Power Rankings: Atlantic Division Outlook

A team’s record and where they finish in their division is not always the determining factor in how strong they are.  The Flyers barely stopped the playoff door from slamming shut on them in the regular season and ended up only two wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. Philly also took down the division winning New Jersey Devils in round 1 to begin their journey and watched the number two seeded Penguins fall to the eight seeded Canadiens in round 2.

It’s easy to think that the Flyers will top the Atlantic Division in the coming season but there are many factors that can change a team’s chemistry from one season to another. In the 2009-10 season the Carolina Hurricanes made it to round 3 of the playoffs before losing to a Pittsburgh team that went on to win the cup.  This past season Carolina struggled and was placed in the bottom five of the NHL’s overall power ranking.

Success can come and go very fast in this league.  Looking to the 2010-11 season, the Atlantic Division power ranking will be changing slightly.  Last year’s list from best to worst looked like this:

  1. New Jersey Devils
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. Philadelphia Flyers
  4. New York Rangers
  5. New York Islanders

If the Devils can lock down Ilya Kovalchuk with a contract that keeps him happy, there is a good chance they can be back at or near the top of this list after next season wraps up but with an aging Martin Brodeur and inconsistent Johan Hedberg as a back-up, there may be issues.

The Penguins will play the same way they always play, a high scoring offense centered around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with an average defense that finds a way to win games. Goaltending issues may come into play as well but their offense will carry them to the top of the Atlantic and deep into the playoffs once again.

The Flyers had a tremendous season last year and will look to continue that same style of play that almost won them a championship.  With some help on defense the Flyers hope to put a team on the ice that will compete with the best all season long.  Offensively I am not yet sold on this team.  They have a lot to prove next season and all eyes will be on them to see if last year was just a case of a team getting hot at the right time or if they are now a top Eastern Conference contender.

With the most solid goaltender in the division right now, the Rangers have a good chance to improve on last season’s letdown.  Adding Martin Biron as a back-up to Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers might be able to give their star goaltender a few extra days off during the season saving him for a playoff run.  With Marian Gaborik running the offense and some of the young rising stars developing nicely, this New York team could see themselves winning more games.

The Islanders will more than likely continue their struggles this season on both ends of the ice. Goaltending injuries and lack of production offensively will make it tough for this team to contend in a very strong Atlantic Division.

My prediction for the 2010-11 season Atlantic Division power ranking is:

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. Philadelphia Flyers
  3. New Jersey Devils
  4. New York Rangers
  5. New York Islanders
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