In the East, I think the two surprises are FLA and TOR, and I somwhat expect them to eventually be replaced by MTL and TB. Also, I think in the end, BUF, NJ and CAR will be fighting for the last playoff spot.
Rationale for my logic:
1. Can FLA keep up the scoring with 1 main line? Will Theodore hold up over the haul?
2. Can TOR keep up their scoring, can their defense stay healthy and can their goaltending limit the Goals against a little more?
3. NJ - Kovalchuck and Brodeur (although Hedberg has played well in streaks) are really the keys to this team staying consistent. When both Parise and Kovy have 1/2 as many points as the aging Elias, they should be thankful to be as high as 8th in the east.
4. What's up with BUF chemistry and team D - they have too much talent to keep playing this bad.
5. Same story in CAR - Is anyone else surprised how poorly they're playing?
Last, I know it's been mentioned before, but our NYR energy and grit doesn't seem the same this season. Last game vs. WAS they showed that when the effort is there (on both sides of the ice) good things can happen. So, I'm suggesting if we can keep infusing the hungry youth into the line-up it may improve the overall team energy.
Comments and/or predictions anyone?