On opening night, I made some predictions on how each Conference would shake out. Let’s peek back and see how things have shaken out so far in the East:
|Place||Prediction||Actual||On Pace For x Pts|
|6||New York Rangers||Atlanta||101|
|10||Florida||New York Rangers||85|
|12||Ottawa||New York Islanders||82|
|15||New York Islanders||Carolina||47|
1. New Jersey – While the biggest change was the loss of Brian Gionta, I gave more credit to the Devils than most, remembering they were legit President’s Cup contenders in 2008-9, counting on a full year of Martin Brodeur, and putting stock in the return of Jacques Lemaire.
2. You figured that Mike Green couldn’t duplicate last season, but not much other falloff was expected for the Capitals. With two capable goaltenders, Bruce Boudreau could pick whoever is playing better.
3. You can always expect a championship hangover, but the Penguins could be expected to be as hot as the end of last season, given the health of their key contributors.
4. I had Buffalo as a playoff team, though not this high. I counted on a full year of Ryan Miller making the difference.
5. Alex Kovalev is one of my favorites, but I expect Ottawa to fall off from where they currently sit. I did not believe that Pascal Leclaire was the answer, as many pundits did.
6. Atlanta has a better young nucleus than I gave them credit for. If they can hold on for a playoff berth, it will be a significant step for the franchise.
7. I expected significant regression to the mean for Boston, plus the loss of Phil Kessel to hurt. That said, they’ve been worse than I expected. And I thought Dennis Wideman was a good fantasy pick!
8. With the way they started the season, with a 1.00+ SRS, I’m shocked that the Flyers are on the playoff bubble. I didn’t believe in Ray Emery or that Chris Pronger would make this much difference. I still think it’s pretty much a tossup between NJD, PIT, and PHI for the division crown.
9. I thought the addition of ESTR darling Alex Tanguay would give the Lightning a boost, but their performance so far is above expectations.
10. I was actually tempted to put the Rangers as high as 4th, with the addition of Gaborik and Prospal and a full season of Tortorella, but thought that it looked a bit too crazy. A couple of weeks into the season, I was kicking myself a bit for not making that bold prediction. The Blue Shirts are still an intriguing team, with all of their good rookie contributions.
11. Montreal is a bubble team primarily due to their prowess in overtime and shootouts. Exchanging Tanguay, Koivu, and Kovalev for Cammalleri, Gomez, and Gionta figured to be more of less a wash. The loss of Andrei Markov hurt – with him back in the lineup after New Years’, they will still battle for a playoff spot.
12. It seemed that the ascent of the Islanders was still a year away. In a way, that would have been better, assuring another high draft pick this year. Tavares has been the real deal, though Streit has not lived up to last season’s level of play. They’ve played well enough were they certainly could make the postseason.
13. Florida has shown signs of life since a poor start. I’m not sure why anyone would have thought they’d make the second season after losing Bouwmeester and Anderson while not making any significant additions.
14. Hats off to the VUKOTA projection of the Leafs, which was worse than mine. I’ll give Toronto a chance to worsen their draft pick through Kessel’s performance and some meaningless trades at some point.
15. I’ll give myself credit for picking last season’s semifinalist Carolina to be out of the money this season – They were hot going into the playoffs -I was on them for the postseason- but it was all still a bit fluky, especially beating Boston. Placing Anton Babchuk in the doghouse for the playoffs and then not signing him were poor decisions. Outside of Eric Staal, they’e got few useful pieces, and those should be sold off in a hurry. The Hurricanes get the first pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, hands down.
Look for my article on Marian Gaborik in Monday’s ESPN Insider.