Our 2011-2012 Northeast Division Preview - Part One
The Northeast Division appears to be one of, if not the toughest division in the National Hockey League for the 2011-2012 season. With the defending champion, Boston Bruins, considered the front runner in the league and the Montreal Canadiens returning a strong team as well, the Sabres will have their work cut out for them this season. Here is what the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens should look like this upcoming season:
We all know how the Boston Bruins finished the season and the fact that they did that puts them as the front runners to do it again this season.
Joe Corvo comes to the Bruins after having spent last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Corvo played in all 82 games with the Canes and registered 40 points during his time in Carolina. He comes to the Bruins with nine years of experience. On the offensive side of the puck, Benoit Pouliot comes over from the hated rival Montreal Canadiens where he spent the last season and a half. Last year, Pouliot had 30 points in 79 games which would have put him just ahead of Gregory Campbell for 12th among Bruins skaters.
Tomas Kaberle, the Bruins trade deadline acquisition from the Toronto Maple Leafs, moved on to the Carolina Hurricanes, Michael Ryder went to the Dallas Stars, and Mark Recchi officially retired.
What To Look For
Not much has changed for the Boston Bruins and the strength of their teams starts with the goaltending. Vezina winner Tim Thomas will start in net for the Bruins and is coming off his best statistical season of his career with a .938 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average. He also has Tuukka Rask backing him up who has been a solid goaltender in his career with a .925 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average in his career.
The Bruins will have a tough road to face as everyone seems to gun for the defending champions. They will finish 1st in the division though with 101 points.
After the jump, we take a look at the Montreal Canadiens.
The Montreal Canadiens finished the season with 96 points, the same amount as the Sabres, which was good for 6th place in the conference due to a total of 44 wins. The Canadiens were ousted in the first round by the Boston Bruins.
The Canadiens biggest addition to the team came on offense with Erik Cole coming over from the Carolina Hurricanes. Cole had 26 goals and 52 points in 82 games for the Hurricanes last season, which would have made him the team leader in goals for the team. The backup goaltender position flips from Alex Auld to Peter Budaj as well.
The Canadiens lost a handful of players including Benoit Pouliot to the Boston Bruins, James Wisniewski to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jeff Halpern and Roman Hamrlik to the Washington Capitals, and Alexandre Picard to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In total, the Canadiens lost a total of 128 points to free agency.
What To Watch For
The Canadiens strength came with the defense last year with a total of 209 goals against last year, good for 9th lowest in the league and 2nd lowest in the division behind the Boston Bruins. Carey Price has been the anointed one in Montreal for the last few season and that isn't going to change anytime soon. Montreal is a tough place to play when a player is struggling so a solid performance for Carey Price is going to be key for the Canadiens to have a solid season.
The Canadiens offense wasn't strong with only 216 goals scored, the lowest amount for a team that made the playoffs. The addition of Erik Cole should help the offense a little but the team needs players such as Michael Cammalleri and Scott Gomez to step up and produce more as well.
The Canadiens are going to be a tough team to score on and that is how they are going to win most of their games. That being said, they are going to be in a dogfight to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with 94 points.