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Back on August 25 of 2011, yours truly took his shot at predicting the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings at season’s end. It is now November 30, just over three months after those initial predictions were made.
Now past the one quarter mark of the regular season, we have been able to get a good idea of how each team is going to perform this season. That certainly doesn’t mean there won’t be change, but it’s still a good time to look back on those predictions and see how the conference is actually shaping up.
Below are the current standings as of November 30 at 9:12 am EST. In brackets you will find the original prediction.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (2)
It took awhile before Sidney Crosby was finally ready to return, but the Penguins were able to keep on rolling without him. Now that he’s back, he’s tearing up the league and only improves Pittsburgh’s shot at a Stanley Cup title.
2. Florida Panthers (13)
The first big surprise comes by way of the Panthers, who have been riding the hot hand of Kris Versteeg for much of the season. Perhaps who has helped the Panthers the most, though, has been defenceman Brian Campbell, who has 20 points and is a plus-6.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (10)
The second surprise, the Maple Leafs, got off to a hot start again this season. No one was sure if they could keep it up, but they have, even without possible All-Star goalie James Reimer. Now people have to wonder if this team is for real.
4. New York Rangers (7)
The Rangers have had their ups and their downs through the first 21 games of the 2011-2012 season. They currently hold three or more games in hand on each team ahead of them and could easily be leading the NHL right now.
5. Boston Bruins (5)
The Bruins sit exactly where they were anticipated to finish at the end of the season. After a brutal start to the campaign, the Bs won ten straight games before dropping a 3-2 decision to the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout.
6. Philadelphia Flyers (4)
This young Flyers team has fared relatively well in an extremely tight Eastern Conference. Claude Giroux (29 points in 23 games) has to be considered the bright spot, while Scott Hartnell has done a complete 180 after a terrible start to the season.
7. Buffalo Sabres (3)
It has been somewhat of a disappointing season for the retooled Sabres through the first 24 games. There are multiple players who have struggled for the team this season, but none like Ville Leino, who has yet to prove he’s worth his $4.5 million salary.
8. Ottawa Senators (15)
The Senators have surprised a lot of people this season. With such a young and inexperienced squad that lacks a lot of on-ice talent, it looked as though it was going to be a rough season. Veterans have really led the way, though; especially Jason Spezza.
9. New Jersey Devils (11)
The Devils are trying to rebound from an unexpectedly nasty 2010-2011 season which saw them finish with 81 points. Adam Henrique, who has 14 points in 19 games, may be the most welcomed surprise. Jersey also owns the league’s best penalty kill at 94.2 percent.
10. Washington Capitals (1)
Talk about a shocker. The Capitals got off to a 7-0-0 start before everything went way downhill. In fact, things got so bad that general manager George McPhee fired head coach Bruce Boudreau. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin have gone completely silent.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (6)
The 1-3-1 formation, otherwise known as The Trap, hasn’t exactly been working for the Lightning this season. Tampa averages more than three goals against per game and has allowed the ninth most amount of goals in the entire league.
12. Montreal Canadiens (8)
A slow start has really hurt the Canadiens over the long run. Since the team fired assistant coach Perry Pearn on October 26, they have been nothing but an average team that has struggled to get into playoff position.
13. Winnipeg Jets (14)
The Jets sit right about where everyone expected them to be. It took them four tries to get their first win, a 2-1 decision over the Penguins. With the likes of Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov and Mark Scheifele, this team certainly has a bright future.
14. Carolina Hurricanes (9)
Going into the season, the Hurricanes were a team that no one really knew what to expect from. What was completely unexpected, though, was that Eric Staal would struggle as much as he has. Just 12 points and a minus-18 rating has people worried.
15. New York Islanders (12)
The Islanders are one of those teams that has the potential to become a dynasty about three to four years from now; the future looks good, but things are going so well at the moment. For now, the Isles would just love to get some stellar goaltending.
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