Bicks’ Eastern Conference Predictions
- Washington Capitals
Last year: 45-26-11 (101 points). Alex Ovechkin is entering his 11th season in the NHL and is still looking for his first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Ovechkin and Caps went out this offseason and added some key pieces to the puzzle to make them an even better team in the Eastern Conference. Improvements to the team include T.J. Oshie and Mr. Game-Seven himself, Justin William, making the Caps my favorite in the East.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
Last year: 43-27-12 (98 points). Not far behind the Caps in the East is the Pittsburgh Penguin. The Pens made the biggest splash this offseason by adding Phil Kessel to their lineup. A reenergized Kessel and healthy Olli Maatta make the Penguin a cup contender again in 2015-16.
- Tampa Bay Lightning
Last year: 50-24-8 (108 points). The Tampa Bay Lightning is coming off a loss in the Stanley Cup Finals. They are a young team filled with stars. Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Ben Bishop are the core that look to lead the Lightening to another great season. Stamkos is in the last year on his contract, which could become a distraction if the Bolts choose to wait to sign him to an extension.
- New York Rangers
Last year: 53-22-7 (113 points). The Rangers took home the President’s trophy last year with the NHL’s best record during the regular season, but the Rangers opportunity to succeed is shrinking. During the offseason, Martin St. Louis retired, and left huge skates to fill for the Rangers’ young talent. Look for forward, Kevin Hayes, to continue his success from last year and have another big year for New York. Also, with King Henrik in net, the Rangers will find a way to get into the playoffs and still enjoy some success for now.
- Montreal Canadiens
Last year: 50-22-10 (110 points). The best goalie in the game is Carey Price. Price alone makes the Canadiens a playoff team. The problem for the Habs, is the question if they can score enough this season? Their offseason move to improve their offense was the addition of Alexander Semin. Semin needs a 25+-goal scorer for Montreal to make them a threat in the Eastern Conference.
- Ottawa Senators
Last year: 43-26-13 (99 points). A crazy streak at the end of last season catapulted the Sens into playoffs. This year, with some experience under their belt, the Sens will be a dangerous young team in the Eastern Conference. Look for the forward, Mark Stone, to have a breakout second season in the NHL.
- Florida Panthers
Last year: 38-29-15 (91 points). The Florida Panthers almost snuck into the playoffs last year but I think this will be the year that they get it. The Panther are a funny story because they talent spread in all ages. Jaromir Jagr is still killing at age 43 and Aaron Ekblad, 19, who took home the Calder trophy last year for rookie of the year. Add in Reilly Smith, and the Panthers look like they could be a sleeper team in the East.
- Detroit Red Wings
Last year: 43-25-14 (100 points). The Red Wings have made it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 24 straight years. I think they make 25 straight but just by barely sneaking in. The big news out of training camp surrounding the Wings is Dylan Larkin, the former Michigan Wolverine. He’s only 19 years old and will be playing next to veteran Henrik Zetterberg. Those two together will be a very exciting duo to watch.
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- New York Islanders
- Boston Bruins
- Buffalo Sabres
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New Jersey Devils
Eastern Conference Finals Prediction: Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins.