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(Thanks to Waiting for Stanley for the Above pic)


So we'll try this again. This is my third installment of each division season preview, and later today (tonight) I'll unload the whole Eastern conference preview. Today we get to the division that fielded the 2 Eastern Conference Finalists, and 3 of the most storied franchises in all of Hockey and Sports.

Boston Bruins:
The B's best move this season was changing their uniforms to what can only be described as the best in all of Hockey. This isn't meant as an insult to the team, but I just can't get over how sharp they look in these digs. Unfortunately some teams couldn't follow suit.

As for the team, if there was a team that could be perpetually described as "stuck in neutral" the B's would be it. They have brought in Manny Fernandez to be their goalie, which should be an improvement and coach Claude Julian, which should also be an improvement. They also got rid of Brad Stuart at the trade deadline last season which will hurt what was already a porous defense.

Their savior is Finnish goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask (great Hockey name by the way) who is considered the top goaltending prospect in the world. Manny will take over next season though so he won't help. To be honest, this is an underwhelming team that seems to like it it will continue to be in neutral.

Buffalo Sabres: A lot has been made of the losing of free agents Daniel Briére and Chris Drury, and rightfully so. The loss of those two elite players will hurt this team tremendously. They also lost trade deadline acquisition Dainius Zubrius. They did manage to keep their talented young player, Thomas Vanek, by not accepting a king's ransom from Edmonton. (i've gone into how that was a mistake before, so won't indulge here). The only player they signed was Jocelyn Thibault, despite having the money originally intended for Drury or Briére.

Despite the awful offseason for Buffalo this season isn't a total loss. They still have a talented young team backstopped by Ryan Miller, who emerged as a clear cut number 1 last season. Also still in the mix are underrated talented forwards Maxim Afiniginov , and Jason Pominville. Prospect Drew Stafford may also step up and make an impact, so all is not lost for Buffalo.

Montreal Canadiens: The big story out of Montreal was the loss of Sheldon Souray this summer to the Edmonton Oilers. The story played out so long that the Canadiens got someone to replace Souray before he had even signed somewhere else. Roman Hamrlik joined the French speakers in Quebec, and joins Brian Smolinski as the only really significant free agents.

Well that's not entirely true, to replace the huge hole left by Souray on defense, the Habs signed the defensive hole Patrice Brisbois. Apparently the fans didn't get enough hatred out of their lungs the first time he was town. The Canadiens have one of the deepest farm systems in the league, but only C Kyle Chipchura and RW Andrei Kostitsyn seem like they might be able to make the big club this season.

Ottawa Senators: The defending Eastern Conference champions return most of their lineup from the team that went to the cup finals last season. They only lost D Tom Preissing and Mike Duffrie.. er Comrie. Ray Emery backstops the team and one of the questions facing all Senators fans is whether he can duplicate the success of last season. He was inconsistent throughout the season and in the playoffs, but was solid when Ottawa needed it most. The same can be said about Cam Ward the season before and he didn't fare to well last season.

The Senators are pretty bare in the cupboard when it comes to prospects and probably can't rely on much coming up from the minors to help out, even though a youngster such as Josh Hennessey, Nick Foligno, or Brian Lee could be called upon. The biggest question is: Can the Ottawa Senators overcome the Stanley Cup runner up hangover, or will they fall victim to the brutality of the finals loss, as other teams have done recently.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The most despised team in hockey (for reasons beyond me honestly) missed the playoffs last season on the last play of the season as the NY Islanders won their last game in a shootout. In response to the shaky goaltending last season the Leafs went out and traded for Vesa Toskala, which should be an upgrade. They also went out and stole a player from that team, in Jason Blake. Will this be enough to push the Leafs into the postseason?

The Leafs did lose face-off stalwart Yannic Perault, but not much else, along with Michael Peca and Jeff O'Neil, who didn't do much for the leafs last season anyways. The Leafs imporved over the offseason, but so did a lot of other East clubs. Can the leafs return to the playoffs or will they be on the outside looking in? Either way everyone in the hockey world will hear about it, because it's impossible not to hear how the Leafs are doing if you follow hockey, like it or not.

MY predicted Division finish:

Ottawa*
Buffalo*
Toronto
Montreal
Boston