Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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Atlantic Conference Recap

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Philadelphia Flyers - 47-23-12 record - GF 259 - GA 223

The Philadelphia Flyers were the class of the Atlantic division as they cruised to 106 points in the regular season. With goaltending an issue to start the season, uber-rookie Sergei Bobrovsky was the answer the Flyers were searching for. Bobrovsky was 28-13-8 this season. With Brian Boucher providing adequate insurance behind "Bob", Philadelphia easily met their pre-season expectations. The offense was very solid again this year, receiving solid contributions from big-time players Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, and Mike Richards.

Breakout Player of the Season: Claude Giroux had an incredible run in the 2009-10 playoffs. He continued his magic this season as he posted 25 goals and 51 assists along with a plus-20 rating. As Giroux grows, he will be able to maximize his skill and should be a lock for 75 points next season. His dangles are a must-see for any hockey fan.

Biggest Bust of the Season: Chris Pronger was touted as a top-tier defenseman heading into the season. Due to injuries, he was limited to just 50 games. As a result, he managed a disappointing four goals and 21 assists. Fantasy owners were definitely expecting another 50-point performance from the warrior veteran. This playoff matchup against Buffalo has been a repeat of the season, as he played in only Game Six.

Pittsburgh Penguins - 49-25-8 record - GF 238 - GA 199

No matter what occurs in the playoffs, this season will forever be remembered as a "what if?". Sidney Crosby was setting the hockey world ablaze with his incredible first half of the season. Want to know how good he was? His last game played was January 5th against Tampa Bay and he still led the Penguins in points at the end of the season. And the next closest player was 16 points behind him. Remarkably, with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out, the Penguins went on a tear and finished with 106 points. Credit the depth of Pittsburgh, along with great coaching, for the playoff run. Marc-Andre Fleury stole his fair share of games throughout the year.

Breakout Player of the Season: Tyler Kennedy stepped up his game while Pittsburgh's superstars hit the IR. Kennedy was simply possessed in the second half. He picked up 23 points in 31 games after the All-Star break. For the season, Kennedy recorded 21 goals and 24 assists. He still projects to be a third-line center for the rest of his career.

Biggest Bust of the Season: Evgeni Malkin was injured early and often. While his last game was on February 4th, he only managed to play 43 games in total. While productive when he played (he had 37 points), fantasy owners needed more out of Malkin than an injury-plagued year. Hopefully he can recover from a torn MCL and will be the dominant force we all know and love. I am sure I will not need to twist your arm to take him in 2011-12.

New York Rangers - 44-33-5 record - GF 233 - GA 198

If not for King Henrik Lundqivst, where would the Rangers be? Time and time again they were bailed out by Lundqvist's heroics. The Rangers enjoyed a nice year, sneaking into the playoffs in the eight-seed. The offense was very sketchy all year, as showcased in the playoff defeat at the hands of Washington. A big offensive acquisition or two in the off-season would surely go a long way for the Big Apple. For now they can find solace in their solid, young defense, led by All-Star Marc Staal.

Breakout Player of the Season: Brandon Dubinsky showed why everyone in the fantasy community was bullish on him. While leading the Rangers in both goals (24) and assists (30), he got a reputation for being a clutch performer this season. We feel he can only become more confident. Think a max-out of 65 points for Dubinsky next year.

Biggest Bust of the Season: Marian Gaborik is a magician. Who knew? His disappearing act this season was not what fantasy owners were looking for. Known for his health issues, Gaborik played 62 games this season with little success. Twenty-two goals and 26 assists were nearly half his 2009-10 totals. I am still buying next year, banking on a 30+ goal season.

New Jersey Devils - 38-39-5 record - GF 174 - GA 209

A tale of two halves sunk the Devils in the end. In what was one of the most remarkable stories of the season, New Jersey went on a ridiculous run in the second half of the season, finishing outside the playoffs for the first time since 1996. After starting 10-29-2 in the first half, the Devils went on a torrid 23-3-2 streak in the second half. Unfortunately they had too big of a hole and could not battle their way out of it. Johan Hedberg was a spark plug for the run. He and Martin Brodeur deserve a lot of credit for never giving up. Ilya Kovalchuk finally found his groove and is poised for a monster season in 2011-12.

Breakout Player of the Season: Patrik Elias was a bright spot for the Devils during their late-season resurgence. A year after posting an ugly 48 points, Elias rebounded nicely for a 21-41-62 season. It seems he still has it in him. This year represented a nice breakout for the vet after a poor 2009-10 season.

Biggest Bust of the Season: Ilya Kovalchuk belonged in this spot halfway through the season. Fortunately for the Devils, he was a man possessed in the second half. He finished with 31 goals. The real fantasy goat was Travis Zajac here. Most thought this was his year, however a Zach Parise injury derailed any chance of a good season. Expect a nice bounce back for Zajac as Parise will be his healthy linemate in 2011-12. He could hit 70 points with Parise by his side.

New York Islanders - 30-39-13 record- GF 229 - GA 264

The Islanders looked young and lost this whole season. One can, however, see many bright spots when their season is scrutinized. The core forwards are strong, talented and led by John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Michael Grabner. As the season wore on, the Islanders made the key acquisition of Al Montoya, who posted a 9-5-5 record in 21 games. Long Island could see bright times ahead. This team is as talented as any other in the NHL. The right seasoning and goaltender could go a long way here.

Breakout Player of the Season: Michael Grabner was the fastest skater in the NHL All-Star Game Competition. After the All-Star break, he posted a point-per-game pace with 19 goals and 12 assists in 31 games. His speed is clearly for real, as is his shot. It appears Vancouver and Florida underestimated this kid.

Biggest Bust of the Season: Isn't it too easy to pick on Rick DiPietro these days? While most assumed he would be injured all season, the Islanders seemed high on him entering the year. How did DiPietro reward his team? A 8-14-4 record with a .886 save percentage and 3.44 GAA. Yikes.

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