Projecting the Eastern Conference

With the opening faceoff of the 2009-10 NHL Regular Season just hours away, it's about time I made my Eastern Conference selections, isn't it?

Admittedly, I don't follow the East quite as closely as the West (those projections here), but after the jump you'll find my picks...

And yes, I understand that division winners are assured a Top 3 seed, I'm projecting overall conference standings here:

 1   Pittsburgh Penguins  Won the Stanley Cup with Sergei Gonchar on one leg, now he's healthy.
 2   Boston Bruins  Well-balanced lineup looks to avenge disappointing playoff loss.
 3   Philadelphia Flyers  Addition of Pronger a perfect fit, Emery could prove a steal.
 4   Washington Capitals  Depth is a concern, and there's no way Mike Green scores 31 goals again.
 5  Carolina Hurricanes  Will Cam Ward live up to his new contract?
 6   New York Rangers  John Tortorella will make this team a hard-charging force.
 7   Atlanta Thrashers  Savvy mid-range acquisitions should keep the offense humming.
 8   Toronto Maple Leafs  That defense looks pretty good, and the goaltending can't be as awful as last year, right?
 9   Buffalo Sabres  Thomas Vanek's an elite sniper, but it seems like they get snakebit by injuries every year.
 10   New Jersey Devils  Can the recycled Jacques Lemaire give Zach Parise enough room to score?
 11   Montreal Canadiens  Can the Lollipop Guild survive all those games agains the truculent Leafs and big, bad Bruins?
 12   Florida Panthers  Sadly, a great young top line continues to toil in obscurity.
 13   Ottawa Senators  The Heatley situation cost them dearly.
 14   Tampa Bay Lightning  Some new pieces, but Tocchet is still raw as a coach.
 15   New York Islanders  At least they can enjoy watching John Tavares learn the ropes.
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