As I was rummaging through my old Hockey News from this season, I came across the season preview for this season. Amazingly enough, it had the prediction of where the teams would finish at the end of the year. The reality of it is that it couldn't be further from what is actually happening, but who can blame them. I don't think many could have thought of some teams doing what they are doing. So, here's the breakdown of THN's picks with where they actually are in the standings in parenthesis (as of Saturday Night). Here's a look at the Eastern Conference today, with the West coming tomorrow (damn east coast bias):
1. Philadelphia Flyers (5th)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (T-7th)
3. Ottawa Senators (T-1st)
4. Boston Bruins (13th)
5. New Jersey Devils (6th)
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (15th)
7. Atlanta Thrashers (9th)
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (10th)
9. Florida Panthers (11th)
10. Montreal Canadiens (T-7th)
11. New York Islanders (12th)
12. New York Rangers (3rd)
13. Buffalo Sabres (4th)
14. Carolina Hurricanes (T-1st)
15. Washington Capitals (14th)
Now, to be honest, you couldn't have predicted that the tandem on Broadway (Kevin Weekes and Henrik Lundqvist) would be as dominant as they have been, but surprises come in odd situations. The other New York teams in the mix, Buffalo, has just been like the team that made it to the Cup in '99, a gritty, win at all cost team; however they haven't had the best of luck down the stretch, but it's getting better.
The Hurricanes are a team that had a ton of talent and a ton of unknown variables. Martin Gerber, who some thought outplayed J-S Giguere in Anaheim, has shown his top game; Eric Staal is living up to his high Draft status, while guys like Aaron Ward and Mike Commodore have been quietly having superb defensive seasons.
However, the Bruins all but threw away their chances with the trade of Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, which resulted in Mike O'Connell having to find a new job, which could be the first of many for the B's.
The Penguins were a team that loaded up around Sidney Crosby looking for a renaissance. That, obviously, didn't happen. Though they looked good on paper, the weakness was on defense and in goal. It was alright that they could score 5 goals a night, like everyone else in the league, but a good offense does not a winning team make. If I'm the Pens and I get the first choice of the Draft-- I go after Erik Johnson to shore up some defense for the years to come, even if they aren't in Pittsburgh.
Of course, the old saying is hindsight is 20/20, and this is proving to be true. No one could expect what the new NHL would have brought. Obviously, the tides have turned and some players who plenty thought would have given up has found their stride and are tearing up the league. It's an odd animal in the new NHL, but it almost shows even more parity in the game than there already is.