After winning the Stanley Cup, what can the Penguins to for an encore? During the off-season, the team lost Rob Scuderi and big man Hal Gil to free agency. They also added goalie Brent Johnson from Washington. Johnson went 12-6-2 with a .908 save percentage before suffering a season ending hip injury. Few teams have a pair of players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points with 113. Crosby finished third in points with 103 and tallied 70 assists. Marc-Andre Fleury is won of the most reliable goalies in the league. He recorded 35 wins with a .912 save percent. The Pens need to move on from last season and focus on this year.
The Bruins had the best record in the East with 116 points. For Boston, it starts with goal tending. All-Star Tim Thomas shared the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals against with backup goalie Manny Fernandez; Thomas also won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for best save percentage and the Vezina Trophy for goaltender of the year. In front of Thomas, stands All-Star Defenseman and Captain Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-9 inch Chara, won the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the defenseman of the year. Boston's defense led the league in goals against averaging only 2.32 per game. They also have an offense. Last season, the Bruins ranked second in the league in scoring averaging 3.26 goals-per-game. On Sept. 18, the Bruins leading scorer, Phil Kessel signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins did not match their offer. Boston needs to replace Kessel's 36 goals if they want to contend this year.
The Capitals are coming off their second consecutive Southeast Division title. Alex Ovechkin is coming off of his second consecutive Hart Trophy. The Caps lost veterans Sergei Fedorov and Victor Kozlov to the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. To replace them, the Caps signed right winger Mike Knuble and center Brendan Morrison. Last season, Knuble tallied 27 goals, mostly from camping in front of the goal and deflecting shots or rebounds. The defense is anchored by offensive-defenseman Mike Green. Green scored 31 goals, ranking him twenty-ninth in the league, eight more than second place Sheldon Souray of the Oilers. In goal, Jose Theodore has been named the starter by head coach Bruce Boudreau, but Semyon Varlamov had a strong postseason. Theodore needs to be consistent or he will be replaced. Goaltending will be the key to Washington's success.
This season, the Flyers will contend with the Penguins for the Atlantic Division. Led by Captain Mike Richards, the Flyers are a big and physical team. During the off season, Philadelphia signed enforcer Chris Pronger. He scored 48 points and recorded 88 penalty-minutes. In goal, the Flyers gambled and signed Ray Emery from the Atlant Moscow of the KHL. On offense, Philly ranked fifth in the league averaging 3.17 goals-per-game. Jeff Carter led the team with 46 goals and 84 points. The Flyers are looking for Danny Briere to return from an injury filled year and contribute 30 goals again.
New Jersey Devils
When Martin Brodeur is in goal, the Devils are always a contender. Brodeur has 557 wins in 999 regular season games, which makes him the NHL's all-time leader in regular season wins. New Jersey quietly won 51 games and compiled 106 points, winning the Atlantic Division in 2009. The Devils offense is highlighted by 25-year-old Zach Parise and 24-year-old Travis Zajac. Parise ranked third in the league in goals with 45 and fifth in the league in points with 94. Zajac recorded 42 assists and a plus/minus +33. On defense, the Devils need to reduce the number of shots taken against the aging Brodeur. The Devils will be led by head coach Jacques Lemaire, who returns after coaching in Minnesota.
The Hurricanes came on strong towards the end of 2009, reaching to Eastern Conference Finals. The Canes had to go through the Devils and Bruins to reach the finals. Carolina may not have gone out and signed any big names, but they still had a great offseason. They extended the tenures of Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, Tuomo Ruutu, and goalie Cam Ward. The team is led by the oldest Staal brother, Eric and Captain Rod Brind'Amour. Last season, Staal led the Canes with 40 goals while Ray Whitney led the team in points with 70. In goal, Cam Ward finished third in the league with 39 wins. Carolina has all the pieces to challenge Washington in the Southeast.