The Playoff Teams
4. Washington Capitals
A literal Stanley Cup hangover, a figurative Stanley Cup hangover, a new bench boss and no Philipp Grubauer. These ingredients don’t mix well for a team trying to defend it’s franchise’s first title.
The Caps will be slow coming out of the gate this season which will put them behind the eight ball. Also, at this point in the Ovi-Backstrom-Holtby era, the Caps don’t really care about the regular season. They won a Stanley Cup without competing for the Presidents’ Trophy. They know that they just need to get into the playoffs.
Losing Grubauer will hurt them though. For the last two season’s he was one of, if not the best backup goalie in the NHL. That will cost them a handful of games, which in the Metro, is the difference between winning the division, or coming in fourth.
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Still expect to see Ovi and the defending Cup champs in the playoffs.
3. Philadephia Flyers
Right where they finished last season. The Flyers are loaded on offense and defense again this season, especially after adding James van Reimsdyk. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gosteshbeir are top flight defenseman and Claude Giroux is coming of a, somehow, quite 100 points season.
The classic Flyers anchor that will drag them down the standings is their goaltending. Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliot and now Calvin Pickard will be the teams trio of stopgap solutions until they can get Carter Hart to the NHL.
The duo of Neuvirth and Elliot played just well enough to get the team to the playoffs and knocked out in six games. The trio will be tasked with doing the same thing while the offense is a top five scoring unit in the NHL this season.
The team is loaded and should make the playoffs easily this year.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
Great but not elite. College football fans have heard that way to much this week but it’s a perfect phrase to describe this Columbus Blue Jackets squad. The difference is in the NHL, a great team can, and often does, win the Stanley Cup.
From top to bottom this is the most talented Columbus Blue Jackets team in franchise history. They will roll four lines that no team in the conference can counter top to bottom. Even with the Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky drama, this team will outperform most of the division.
Bread and Bob both want huge contracts so I don’t see their performance falling despite the negotiation drama. The Jackets third and fourth lines will scare other teams and once Seth Jones is healthy, the team will have the best defensive pair in the East.
If it wasn’t for the second best player in the league being incredibly pissed off, I would have the Jackets winning the division. But…
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby‘s dream of a three-peat was destroyed by Alex Ovechkin and the rival Caps. Sid spent the whole summer watching Ovi and the Caps gallivanting with his Cup. That will not sit well with a player who when motivated, will go to the ends of the world to win.
It may seem cliche or even simplistic but that is enough to terrify me and think that the Pens are going to take no prisoners this season. The core or Kessel, Malkin, Crosby, Letang and Murray are back and healthy and that’s enough for this team to run through the division.
It really doesn’t matter who is on Sid’s wing, that line will be the best in the division. Expect the Pens to be just a mean team this year and make a run at at Presidents’ Trophy.