The Eastern Conference already hosts its fair share of powerhouse teams, and a bunch of those teams used the offseason to improve their lineups. Because of this, the Bruins will have some tough matchups ahead when they play teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.
The Penguins continue to be a powerful team, especially with forward Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup. Should Sidney Crobsy come back at some point during the 2011-12 season, the Penguins can easily contend for the Cup. The Washington Capitals, while installing Tomas Vokoun as the starting goalkeeper, are still led by their young star Alex Ovechkin.
After posting a decent record and making the playoffs, the Sabres will also pose a threat to the Bruins, despite letting forward Tim Connolly go. Buffalo made a few free-agent moves over the summer, including acquiring Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff.
There are a couple of remodeled Eastern Conference teams the Bruins will have to face, most notably the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers shipped off captain Mike Richards and third-leading scorer Jeff Carter. But the Flyers picked up goalkeeper Ilya Bryzgalov to solidify the net, as well as young forwards Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek.
And there's always Boston's biggest rival, the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens, who almost unseated the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, added former Hurricane Erik Cole to their roster. Captain Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and goalkeeper Carey Price will still be the skaters leading Montreal. Tensions will no doubt run high between the black and gold and the Habs as forward Max Pacioretty, whom Zdeno Chara injured last year, will return this season.
Given player movements and changing team identities, which Eastern Conference team will be the toughest for the Bruins to face?