2013 NHL Eastern Conference Power Rankings

The 2013 NHL season is no longer an 82 game marathon, but instead is a 48 game dash to the finish line.

Will teams that had multiple players skating in Europe fair better? Will veteran squads win because they will have fresh legs all season long? Only the next few months will tell.

Here are my Eastern Conference power rankings.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – A healthyEvgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby will lead Pittsburgh deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The addition of veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun gives Coach Dan Bylsma a solid option if Marc-Andre Fleury falters.

2. New York Rangers – With the unparalleled goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist and a physical defense, the short season may benefit the Rangers the most. The acquisition of Rick Nash accompanied by incumbent stars Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik sets New York up for a Cup run.

3. Boston Bruins – Boston should get off to a fast start as many of their players played well in Europe during the lockout. Tyler Seguin becomes a top tier forward. The only question here is can Tuukka Rask fill the void left by Tim Thomas.

4. Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin will return to his dominant form and goalie Braden Holtby comes of age. The Alexander Semin circus has left town and with that distraction gone,Washington will compete and should win the Southeast Division.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning – The additions of goalie Anders Lindback and defensemen Matt Carle and Sami Saloaccompanied by a solid group of snipers up front have Tampa Bay on the verge of being a Cup contender.Steven Stamkos just keeps getting better and better while veteran Martin St. Louis has found the Fountain of Youth.

6. Florida Panthers – A team on the rise, Florida’s depth is its strength. Despite no real superstar, the Panthers won the Southeast division last year and will make the postseason tournament this year. Goaltending is suspect until management installs Jacob Markstrom as the number one.

7. Carolina Hurricanes – The additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin coupled with the young phenomJeff Skinner make Carolina a solid offensive threat. The steady goaltending of Cam Ward will get the Hurricanes into the playoffs.

8. Philadelphia Flyers – Despite a great core of young players and a terrific forward group, goaltending problems and a depleted blue line will have the Flyers struggling to make the playoffs. Unless a trade is made for a goaltender, the Flyers will be an early out in the postseason.

Follow me on Twitter @LightningShout and make sure to “like” The Checking Line on Facebook and on Twitter @TheCheckingLine to stay up to the minute with all the latest team news and notes.

Feel free to shoot me an email at wbphilp@aol.com.