Once again, that special time of year is upon us… the start of the NHL season. I’ll spare you a grand introduction and just get down to business.
Taking care of said business from last season, I’ll first start with the bad. The Washington Capitals did not make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. My bad. Also incorrect… the New Jersey Devils sucked, as Marty Brodeur fell on his head.
Some of the good? The Bruins had a great season and the Vancouver Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Oh, and the Thrashers, er Jets, changed cities. Recall when I was talking about the Panthers and Thrashers in last season’s preview: “The biggest news out of these teams this season just might be what city theyıll belong to next season…doh.”
Alright, enough already…let’s get to the current stuff.
Western Conference up first…
Like last year, I see this one as being one of the more competitive divisions in the league…at least for the top three teams. The Stars? Meh? The Coyotes? Oof. That Kyle Turris holdout really hurt them…oh wait.
Not to be a fanboy, but I can’t really see anyone challenging the Canucks for the division this year. Add in a bunch of mediocrity behind them and I think it will be a fairly boring set of five. As for the Avs, I put them in last because their management seems determined to destroy the club.
Got a dartboard? Aside from the Wings and Hawks having a little edge in overall quality, this division has the potential to be a really fun one to watch as a hockey fan. Good things happening in St. Louis, some movement in Columbus, and the Preds with Rinne able to steal a few games over the course of the season. Anyway, here’s how my darts landed…
1) Red Wings
5) Blue Jackets
On to the Eastern Conference…
I’m in the camp that thinks Ilya Bryzgalov can help the Flyers get to the top…of the division at least. I see the Atlantic division being like the Pacific in that it will be three team race: Rangers, Flyers, and Penguins. The health of Sidney Crosby makes me question the Pens somewhat, but they’re still deep enough to finish ahead of the Rangers for second place.
I still like the Bruins here, but I think the Buffalo Sabres can give them a serious run. I’ve seen a lot of Sabres love this preseason (and believe me, my fantasy hockey teams show it), but they still have to go through Boston in my book. They are more balanced than last season and still have Ryan Miller in net. Good things to have, but Boston still has the Cup coming in.
And… holy crap…I didn’t pick the Leafs to finish last…
4) Maple Leafs
Ah yes, now we’re back home in the Southeast. I was perfect in this division last season…so why change anything? Providing D-wayne Roloson stays young, I think the Lightning fight the Caps all the way to the end of the season. Still taking the Caps though, as I’ll give GM George McPhee props on making some really nice moves in the offseason. Some overpays, but as a whole…good moves that made a really good club even better.
Now for one more dose of deja vu…only because I’ve been granted the opportunity by my favorite two clubs. Being that Iım both a Capitals and Canucks fan and the fact that THIS will now probably be the LAST time in history I can actually make a reasonable prediction of this nature, Iım going to jump on it. However, it won’t be like last season. I’ll go with the Caps to make the show, but the spirit of the Canucks will come back to triumph.
Vancouver over Washington in seven games.
Vezina: Ryan Miller – picked him last year, but his club in front of him has improved greatly
Norris: Shea Weber - trendy pick, but hey, if he stays healthy…
Calder: Gabriel Landeskog – plenty of PT will get him some pretty stats
Ross: Evgeni Malkin - even without Sid, enough of a supporting cast to get it done
Richard: Alexander Ovechkin – (staying away from the easy Stam-dunk) after this summer’s “WeightGate”, he’s due for another run
Hart: Evgeni Malkin – another trendy pick, but if Sid is out for a while, it’s his time
Thank you for reading once again, my friends. As always at Puck ‘N Hockey, we welcome all feedback. On to the season…giddy up!
(@WesStullNHL on Twitter)