Tuesday, September 29, 2009

6 Reasons Why The Atlantic Division Is Most Exciting


This is part of my latest weekly column for Inside Hockey covering the Atlantic Division

Wanna know why the Atlantic Division is the most exciting Division in the entire NHL?

1. Rivalries - On any given night in the Atlantic the biggest rivalries in the NHL could be taking place; whether it be the "Battle of Pennsylvania" (Flyers vs Penguins), the Rangers/Flyers, or any of the tri-state teams battling it out (Devils, Rangers, Islanders). Of course there are other intense rivalries in the NHL such as Toronto and Montreal or Edmonton and Calgary. But, the Atlantic Division is home to the most rivalries by far in the same division.

2. Playoff Caliber Hockey - Last season the Atlantic was one of only two divisions (the other being the Central Division) that had more than two teams make the playoffs. Chances are that once again this season the Penguins, Flyers, Devils and Rangers will all be in the post-season.

3. Goalies - Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist play in the Atlantic - two of the few goalies in the NHL who can by themselves win a game for their team on any given night. On top of this you have the interesting story in Long Island where there could possibly be three goalies battling it out for the number one position, although it's likely only between Roloson and Biron since DiPietro is still injured. Fleury continues to prove that he is developing into a top NHL goalie and in Philly, Ray Emery will be out to prove that he is ready to turn his career around after spending a year in the KHL.

4. The Fights! - As discussed last week some of the most entertaining fighters in the NHL play in the Atlantic. The Rangers have Brashear who is the best in the division, but this season many will be out to challenge him for that honor. In Philly the Flyers have Riley Cote, in Pittsburgh they have Godard and Rupp, in New Jersey they've brought in Andrew Peters and in Long Island it looks like 22-year old Joel "The Wrecker" Rechlicz could be given the job of protecting the Islanders top prospects. Look forward to lots of fights this season in the Atlantic - few will argue with that!

5. Rookies - Who is going to be the top rookie this season? The front-runner amongst hockey experts is probably John Tavares of the Islanders who was the much touted #1 pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft. But, Tavares will have a lot of competition for the Calder Trophy, and to find that competition he won't have to look much further than his own division. The Rangers have two potential rookie stars in Matt Gilroy and Artem Anisimov and the Flyers look like they are going to start the season with James van Riemsdyk in their lineup.

6. The Cup Champs - The Penguins start the season as the defending Stanley Cup Champions, so everyone is out to beat them. The fact that the Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Flyers get to play them six times makes it even more fun to watch the Atlantic this season.


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