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PHT staff projects the Eastern Conference playoff teams

Oct 6, 2011, 11:14 AM EDT

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

We here at PHT have already hooked you up with who we think is going to win the Stanley Cup and the NHL’s biggest awards so now we’re going to do the really adventurous predictions and see if we can figure out just how we think the conference standings will play out.

Since we’ve got a raging East Coast bias here, we’re starting off with the Eastern Conference. With Washington and Buffalo improved, Philly changing things up, Boston looking to repeat, and Pittsburgh lurking about things could shake out in any direction. Here’s what we’re thinking.

Joe Yerdon says:
1. Washington Capitals
2. Boston Bruins
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. New York Rangers
8. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Leafs, Devils, Isles, and Hurricanes will be in the playoff hunt until late in the season but Tampa and the Rangers will nose them out. Boston is still the class of the Northeast despite Buffalo’s advances and it’s only destiny that they’d draw Philly again in the playoffs. Washington should do just fine again in the Southeast while Pittsburgh is going to be the class of the Atlantic. Winnipeg and Ottawa should be terrible. At least they’ll sell out all year in the ‘Peg.

James O’Brien says:
1. Washington Capitals
2. Boston Bruins
3. Philadelphia Flyers
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. New York Rangers
8. Montreal Canadiens

The Capitals have a little of everything: that same offensive top-end with extra elbow grease, a versatile defense that will improve with Roman Hamrlik‘s addition and one of the best goalies in the NHL. The Sabres are the chic pick in the Northeast, but Boston’s deep down the middle, features the East’s best defenseman and best goalie combo. You can make a legitimate argument for four teams to make the Atlantic Division – even my 11th pick, the Devils – but my gut feeling is that people are sleeping on Ilya Bryzgalov. The 5-8 seeds feature some injury worries (in the Lightning’s case it’s a “What if Dwayne Roloson gets hurt because he’s really old?” worry) and other flaws that should keep them from the playoffs. The most interesting teams that didn’t make the top 8 are the wild card-heavy Leafs, the still-proud Devils and two young teams in the Jets and the Islanders. I’m not a huge fan of the Panthers rebuild, but that might work out too.

Matt Reitz says:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Washington Capitals
3. Boston Bruins
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. New York Rangers
8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Even though Pittsburgh played half the season without Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, they transformed themselves into a defensive team, and tied for the Atlantic Division championship. With two of the best players in the world returning, they should be the cream of the crop. The Caps have proven they are an elite regular season team and the Bruins still should be better than the Sabres. The Flyers slip just because of all the question marks surrounding the team as they attempt to find some team chemistry. The Maple Leafs slide into the final playoff spot because James Reimer should give them some solid goaltending for the first time in years. They may not be a great team, but they’ll rise up and improve a couple of spots in the standings. If any of the eight teams slip, the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes will be there to steal one of the last spots.

With that all squared away – check out our Western Conference previews here – who do you see winning the Eastern Conference? Let us know in our poll.

  1. weagz - Oct 6, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Why must EVERYBODY that lives in the three river valley insist on picking the Pens to win it all EVERY YEAR?!? My god! What do they put in the water that keeps them devoid of objectivity. Is it possible for a Pittsburgh hockey analyst to say “ya know what, Fleury is good, but incredibly inconsistent. Crosby may be out for a LLLLOOONNNGGG time and Malkin is a guy that flat out does not show up all the time. The team, which has struggled to find scoring wingers to support Crosby and Malkin still has not shored up this issue.” “Transformed themselves into a defensive team….” My god. Why do you even bother to rank the other 14 teams in the east because it’s clear that you are the biggest homer out there. To be clear, yes, they should be good enough to make the playoffs and are potentially good enough to win the division but, give me a friggen break! If Crosby is out until February they may not even make the playoffs.

    You suck!

    • abrienza428 - Oct 6, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      Calm down

      • weagz - Oct 6, 2011 at 12:06 PM

        Just once. Point to me a Pittsburgh “Hockey Analyst” that says “ya know, we struggled to score goals even with Crosby last year, we may not be so fortunate this year. Gulp, we may finish 4th in the east!” OH THE HUMANITY! Surely, said person would be asked to move to Greensburg, turn in one of their 17 Crosby Jerseys, and to not be allowed to listen to Mike Lange on the radio. Scratch my back with a hacksaw that would be the type of bold optimism that would me respect you!

      • abrienza428 - Oct 6, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        They didn’t struggle to score with Crosby. It could definitely be argued he carried the load for a while, but so what?
        They played 2 games last year with Crosby, Malkin and Staal in the lineup. They grinded out wins and had a team that eventually was one win from the finals on the ropes before letting it slip away. They didn’t lose any vital players, and Malkin and Staal are healthy. It seems Crosby is vastly improving, so it’s expected he’ll be back before the All-Star break.
        It’s logical to place them near the top of the heap.

        Who cares anyway? Don’t read predictions if they’re going to get you this worked up. Just enjoy the games.

    • hockeyfan1701 - Oct 6, 2011 at 12:40 PM

      They tied for the division crown without their two big guns and Staal was out for half of the season last year. If 2 of 3 are there for the entire season logic would dictate good things. Now if all 3 are there for most of the season, look out. So Mr. Weagz take your head from your lower region of your body……

    • pdmjr - Oct 6, 2011 at 7:39 PM

      Nor sir, You suck

  2. abrienza428 - Oct 6, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    1. Washington
    2. Pittsburgh
    3. Boston
    4. Philadelphia
    5. Buffalo
    6. NYR
    7. Tampa Bay
    8. Carolina

  3. sippindasyzurp - Oct 6, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    5.Tampa Bay

    • pacash80 - Oct 8, 2011 at 10:34 PM

      Only someone with a name like that could pick Winnipeg to make the playoffs.

  4. skoobyfl - Oct 6, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Espn picked the Sabres to win their conference & the SC from several people, maybe you guys are just a step behind.

    • Joe Yerdon - Oct 6, 2011 at 4:32 PM

      Considering how well ESPN’s experts did picking the baseball playoffs, I like our chances.

  5. capsrockva - Oct 6, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    As much as I love the Caps and despise the Pens, I would be happy with not winning the EC. Being the #1 seed hasn’t done anything for us

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