Part 1: Pens Over/Unders
Part 2: Pacific Division Best Case / Worst Case
Part 3: Central Division Best Case / Worst Case
Best Case: Loui Eriksson + Jarome Iginla > Tyler Seguin + Nathan Horton.
Worst Case: The Penguins score, what, 4 goals in the Eastern Conference Finals series?
Prediction: The B's will get more regular season production out of Eriksson and Iginla, but the team won't be quite as effective come spring. We're betting Tuukka Rask cashed in at the right time. Expensive long-term goalie contracts do not always work out how you want them to.
Best Case: They flip Tomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and, somehow, Tyler Myers, for high-end youth and picks. No way can they let Miller and Vanek walk next summer for nothing. BTW, the Pens should do this year what they couldn't do last -- get Ott.
Worst Case: Mediocrity.
Prediction: More classic Ryan Miller press conferences.
The rest of the Atlantic, which wasn't the Atlantic last year, after the jump...
Detroit Red Wings
Best Case: Young guys who we think might be good -- Gustav Nyquist and Danny DeKeyser -- are really good. Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson invigorate the top 6. Jimmy Howard outshines new divisional rival Tuukka Rask.
Worst Case: Ken Holland can't solidify a thin blueline at the trade deadline.
Prediction: We continually remind you how unfair realignment is because not only is it now 7% harder for Eastern Conference teams to make the playoffs, but we also get the Wings.
Best Case: Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexsander Barkov look like a young Crosby and Malkin.
Worst Case: They don't. Tim Thomas starts sporadically filibustering during practices and games.
Prediction: We DVR it when the Pens play in Florida, then fast forward to watch the goals. Like last year. And the year before that.
Best Case: By bringing in the undersized and super-annoying Danny Briere, they've achieved their goal of having every undersized and super-annoying player in the league, and that's not even counting regular sized and super-annoying P.K. Subban. They annoy other teams and fan-bases to their actual death.
Worst Case: Carey Price's mental toughness makes Marc-Andre Fleury seem like John McCain surviving four years in a Vietnamese prison camp.
Prediction: After determining that the team is fairly top-heavy with annoying players, GM Marc Bergevin seeks to spread annoyability throughout the lineup by bringing back Mike Cammalleri at the trade deadline.
Best Case: They stay healthy and emerge as a darkhorse contender, buoyed by a sequel to this classic introduction:
That will never, ever get old.
Worst Case: Not so much that they miss Daniel Alfredsson, but more that everyone keeps talking about how Daniel Alfredsson is "classy."
Prediction: That Spezza, Ryan, Michalek line should be fun.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Best Case: Jonathan Drouin tears up the league, wins the Calder Trophy and...wait, he got sent back to Junior? Oh. Stamkos drops 60 again. This team is bursting at the seams with goal scoring.
Worst Case: Not a lot of depth, and a coach, Jon Cooper, who is married to a woman named Jesse and has three kids named Jonathan, Josephine, and Julia.
Prediction: Don't trust parents who do that.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Best Case: While most people were (rightfully) critiquing their big signing of David Clarkson, everyone forgot how much they hate playing against David Clarkson. And everyone forgets that 999,999 times out of a million, they win Game 7 against the same Bruins team than swept the Pens. They have a formidable top 9, and this is not a matchup the Pens will want in the playoffs.
Worst Case: They actually lost a game they should have won 999,999 times out of a million. That burns.
Prediction: Randy Carlyle still can't shake the feeling that the Leafs are one of the league's better puck possession teams.
Final Predictions, with the first of many division nailbiters between Boston and Detroit:
6. Tampa Bay