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NHL Power Rankings

Bob Grove breaks down the league division-by-division and says the Pens, Bruins, Caps, Canucks, Blackhawks and Sharks are the teams to beat. Find out who’s bringing what to the 2011-12 NHL party.

EAST
Atlantic Division
Pittsburgh:
If the revamped power play produces goals and Crosby returns as expected, all the pieces in place to compete for the Cup.
Philadelphia: Bryzgalov a great addition, but young stars Giroux, van Riemsdyk must reach another level to make Holmgren’s bold off-season moves work.
NY Rangers: If Richards and Gaborik can lead the way to more goals, and Staal doesn’t have concussion complications, they’re now gritty enough to be among the league’s better teams.
New Jersey: The goaltending is no longer dominant, and it’s questionable whether new coach DeBoer has enough scoring depth to make up for it.
NY Islanders: If the goaltending is consistent—hardly a given—and Tavares, Moulson & Co. show they’ve learned from past failures, could challenge for playoff spot.

Northeast Division
Boston:
No major losses, so it’s just a question of handling the rigors of a short off-season and the challenge of being everyone’s big game.
Buffalo: Overpaid Leino, Ehrhoff in a busy off-season, but those two join Regehr in making the Sabres a more well-rounded team.
Toronto: Liles and Franson bring more skill to the defense, but the big challenge is preventing goals, especially on the penalty kill, and that’s why goaltender Reimer must deliver.
Montreal: GM Gauthier didn’t upgrade the attack, so there will be continued pressure on Price to win close games.
Ottawa: Healthy Alfredsson, bounce-back for Gonchar should help improve scoring for new coach MacLean, but goaltending and defense still average at best.

Southeast Division
Washington: A very good team trying to shake history of underachievement, but right now it must begin with more leadership and goals from Ovechkin after a productive off-season.
Tampa Bay: A lot riding on heretofore ageless Roloson, but Bolts have experience and the guns up front to push Capitals again.
Winnipeg: New city, new coach in Noel and new management team. Unfortunately, getting back to the playoffs will be a process.
Carolina: Middle-of-the-road team needs more scorers behind Staal and Skinner and better defensive play. It might help if Ward played a bit less.
Florida: New coach Dineen has an overhauled, patchwork roster filled with wildly overpaid players. At least they haven’t given up.

WEST
Central Division
Chicago:
Still great top-end talent, but need more from Hossa to make another Cup run, and it’s uncertain how much Olesz, Brunette will contribute.
Detroit: Will miss Rafalski, but the usual cast of stars will keep the Wings among the best teams in the West.
St. Louis: Adding Arnott and Langenbrunner to a team with some good young talent might be the perfect moves for Blues.
Nashville: Solid team, solid coach and now a playoff victory under their belt, but Preds won’t make serious Cup run until they get a game-breaking offensive talent.
Columbus: Carter, Wisniewski and Prospal should provide much-needed offensive boost, but progress won’t be made without better play from goaltender Mason.

Pacific Division
San Jose:
Burns and Boyle should QB a potent PP, and Havlat will have more talent to work with up front on yet another good Sharks’ team.
Anaheim: Adding a healthy Hiller to a team loaded with offensive guns gives the Ducks the foundation upon which to build a solid season.
Los Angeles: The fallout of the Doughty contract battle and Richards’ assimilation to LA are the key questions for a team that boasts a good young defensive corps.
Phoenix: Goaltending won’t be as good, but Tippett will find a way to cobble together another competitive club. It would help immensely if Turris (if signed) and Boedker figure it out.
Dallas: With Richards gone, just not enough big-time difference-makers for new coach Gulutzan to get this group into the playoffs.

Northwest Division
Vancouver:
If the Sedins and Luongo learned from last spring’s Cup run, no reason Canucks can’t make another.
Calgary: GM Feaster staying with a team full of veterans, so they’ll need repeat performances from Glencross, Bourque and Tanguay. And how about some rest for Kiprusoff?
Minnesota: New coach Yeo’s roster has changed as Wild try to find some goals and get back to the playoffs. If Heatley finds his old form, they have a shot.
Colorado: Some really intriguing young talent, but the mix of veterans around them leaves something to be desired.
Edmonton: The timing of veteran Smyth’s return is perfect for this young team, and Renney is a good guy to have teaching the lessons. Should be fun to watch them improve.

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