With the calendar flipping to 2012 and the National Hockey League season nearly halfway over, the contenders will start to thrive as the pretenders will soon fall into the basement of the Eastern Conference. With the Bruins holding a four-point lead over the Senators — Bruins have five games in hand. — It’s time to look at who can dethrone the Bruins as Eastern Conference Champions.
Let’s start in New York where the Rangers — fresh off their 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Winter Classic — lead the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are as good as they come offensively as they led by Marian Gaborik, — 22-11-33 — Captain Ryan Callahan, — 13-16-29— and Brad Richards. — 14-15-29 — in my opinion the most dangerous weapon the Rangers have to offer is between the pipes. Henrk Ludquist is one of the best — if not the best — goalies in the National Hockey League. Despite the high scoring from both teams, a series between the two could lead to a boring defensive minded series.
When healthy the Pittsburgh Penguins are as dangerous as they come, but staying healthy seems to be an issue with the Pens. The Penguins have been without the league’s best player in Sidney Crosby as he still is out of action with post-concussion symptoms. The Penguins have also been without one of their top defensemen as Kris Letang continues to miss time due to a concussion. Top stars Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal have also missed time this season. Take a 100 percent healthy squad mix that with Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes and you get one scary team come April.
When the Flyers completely revamped their team in the offseason and seemed to finally solve their longtime goalie issues many people looked upon the moves as ones that will really work well, or force the team to fall flat on their face, it’s kind of hard to say which side of the fence the Flyers will be on till we see how they perform in the playoffs. Like the Rangers and Penguins the Broad Street Bullies can beat you in many ways. The Flyers are led by Claude Giroux, who despite missing some time due to a concussion is tied with Henrik Sedin for the league lead in points. The biggest blow the Flyers have suffered thus far has been the loss of Captain Chris Pronger. The gritty defenseman is out for the season with a concussion.
When the Washington Capitals brought in Tomas Vokoun to be their starting goalie it looked like this season could finally be the year that the “regular season heroes” Capitals got over the hump and reached the Stanley Cup Finals. A slow start has all but killed that notion. The Capitals canned head coach Bruce Boudreau who now is the bench boss in Anaheim. If the season ended today the Caps would be out of the playoff dance, but if the Caps do manage to finish in the top eight, it may not be smart to sleep on them. Anytime you have Alex Ovechkin on your side there’s always a chance.
Here you go Bruins fans.