Same old story in the Atlantic Division so far in 2011? The Penguins and Flyers look good while the Rangers, Devils and Islanders look average with moments of greatness.
It doesn’t seem like much of a difference but the Penguins and Flyers are averaging 3 goals a game while the Rangers, Devils and Islanders are averaging right around 2. In the NHL one more goal a game is huge and an average of 3 a game is excellent.
There will be games where a team with be shutout and there will be games where that same team will post 6 or more goals but maintaining consistency is the key in this league. You don’t want to put too much pressure on your goaltender on a nightly basis and right now that is an issue the Rangers, Devils and Islanders have to overcome.
On paper the New York Rangers should be atop their division all season long but we aren’t seeing their offense gel yet. With Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and the young supporting cast of Brandon Prust and Brandon Dubinsky, this Ranger team should be winning more games. The good news is they haven’t even played 10 games yet and Lundqvist is playing to his usual level of dominance. Once the season settles in and the Rangers learn more about themselves we will see that reflected in the win column.
The Rangers will never be an offensive power like the Penguins or Capitols but they have the tools to put the puck in the net. I would like to see Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Michael del Zotto become more involved in the offense in the coming weeks.
The New Jersey Devils might be in a slightly more desperate situation early in the season, mainly due to the fact that their aging goaltender, Martin Brodeur has already sustained an injury causing him to miss games. Johan Hedberg has proven over the years that he is not a long-term answer to a team’s goaltending issues. If Brodeur can’t stay healthy I would be surprised to see this Devil team in the playoff hunt at the end of the regular season.
The big three offensive players on the Devils are looking strong so far but there isn’t much depth to support these guys. Kovalchuk, Parise and Elias seem to be the only ones scoring so far. David Clarkson has shown us some promise but is he a season-long scorer? The answer is no. Last season Clarkson finished with 18 points in 82 games. The Devils will have to look elsewhere for support and it will be interesting to see where that comes from.
The time has finally come for me to be able to say that the New York Islanders look solid so far this season. They are not yet ready to win a division or make a serious playoff run but they have what it takes to cause problems. They too have not played many games to this point but John Tavares is looking great and his supporters, PA Parenteau, Mark Streit and Matt Moulson are getting in on the action. If this team can stay consistent throughout the season the Islanders will find themselves battling with the Rangers for that last playoff spot.
Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov are both solid netminders who offer a team a chance to win every night. I will not be surprised to see the Islanders win 40-45 games this season.