Hockey season is just around the corner and we continue our divisional breakdowns. Can the Boston Bruins take the Northeast Division in the coming season?

1. Boston (10-1)

The Boston Bruins are the most confident team in hockey right now. They believe they are never out of any game, any series, no matter how bad things look. Confidence begets confidence. Unless Boston's division rivals are content to wait and hope that injuries take their toll on the Bruins' Tim Thomas Boston Bruinsimpressive depth, the only way to rob the Bs of their confidence is to beat them head to head a few times. Boston is probably too good for any of its challengers to play .500 for any length of time this season. Any such letup in the pressure on the defending champs allows them to begin salting the division away early.

Although there are losses, and the absence of Shane Hnidy, Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi, and Michael Ryder will be significant, Boston made two solid signings in offensive defenseman Joe Corvo and wing Benoit Pouliot, plus it was the deepest team in hockey last year. Tyler Seguin has the potential to take over a spot on the first line and lead Boston in goals this year. Corvo is being counted on to improve the power play by running point, and if he and the rest of the PP unit are unable to improve on last year's 20th-in-the-league performance, it's unlikely Boston will repeat. It will be enough of a challenge to go deep in the playoffs playing the same physically punishing style, without hampering themselves with a listless power play again.

2. Buffalo (18-1)

After years of watching the best players on their team walk away in free agency, (see Drury, Chris, and Briere, Danny) Sabres fans were pleased to see new owner Terry Pegula open up his wallet this offseason, allowing Buffalo to have a net talent gain in free agency for the first time in – well, a long while.

Ville Leino is the young Philadelphia Flyers forward last seen breaking Buffalo's heart with his playoff goals, who thanks to Pegula's largesse, will be skating for the Sabres this winter. He will be joined up front by Buffalo retread Ales Kotalik. The defense was improved at least as much as the offense, with the addition of Name Defenders Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr. This – plus maybe a few more games of rest this year than last – should make Ryan Miller's life easier, and his GAA lower than last year’s 2.59. Buffalo is so stacked on defense, it's possible that stud playoff performer Marc-Andre Gragnani won't figure into the top six, at least initially.

The Sabres were oh-so-close to the second round last year, and they're much better in key areas, as illustrated. And while Mike Grier will be missed from Western New York for sentimental reasons, injury-prone and inconsistent center Tim Connolly is the most significant free agent loss. Buffalo is a serious contender to win this division, and at 18-1 is probably worth a futures bet. Anything short of the second round of the playoffs will be a bitter disappointment here.

3. Montreal (25-1)

The first postseason of the Carey Price era began with such promise, as the Canadiens nearly stopped Boston's Cup run before it got started, before wilting down the stretch and leaving les Habs shaking their heads and saying, "sacre bleu." Unfortunately hampered by cumbersome contracts given to Scott Gomez (coming off the worst year of his career) and Brian Gionta, the organization was still able to bring in Erik Cole on offense and Jeff Woywitka on defense to lessen the impact of losing Jeff Halpern, Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt, James Wisniewski, Brent Sopel, Paul Mara, and Roman Hamrlik. Wisniewski, a 50-point scorer last year, as well as Sopel, Mara and Hamrlik were all defensemen. The Habs will need Andrei Markov back at full strength or else Price will be seeing a lot of rubber. The late-breaking news of the Chris Campoli shores up this area of the roster somewhat, but Campoli is mainly known as an offensive defenseman. He will help offset the point production lost with Wisniewski, but the Habs need grinders.

The team doubled down on its philosophy of speed with the acquisition of Cole, a flyer who will keep Montreal among the league's fastest teams. With Hal Gill and PK Subban, it's not as if the cupboard is bare on defense, but it sure looks like the top two lines will need to score a lot of goals to keep Montreal competitive. A couple of injuries to the blueliners and Montreal will find out what's even worse than blowing a 2-0 series lead against your rivals: missing the playoffs entirely.

4. Toronto (50-1)

The Maple Leafs will be playing for Coach Ron Wilson's job this year, as Wilson is in the final year of his contract and its doubtful GM Brian Burke will resign him without a trip to the playoffs. Wilson will be guiding one of the league's youngest teams, offseason acquisition John-Michael Liles is the oldest player at 30. Tim Connolly and Mathew Lombardi, both brought in to score, represent gambles, given their injury histories.

One thing is certain: In a division where Boston rode it's physical defense to a Cup championship, Buffalo will put an excellent top six defenders on the ice, and Montreal was seventh in the league in GA/G last year, Toronto's defense will take a backseat to no one. Captain Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek provide the rugged factor, and Luke Schenn is a star in the making. The addition of the hulking Cody Franson just makes the Burke-designed defense that much Brian Burke-ier.

James Reimer was sparkling in his 35 starts for Toronto last year, with a 20-10-5 record and a .921 save percentage that led Burke to discard J.S. Giguere, the bulky backstop the GM won a Cup with in Anaheim, and later made the centerpiece of a trade to get him to Toronto. How Reimer responds to the rigors of being the full-time starter for a full season is an open question, but the real problem area in Toronto is goal-scoring. Phil Kessel is a dynamic offensive player, but he has precious little support. And that's assuming ideal health for Lombardi and Connolly, far from a given.

5. Ottawa (75-1)

The 2007 Stanley Cup Finals seem a very long time ago, not only to the aforementioned Burke, but to the team Burke's Ducks overpowered, the Senators. For Ottawa, losing that Cup began an organizational downward spiral that has it here, today, projected to finish in last place in its division, and lucky if it doesn't finish as one of the worst teams in hockey.

Defenseman Chris Phillips, ostensibly the best blueliner on the club, had the worst +/- in the NHL last year, a putrid -35. Ottawa has the makings of a great first line, but not much else, and Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson aren't dominant enough to split them up to each anchor three lines. The team put a poll on its Facebook site this offseason, unfortunately Toronto fans dominated the voting: looks like the Sens' goal celebration song this year will be either Britney Spears or Nickelback, with assists going to Leafs fans and the Internet. Ouch.

There are a few positives: Nikita Filatov and Zenon Konopka both qualify as intriguing signings. Craig Anderson has potential in goal. The top line should score a lot. But on the whole, Ottawa has a roster that doubles as golden ticket to a high draft pick.

Division MVP: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

Miller is one of those rare athletes who has been such a major part of what his team does and has been for so long, it's nearly impossible to imagine the Sabres without him. He belongs to a class of athlete inhabited by a select few: Peyton Manning and Brian Urlacher in football, Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins in baseball, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant in baskeball, and perhaps a few others.  Even in a pronouncedly subpar year for Miller, he nearly stole a playoff series for his outgunned team. Miller's hockey team projects to score more and give up fewer goals this year, meaning Miller might get a chance to prove his worth deeper in the playoffs.

Division Best Defenseman: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Although PK Subban and Tyler Myers got looks here, they were short looks. Chara's +33 rating was best in the league last year, and only a handful of defenders bested his 44 points and 14 goals. Saying the 6'9 Chara is the biggest reason for Boston's success is both literally and figuratively true.

Division Best Goalie: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Coming off a season in which he accomplished everything there is for a goalie to accomplish, Thomas has to be the answer here. There may be no other division with three starting goalies as good as Thomas, Miller and Price. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team that gets the best individual season out of its goalie ends up winning, that’s what happened for Boston last year.

Division Best Coach: Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres

For years Ruff has been coaxing rosters short on talent into the postseason, while lacking the top line veterans to ever carry the Cup home. Now, while Ruff's magisterial goalie Miller is still in his prime, a shift in ownership philosophy finally puts Buffalo on the receiving end on a talent influx. The next season or two will determine what this Hall-of-Famer's lasting legacy will be.