2009-10 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division

Sidney Crosby

Total Pro Sports – With the start of the 2009-10 NHL Season upon us it’s time to take a look and see how each team stacks up. As per the norm, each preview will be broken down by division in order of how we think the team will finish.

Lets take a look at the Atlantic Division for the 2009-10 NHL Preview.

Pittsburgh Penguins1. Pittsburgh Penguins

Obviously not a big surprise here. As seems to be the trend, the Penguins did loose some players to free agency during the summer but they’ve managed to keep their core together which is huge.

Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin showed some nice chemistry playing together in last year’s playoffs and will look to continue that success for the 2009-10 season. Evgeni Malkin unfortunately lost his linemate in Petr Sykora to Minnesota, but Malkin is too good of a player to let that stop him from collecting 100+ points. Jordan Staal leads a group of players looking to provide some secondary scoring with Matt Cooke, Maxime Talbot and Michael Rupp adding some sandpaper.

Defence is probably the one weak spot for the Penguins but when looking at their blueline it’s anything but. Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski supply the offence from the back end while Mark Eaton, Jay McKee and Brooks Orpik hold things down in the defensive end.

Marc-Andre Fleury showed in the playoffs that even though he may not be one of the top goaltenders in the league, he is capable of making the key save at the right time which is all Pittsburgh needs with their fire power. Despite some injury issues, Brent Johnson had a solid season with Washington last year and is a solid back-up.

Philadelphia Flyers2. Philadelphia Flyers

Bit of a disappointing season for the Flyers last year after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2007-08 season. However, like the Pens, Philly has managed to keep their core players and with the addition of Chris Pronger will be one of the harder teams to play against.

The great young duo of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will look to lead the Flyers offence yet again this season. If Daniel Briere and Simon Gagne can stay healthy for longer than 40 games and Scott Hartnell can duplicate his 2008-09 campaign Philly could challenge the likes of Pittsburgh, Washington and Detroit as the league’s highest scoring team. Claude Giroux will look to build off a successful rookie season and highly touted prospect James Van Riemsdyk looks poised to make the opening day roster and possibly compete for the Calder Trophy.

The Flyers defence looks solid with Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle playing the point on the power play and also very capable in their own end. Ryan Parent, Braydon Coburn and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen are three big young defencemen that’ll bring a solid defensive presence.

As per the norm since Ron Hextall left, the Flyers goaltending is a big question mark. Ray Emery has looked good so far during preseason but it’s only preseason and a lot can happen between now and early/mid April. Brian Boucher played great for the Sharks last year but at 32-years old will probably start running into some injury problems.

New Jersey Devils3. New Jersey Devils

After a disappointing end to their 2008-09 season in the game 7 loss to Carolina, New Jersey will look to rebound with a solid 2009-10 campaign.

Zach Parise leads the Devils offence with another young player in Travis Zajac looking to improve off of a  great 2008-09 season. Brendan Shanahan, Patrik Elias Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rolston will look to help put the puck in the net as well but with Jacques Lemiare behind the bench, don’t look for it to happen as often as it did last year.

The Devils defence doesn’t stand out as great, but they do have some solid players and should end up working well together as a unit. Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya and Cory Murphy will be looked upon to supply a majority of the scoring from the point. Players such as Colin White, Mike Mottau and Bryce Salvador will be looked upon to keep things simple and play solid in their own end.

Martin Brodeur will look to build on what will be a Hall of Fame career and Yann Danis will have a great time watching from the bench. If Marty misses a handful of games due to injury like last year things could get interesting as they don’t have a guy like Scott Clemmensen currently in their system that’d be able to help bail them out.

New York Rangers4. New York Rangers

Unlike some people I actually like the look of the Rangers this year and think they have enough to finish ahead of the Devils and possibly compete with the Flyers for second in the division. However, the Atlantic is a very tough division so I have them in the four spot, but I expect them to make the playoffs.

Just like the past few years, the Rangers have a solid forward group heading into the season. However, there is one big question…can Marian Gaborik stay healthy? If he can, adding him to the likes of Chris Drury, Chris Higgins, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Vincent Prospal New York could surprise.

The biggest question mark has to be on defence. Wade Redden needs to step it up big time and Matt Gilroy will have to show why he won the 2009 Hobey Baker Award. Daniel Girardi, Michal Rozsival and Marc Staal are all good bets to have a solid 2009-10 season.

Henrik Lundqvist is one of the top goalies in the league and should have himself another 30+ win season. Steve Valiquette played well when relied upon last season and is one of the more underrated backups in the league.

New York Islanders5. New York Islanders

I don’t think I’m blowing anyone’s mind here with this pick. The Islanders have some decent young players coming up, but it’ll still be another 2-3 years before you can even think about the playoffs with this team.

As it looks right now the Islanders offence will live and die by John Tavares. Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu, Blake Comeau, Jeff Tambellini and Kyle Okposo make up a solid but inexperienced core of young players. Doug Weight, Richard Park and Trent Hunter will try to help the young players adjust to life in the NHL with their experience and leadership while also chipping in a few goals in the process.

With Brendan Witt, Mark Streit and Bruno Gervais the Islanders defence doesn’t look terrible. It doesn’t look great, but it isn’t horrible.

Goaltending is definitely New York’s strength for the 2009-10 season. With Garth Snow unconvinced about Rick DiPietro’s health he went out and signed both Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. Both upgrades over Yann Danis and Joey MacDonald from last year.

Tags: Atlantic Division, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Jeff Carter, John Tavares, Marian Gaborik, Martin Brodeur, Mike Richards, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL, NHL Preview, Philadelphia Flyers, pittsburgh penguins, Rick DiPietro, sidney crosby, Zach Parise,