Pittsburgh — The Pittsburgh Penguins have become a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference with two straight Stanley Cup appearances.
Returning a star studded lineup led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh is off to a fast 2-0 start and Pittsburgh is again a top contender to come out of the East.
In Pittsburgh’s way will be the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins.
The Capitals kicked off the 2009-2010 season last Thursday with a dominating 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins and then put up six goals Saturday night, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4.
Like Pittsburgh, Washington has a star studded lineup led by back-to-back Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin.
The Capitals took the Penguins to seven games in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last spring. It is often forgotten in Pittsburgh that the Capitals were a bounce away in over-time of Game 3 from taking a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Penguins.
Washington has a dynamic group of forwards and a dynamic offensive defenseman in Mike Green. The addition of Mike Knuble will pay dividends for them on the ice and in the locker room.
The Bruins are among the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference. Despite the loss of Phil Kessel, they will be a force in the East.
The development of young players Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and David Krejci will be the key for the Bruins along with the re-emergence of Patrice Bergeron
Like the Capitals, the Penguins and the Flyers are off to a 2-0 start. The Flyers have a great mix of skill and toughness and players in the Penguins locker room have hinted that they regard the Flyers as their toughest competition.
The Penguins and Flyers meet for the first time Thursday night in Philadelphia.
What the Capitals, Flyers and Bruins don’t have is a Stanley Cup winning goaltender. Of all the contenders in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh is the most stable in net.
Washington and Philadelphia have questions in net and despite being signed long-term, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas may not be the answer for the Bruins. In fact, 22 year old goaltender Tuukka Rask may be the Bruins option by mid-season.
The Eastern Conference is going to be regarded as the Capitals, Penguins, Flyers, Bruins and the rest.
But, of the four contenders, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the questionmarks at goaltender that the others do.