The new hockey season starts Thursday, so we thought it'd be a good idea to get the help of a hockey expert. Dustin Nielson, who covers the Edmonton Oilers, says there is a new beast in the East this season.
Last year’s lowest scoring team
The New York Islanders were dead last in the goals for in the Eastern Conference last year averaging just 2.42 goals per game, slightly less than the Rangers. Despite not scoring often, the Islanders were still 45-34-3 on the over/under.
This year’s best under bet
The Florida Panthers will be a team to follow closely on the under this season. Last season, the Panthers finished under the total 43 times including a record of 14-24-2 over/under on home ice. In the offseason, the Panthers lost power-play quarterback Jay Bouwmeester to the Calgary Flame,s which is not good for a team that ranked 24th with the man advantage. They also added Scott Clemensen to back up Tomas Vokoun, which means there will fewer weak nights between the Panthers’ pipes. Honourable mention to the Devils with Jacques Lemaire back behind the bench and a healthy Martin Brodeur.
Last year’s highest-scoring team
The Boston Bruins averaged 3.52 goals per game last season which was good enough for tops in the Eastern Conference. Last week, they traded Phil Kessel, who scored 36 times last year, to the Leafs so they will have to find those goals elsewhere in the lineup.
This year’s best over bet
Nothing against the Washington Capitals but I have to go with the Thrashers being the best over bet simply because of their inability to keep the puck out of their own net. The Thrashers allowed 280 goals last season and have done nothing to address the problem during the past four months. Watch for the Thrashers to lose a lot of 4-2 and 5-3 games this season.
Most improved team
The Senators may have been forced to trade Dany Heatley but overall, they look a lot better than last year. In exchange for Heatley, the Senators picked up two top-six forwards in Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo. The free-agent signing of Alex Kovalev gives the Senators the best depth they’ve had offensively in a long time. After missing the majority of last season with an injury, Pascal Leclaire is healthy and ready to give the Senators the best goaltending they’ve had since Patrick Lalime.
Team that will take the biggest step back this season
The New Jersey Devils, unlike several other teams below them in the standings, did very little to improve over the offseason. The Devils lost key forwards