the additions of Ivan Provorov on defense and forward Travis Konecny; both first round draft picks from recent years. Claude Giroux, Jakub Vorachek, and Wayne Simmonds continue to be some of the best offensive players in the game, and with the success of Shayne Gostisbehere and the defense last year, the Flyers should be able to secure a wild-card berth for the playoffs this year.


New York Islanders

The Islanders won their first playoff series since 1993 last year, and they remain one of the biggest question marks at the start of the season. They lost key forwards in Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin to free agency this year, but also added Andrew Ladd. The defense and goaltending in Brooklyn remains solid with players such as Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic helping to protect Jaroslav Halak in net, who is coming off a strong showing at the World Cup where he represented Team Europe. The losses of Nielsen, Okposo, and Martin will certainly hurt, but with the experience that the team gained last year should allow the Islanders to secure the second wild-card berth for the playoffs come April.


New Jersey Devils

 The Devils are extremely close to being a playoff team, but they will miss out this season. The addition of Taylor Hall should help to bolster an offense which has been rather quiet in recent years, and Pavel Zacha, a first-round draft pick from 2015, will be called upon to bring his scoring touch into the team immediately. The defense picked up two solid pieces in Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey, and Cory Schneider remains one of the most consistent goalies in the league. Overall, the Devils have once again improved and the future looks very bright, but they will miss out in the final few weeks of the season.


Carolina Hurricanes

 The Hurricanes are a young, skilled team which should also be able to compete for a playoff position this year. Adding Teuvo Terravainen off waivers this offseason was an absolute steal for the offense, and he will be put into the mix with other young forwards such as Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner. The ‘Canes also added depth with the signings of Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg. The defense and goaltending remain a question, but young defensemen Noah Hanifan should continue to develop into a top defenseman for the Hurricanes. Overall, the ‘Canes are young and certainly improving, but they probably will not make the playoffs.


Columbus Blue Jackets

 The Columbus Blue Jackets have some really good players in Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, and Seth Jones just to name a few, but they still lack the necessary depth on both ends of the ice in order to be a playoff contender. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has also been wildly inconsistent over the past several years, but is coming off a strong showing at the World Cup for Team Russia, which could be a good sign for Blue Jackets. Overall, the Blue Jackets would rank higher if in a different division, but in the Metropolitan, they are the only team with no clear path on what they want their future will look like.


Atlantic Division:


Tampa Bay Lightning

 The Lightning did everything they had to do this offseason, as they resigned their two biggest stars in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. They made the Finals back in 2015, and the Conference Final last year, and they should be considered one of the front-runners to win the cup in the spring. Young players up front such as Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Jonathan Drouin provide an abundance of scoring depth, and the defense remains strong with Hedman, Anton Stralman, and Jason Garrison leading the charge. Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are a great tandem in net, and the Lightning could possibly trade one of them to add another asset to the offense or defense at the trade deadline. The Lightning should be a fun team to watch this season.


Florida Panthers

 The Panthers should be able to build on their successful season last year, and compete for a top spot in the Atlantic. The addition of Keith Yandle should help to bolster the power play, while rising stars Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad will continue to have a huge impact on both ends of the ice. Jaromir Jagr is back for another season, and he still has the ability to make a huge impact on offense. Roberto Luongo remains one of the top goalies in the NHL, and should be able to have another successful season in South Florida. Overall, the Panthers are a strong team that will absolutely compete for the Cup when it comes playoff time.


Montreal Canadians

 The Canadians had a rough 2015-2016 season, but should return to the playoffs as long as star goaltender Carey Price stays healthy. Defenseman P.K. Subban was traded for Shea Weber, who should provide as much of a spark to the defense as Subban had in the past few seasons. The Habs also added two highly sought after forwards in Alex Radulov and Andrew Shaw to add to an offense which is already skilled with Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchenyuk. The defense also remains solid with Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov, and goaltender Carey Price is the best in the league when he is healthy. Price is the X-factor for this team and their success for this year.


Boston Bruins

 The Bruins missed the playoffs on the last day of the season last year, and they figure to just miss it again this year. The loss of Loui Eriksson is tough, but the Bruins replaced him with the signing of former Blues captain David Backes. Brad Marchand and David Krejci should be able to provide a ton of scoring for the Bruins, who also have the luxury one of the best centers in the league in Patrice Bergeron. The defense remains a question still, as the slow decline of Zdeno Chara could be the Bruins Achilles’ heel this year. The Bruins have a strong core group, but they figure to miss out on the playoffs due to the strength of the Metropolitan Division.


Detroit Red Wings

 The Red Wings have made the playoffs the last 25 years, the longest streak in the NHL, but that run is in huge jeopardy this year. The loss of key veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards will definitely hurt. Other than Frans Nielsen, they didn’t make any big moves to try and replace Datsyuk, who was a mainstay in Detroit for years. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will again compete for that No. 1 goalie spot, and although the defense boasts some good players in Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, and Mike Green, the group is beatable. Overall, the Red Wings will compete for a playoff spot, and like the Bruins, will come up just short in most likely the last week of the season.


Ottawa Senators

 The Senators were relatively quiet this offseason other than the trade they made that sent youngster Mika Zibanejad to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derick Brassard, who had a career year with the Rangers last year, scoring 27 goals and registering 58 total points. Brassard is added to a strong core group of forwards which includes Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, and Mike Hoffman. The Senators were ninth in scoring last year as a team, and they should be expected to rank around there again this year. The defense includes the likes of Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf, but goaltending will remain an issue as the Senators ranked fifth in goals against last season, which is why they will struggle.


Buffalo Sabres

 The Sabres acquired forward Kyle Okposo this offseason, who should help to boost an offense which already has players such as Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, and Sam Reinhart. The defense and goaltending remain in question however, and it could be the downfall of the Sabres this year. However, if the defense plays well with additions such as Dmitri Kulikov and Robin Lehner,, then the Sabres could be dangerous with the offense that they have. Overall, the Sabres remain a huge wild card for this upcoming season.



Toronto Maple Leafs

 The Leafs will continue their massive rebuild this year, and with it comes new faces such as first overall pick wonder-kid Auston Matthews, along with Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Veteran players such as James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Nazem Kadri will be expected to lead the offense, while young defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner will look to continue to improve after their impressive seasons last year, especially Rielly. Frederik Andersen was acquired over the offseason from Anaheim, and he will be expected to be the No. 1 goalie for Toronto this year. Overall, the Leafs will continue to rebuild this year, but the future certainly looks bright for many years to come.

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