Monday, October 2, 2006

Look, we have proved we can mock any Pittsburgh media person at any time. But it's time to start talking hockey.

The home of the last two World Champions, the Carolina Hurricanes (2005) and the Tampa Bay Lightning(2003), the SouthEast division is loaded with big time players.

None better than Alexander Ovechkin. AO is a guy that you can honestly say is worth the price of admission. Other than that, though, Washington is a year or two away from anything.

Do not overlook Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St.Louis. The duo, along with the impeccable Brad Richards, can no question win alot more games this year. I think they miss Andre Roy though......

Florida is loaded with new goons. G Ed Belfour, RW Todd Bertuzzi made their way to south beach this year, looking to improve a 34-win team. But Ed Belfour is nowhere near his NHL 93 on Sega Genesis form, and if you trust Alex Auld as a backup... have fun.

Moving on to the Champs. Great addition in RW Scott Walker, but awful trade getting rid of prospect Jack Johnson.

I respect the World Champs, but they will not, repeat, will not win 52 games this year, and they won't even win the division.

"To be the best, you gotta beat the best. And Carolina is the best thing goin' today."

Who will? ... the Atlanta Thrashers.
Shocking pick, I know, but I have talked myself into them.

A team that, in its first six NHL seasons, have not made the Stanely Cup playoffs once. And judging by some of the quotes from "hot lanta", it's playoffs or bust this year.
They made some nice moves in the off-season.
Adding forwards like C Steve Rucchin, and Niko Kapanen, goalies G Johan Hedberg, G Fred Brathwaite, and defenseman D Vitaly Vishnevski adds some much needed grit and playoff experience to a team that only missed out on a playoff berth by 2 points.

But, when you think of the Thrashers, you think superstar Ilya Kovalchuk . And you should. Kovalchuk has put up incredible numbers:
In 305 games played Kovalchuk has netted 160 goals and 143 assists for a total of 303 points.

Kovalchuk has not been the problem in Atlanta.

This has:
"Last season, the Thrashers scored 281 goals and allowed 275, a margin that is a little too close for comfort. The Carolina Hurricanes, for example, scored 294 goals and allowed 260, while the Ottawa Senators piled up 314 goals and allowed only 211."

Thats why the Pensblog player to watch is:

Kari Lehtonen

Lehtonen, the number 2 player taken in the 2002 draft, is poised to build on his pretty solid 2005 campaign. Kari Lehtonen 20-15-0, 2.94 GAA, 38 appearances, .906 save percentage, 2 shutouts. Often injured though, the Thrashers quitely made an old friend of Pittsburgh the backup to fill in if needed...

(one more time .....MOOOOOOOSE)

With Hedberg, the Thrashers have a pretty good combo but not as good as this combo:

Back to back in the early 90s, Mr. Rogers and Big Bird were unbeatable

The Thrashers did lose a little bit of offense, though, as star Marc Savard left in free agency. How much that will affect the offense remains to be seen.
But remember this a team that only finished 2 points out of the eighth seed last year.
If Lehtonen can stay healthly and Marian Hossa can help Kovalchuk produce, the Thrashers could easily make a push. The defense, with newly aqcuired Vitaly Vishnevski, should be good.

The south will be a highly entertaining division with big time talent. But when the smoke clears, the Thrashers will be the victor.


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