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NHL Eastern Conference Predictions 2011-12

1. Washington Capitals- By adding Tomas Vokoun, Roman Hamrlik and Troy Brouwer, the Caps got even more talented this off-season. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green will all be hungry for comeback seasons in 2011-12 and I think the Caps will have their best season yet.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins- Last season, both Crosby and Malkin-- the Penguins top two players-- ran into injury problems. Despite their absence, the Penguins still managed to finish fourth in the East thanks to some great coaching by Dan Byslma. This year, with both the stars hopefully coming back healthy, I see the Pens winning the Atlantic and finishing top three.

3. Boston Bruins- The defending Stanley Cup champions will try and go back-to-back this year with a much similar line-up to last year's cup winning team.

4. Buffalo Sabres- After a quite disappointing season, the Sabres made major acquisitions in the off-season. They got themselves blue-liners Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr. Both will provide loads of support for former Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller who will be looking for a much better season in 2011-12.

5. New York Rangers- The Rangers made the biggest splash in the off-season as they signed top prized free agent Brad Richards. If him and Gaborik can both stay healthy, New York could end up anywhere near the top of the East. With Lundqvist in the crease, they are looking like a very dangerous team.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning- The Bolts had a very good season in year one under Steve Yzerman. With St. Louis and Stamkos leading the way, the big question is the goaltending: Will Dwayne Roloson be able to continue his heroics at 41?

7. Philadelphia Flyers- After their crazy make-over in the off-season, it's very hard to predict how the Flyers will do next season. I've put them at 7th but they could be much higher.

8. Montreal Canadiens- The Habs had a very successful season last year and they will be looking to build on it when next season starts in October. X-Factor: Can Carey Price play as good as he did in 2010-11?

9. Carolina Hurricanes- The Hurricanes had a very pleasant surprise from Jeff Skinner last season as he produced 63 points and took home the Calder Trophy. Sadly the Canes could not make the playoffs as they lost the last game of the season 6-2 to the Lightning. Carolina acquired Tomas Kaberle in July and they are hoping that he can give them an extra boost into the post-season.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs- It takes a Leafs fan like me to look at the depth charts of every team until I come to realize that the Leafs probably won't make the playoffs. But I'm not saying that they don't have a chance. They will surely be in the playoff race, especially after getting Cody Franson and Tim Connolly in the off-season. The one huge question facing Leafs nation: How will James Reimer do in his second season in the NHL?

11. New Jersey Devils- 13 straight years they had made the playoffs. But that streak came to an end in 2011. With Martin Brodeur getting old, I think it's safe to say that the Devils can say good-bye to the playoffs for a little while.

12. Winnipeg Jets- Canada finally got their seventh Canadian team as the Thrashers were re-located to Winnipeg. They are just not playoff ready yet though.

13. New York Islanders- Tavares, Strome, Grabner, Moulson, Okposo, Niederreiter...... the Isles have some very good young talent on their team. But before they can start thinking about the post-season, they need to find a goalie.

14. Florida Panthers- The Florida Panthers made lots of moves as they got big names, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski. But the departure of Tomas Vokoun will hurt a lot.

15. Ottawa Senators- Suddenly, the Ottawa Senators have found themselves at the bottom of the East in not only my predictions, but many others. The team is in rebuild mode and it will be a while before they can compete for the cup again.

Check out www.hockeybaseballtalk.com for more posts. Thanks for reading!

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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