2009-10 NHL Preview: Northeast Division

Zdeno Chara

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 Northeast Division for the 2009-10 NHL Preview.

Boston Bruins1. Boston Bruins

Despite the loss of Phil Kessel the Bruins are still a very talented team and should win the Northeast Division for the second year in a row.

Boston is just littered with players who can put the puck in the net. Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron make up the top 6. Keeping in mind that doesn’t include players like Mark Recchi, Marco Sturm and youngsters Vladimir Sobotka, Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill.

The Bruins defence looks just as good lead by the Big “Z” himself Zdeno Chara. Dennis Wideman and Derek Morris will help Chara with offensive production from the blue line while players like Andrew Ference and Mark Stuart will give the team some solid defensive play.

Tim Thomas will look to post another 30+ win season and capture back-to-back Vezina Trophies and the highly touted Tuukka Rask will strut his stuff as the team’s backup.

Montreal Canadiens2. Montreal Canadiens

To say Montreal’s 100th season was a disappointment would be an understatement. However, they’ve made a lot of changes to their core and appear that they’ll be a tougher team to play against.

The Canadiens made a big trade to acquire Scott Gomez as their #1 centre then went out and signed Brian Gionta hoping the two can rekindle the magic they had together in New Jersey. However, their big signing came in the form of Mike Cammalleri who will be looking to develop some chemistry with Tomas Plekanec.

Although they lost hard-nosed defenceman Mike Komisarek to the rival Leafs, the Habs defence looks solid. Andrei Markov will lead things from the point a long with Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek. Paul Mara, Josh Gorges and Hal Gill add some good depth and Ryan O’Byrne will make things interesting with his toughness.

Carey Price took a step backwards last season and will look to find some of the magic he found during his rookie season. Jaroslav Halak proved last year that he’s a solid backup and capable of filling in if Price goes down due to injury.

Ottawa Senators3. Ottawa Senators

Just like the Canadiens, the Senators 2008-09 season is one they’d like to forget.

Upfront Ottawa looks pretty good, especially their top 6. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Alexei Kovalev, Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek highlight the top 6 group. Mike Fisher will be asked to be the 2nd line centre but is more suited for the 3rd line. Shean Donovan, Nick Foligno, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu make up a solid bottom 6 that’ll be tough to play against.

They don’t have one name that really stands out on defence, but as a unit they should be effective. Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Chris Campoli and Filip Kuba make up a decent top 4 with guys like Brian Lee, Erik Karlsson, Alexandre Picard and the surprising Matt Carkner battling it out for the 3rd pairing.

The Sens are hoping to finally get some stability in net with Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott is a solid backup and able to step in if Leclaire falls to injury…which could very well happen.

Toronto Maple Leafs4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Despite the improved blue line and addition of Phil Kessel I still see the Leafs finishing behind the Sens this season.

Phil Kessel highlights the Leafs forward group, however he isn’t expected to play until mid November and that’s if everything goes according to plan. Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell all had successful rookie campaigns in 2008-09 and will look to improve. Jason Blake had a nice rebound season and Niklas Hagman could end up scoring 30 goals if he stays healthy. Viktor Stalberg has looked great in camp and preseason and should be an interesting wild card to keep an eye on.

Defence is definitely Toronto’s strength. They have a solid top 4 with Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and Luke Schenn. Which leaves Ian White, Mike Van Ryn, Garnet Exelby, Jeff Finger and Carl Gunnarsson to battle it out for the 3rd pairing.

Vesa Toskala will look to rebound after a sub par year and Jonas Gustavsson will look to show why people were calling him the best goaltender not in the NHL last year.

Buffalo Sabres5. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres managed 91 points last season and were ever so close to making the playoffs. However, looking at their defence I see a disappointing season ahead for Buffalo.

Upfront the Sabres don’t look too bad with Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Pominville did suffer a set back last season only collecting 66 points and the team will be looking for Drew Stafford to step it up as well and improve from his 45 points from last season. The ever talented Tim Connolly managed 47 points in 48 games last year but never seems to be able to stay healthy.

Defence is where this team really struggles. Even as a unit I don’t seem them being able to stop other team’s top scorers. Craig Rivet, Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman and Steve Montador are solid defenceman but wouldn’t consider any of them 1st pairing material. Youngsters Nathan Paetsch, Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler will be battling it out with Joe DiPenta for the final spots.

Ryan Miller will look to post his 5th consecutive 30+ win season and will have to stand on his head if the Sabres are to challenge for a playoff spot again this season. At 35-years old Patrick Lalime is on the downside of his career but is still a fairly reliable backup.

Tags: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carey Price, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, NHL Preview, Northeast Division, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Ryan Miller, Scott Gomez, Thomas Vanek, Tim Thomas, Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs, Zdeno Chara,