We’re now passing the first “period” of the 2010 season and every team has developed their identity. In the Atlantic Division it’s clear who the best and worst teams are.
Only time will tell if Philadelphia can overtake Pittsburgh or if the New York Islanders can scramble out of the bottom and pass New Jersey before it’s too late. The Rangers seem destined to stay in the middle unable to put together long winning streaks that would enable them to catch the Flyers and or Penguins.
Pittsburgh has the most points in the entire NHL to this point with no signs of slowing down. It’s not a guarantee just yet but they seem to be the favorites to win the division and possibly take the number one seed in the East. Sidney Crosby is still scoring at will and making it look easy. Is there any team capable of beating the Penguins in a seven game series? Washington? Montreal? Right now I don’t see it.
The Flyers are solid contenders, showing they can score and play with anyone but like the Rangers they have been unable to string together a decent win streak since early November as they watch Pittsburgh pull away in the standings. The Flyers have what it takes to make the playoffs this season and I’m sure we’ll see a highly competitive effort from them as a fourth or fifth seed.
The Rangers found scoring from some of their younger players and Marian Gaborik is back healthy again with Chris Drury and Vaclav Prospal also on their way back. The future looks good for this team but depth is a weakness that is tough to overcome when facing the top teams. This New York team can make a playoff run but they will have to contend with teams like Buffalo, Atlanta and Ottawa for those final spots.
The Devils have shown some life recently but then tend to drop another three straight games. This season is not looking good to this point and a Devils mid to late season run may not happen this time. The good news is Brodeur will be back any day now but the bad news is he can’t score goals.
Since the Islanders managed to lose every game in November besides the very last one against the Devils, they are now beginning another losing streak. Four games into December and this New York team has yet to win a game. If December is anything like November this new losing streak would all but end the season for this Islander team that doesn’t play the Devils until December 23rd.
Along with having the league’s best team in the Penguins, the Atlantic also has the two worst. With that we still could see three Atlantic Division teams making playoff appearances. The Penguins and Flyers would have to collapse or be plagued with injury to fall short but the New York Rangers have some work to do if they want to be there as well.