The 2011-12 NHL season is now finished. After 45 years of mediocrity, the Los Angeles Kings finally lived up to their name as they earned their first ever Stanley Cup Championship.
This six part series will consist of brief summaries of every team’s performance this season, starting with the Atlantic Division.
New Jersey Devils
Final standings: 48W, 28L, 6OTL, 102 points, 4th Atlantic, 6th Eastern Conference, 9th NHL
Amid ownership problems, the New Jersey Devils needed a good season to distract from them and the 2011-12 season worked out just right for that. With former Florida coach Peter DeBoer now running the show the Devils put forward a strong offense with Kovalchuk, Elias, and Parise as the spearheads. This worked well for the Devils but not fantastically, and by the end of January the Devils were inside the top 8 and had 55 points. Gaining ground substantially through the second half of the season by the end of March they were certainly looking to a return to the playoffs. Coming in 6th they were matched against the higher seeded but lower overall point totaled Panthers; This matchup proved to be exciting, with the Panthers exerting more pressure on them than expected, however the Devils prevailed winning the first game and taking the series through to game 7 where they won against a tired Panthers team in 2nd Overtime. Despite the strenuous series, they Devils made short work of the Flyers, beating them in just 5 games. The toughest battle however came in the Conference Finals where they faced local rivals the New York Rangers: With the odds against them the Devils pushed on hard and despite dropping the first game 3-0 the Devils managed to tie the series up the following game. However it would take until game 5 for the Devils to finally take the lead overall and then in game 6 beat the Rangers 4-3 in an intense matchup. This lead the Devils back to the cup final where they faced (clearly) NHL favourite – the LA Kings. After 3 devastating losses, the Devils managed to turn their luck around and in game 4 the Devils evaded being knocked out with a 3-1 win. This was followed in game 5 with a 2-1 win, but ultimately in game 6 the Kings managed to get 6 goals past the Devils and end their run. When you take into account the age of their number one goalie, what the Devils achieved this season is astonishing, especially compared to their previous performance.
New York Islanders
Final standings: 34W, 37L, 11OTL, 79 points, 5th Atlantic, 14th Eastern Conference, 27th NHL
Coming off the back of yet another horrendous season in 2010-11, the Islanders still faced the same problems in 2011-12. Their arena was (and still is) falling apart, many of their players lacked calibre and with a goalie who previously had not wanted to play for them, it looked like this season would once again suck for Islanders fans. Once again coached by Jack Capuano the Islanders tried hard however ultimately they never really got started. On the plus side the team managed to stay clear of the bottom of the standings and even managed to achieve more wins than the higher up Carolina Hurricanes. But none of this was enough and the team finished badly, second worst in the Eastern conference.
New York Rangers
Final standings: 51W, 24L, 8OTL, 109 points, 1st Atlantic, 1st Eastern Conference, 2nd NHL
After grabbing Brad Richards from free agency the New York Rangers were set to have a stellar line up at the start of the 2011-12 season. Opening the season was however to be a challenge for the Rangers, who would start on the road across the Atlantic in Stockholm and then follow this with several US and Canada road games to allow for renovations at Madison Square Gardens.
Losing both the international games in Overtime, the Rangers bounced back once they returned home and by January were sitting in the top spot on the East battling Boston and Philadelphia for first place. Securing a playoff spot earlier than most teams they struggled against Ottawa however emerged victorious and faced Washington in the second round. Defeating Washington in game 7 the Rangers battled on into what everyone expected to be a heated and long series against local rivals New Jersey. However the Rangers’ season came to a screeching halt when the Devils tied the series with them in game 4 and finished them off for good in game 6.
Final standings: 47W, 29L, 9OTL, 103 points, 3rd Atlantic, 5th Eastern Conference, 6th NHL
After trading Mike Richards to Los Angeles in the offseason, fans across the league wondered just what GM Paul Holmgren was planning. However after fixing their goaltending issues by inking Bryzgalov the Flyers were once again a formidable foe.
just 13 games in however the Flyers looked to be in trouble – Pronger was sidelined for the season with post concussion symptoms and to make matters worse Bryzgalov was proving to be inconsistent. Sidelining Bryzgalov for the Winter Classic, the Flyers played with Sergei Bobrovsky in net against the Rangers losing 3-2 in an arguably close game – notably at this point of the season, the Flyers were trailing the Rangers only by a few points. Making it into the playoffs in a comfortable 5th spot they faced bitter rivals the Penguins. Exploding in game one, they went on to outscore the Penguins 31-26 wrapping things up in game six in what could be argued as one of the most brutal and intense playoff rounds in recent history. Continuing on, the Flyers found themselves up against the New Jersey Devils. Opening game one with a 4-3 win, the previously powerful Flyers looked a little weaker. This game however was to be their last win as the Devils won the following four games ending the Flyers 2011-12 season in game 5.
Final standings: 51W, 25L, 6OTL, 108 points, 2nd Atlantic, 4th Eastern Conference, 4th NHL
Starting the season Crosbyless a lot of people wondered what the Penguins could achieve; however, despite the lack of Sid the Kid the team battled on with recovering from knee surgery Malkin clocking up 75 games and even held the record for the longest winning streak that season which was halted by the Flyers. Making the playoffs, they were matched with the Philadelphia Flyers who set out to prove just what Pennsylvania team is better. Pittsburgh lost the first three games dropping 8-5 in the second and then lost 8-4 in the third. However just when fans were thinking about giving up, the Penguins bounced back with a whopping 10-3 win in the fourth game and a 3-2 in game 5. However the season ended abruptly in game 6 with a 5-1 loss. Regardless of the outcome the Penguins proved that they have a great lineup that can survive injuries and will most likely allow them to remain a top team for the near future.
Stay tuned for Part 2 as the Northeast Division will be covered.