Anyway, take in Proteau's words of wisdom below (and enjoy his brevity):
Why 1st? Because dammit, what would a pre-season NHL prediction series be without at least one shocker pick for a new, worst-to-first division champ?
The thing is, on paper, the Capitals are far from the basement dwellers they were last year. The sense some NHL observers have about the Caps is, while they're not yet genuine Stanley Cup contenders, they’ve got the components to mirror Atlanta’s 2006-07 campaign (i.e. road warriors in the regular season, roadkill in the playoffs).
Indeed, in the same way the Thrashers prospered by surrounding young stars Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk with veterans such as Slava Kozlov and Alexei Zhitnik, Washington added Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti this summer to help "Alexanders (Ovechkin and Semin) The Greats" raise their games. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ovechkin and Semin combine for 100 goals or more this season.
The similarities between the two teams continue: The Thrashers didn’t have a Ducks-like defense corps last year and the Caps don't this year; but both have above-average goaltending, as well as hardworking third and fourth-line forwards willing to come back and help their blueliners out. I like Washington’s forward unit more than I like Atlanta’s, which is why they get my nod over the Thrashers.
Now, coach Glen Hanlon may not survive the season if Washington stumbles out of the gate as they try to make all the new faces (including potential Calder Trophy candidate Nicklas Backstrom) fit in. Call it a hunch, but I bet they'll gel into one of the league's swiftest, most offensively dangerous teams rather quickly – and drop many a jaw in the process.