January 18, 2013 by ussportsfanuk
It’s the evening before the start of a new NHL season, one that many, myself included, didn’t think would actually happen. After waiting for far too long for the NHL and NHLPA to sort the new CBA, we can finally look forward to the start of the season tomorrow! I would think that it is more important than ever for teams to get off to a fast start due to the shortened season. We have seen few teams in recent seasons be average through the first 40-50 games before going on a run to sneak into the playoffs. If it takes that long for teams this time then their season will be over.
So who are the teams likely to do well? Again the shortened season will surely be a factor in this. Teams that have a strong roster without many changes should settle quickly and therefore be strong through the season. An example here is the Boston Bruins. They still have virtually the same roster they won the 2011 Stanley Cup with, with the notable exception being Tim Thomas. New starting Goaltender Tuukka Rask could be one of the top Goaltenders in the league and if he can realise this potential then the Bruins should go far. Teams who have made few, but notable moves should find their game early and be contenders. This would definitely apply to the New York Rangers who were the best team in the Eastern Conference last season and have, of course, added Rick Nash to their team. The addition of Nash could be enough to take the Rangers all the way to the Stanley Cup Final this time. Like the Rangers, the Minnesota Wild should also massively benefit from the additions of star players in the off-season, in this case Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. If they can settle in quickly then the Wild could be in for a very good season.
A number of teams could see an improved season. In the East I think the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres could all bounce back from last season where they all under achieved. In the West meanwhile the Colorado Avalanche could do the same. On the other side of this, some teams may have seasons that could be viewed as a let down after last season. The obvious team here would be the New Jersey Devils. Beaten in the Stanley Cup Final last season, I don’t actually think they will even make the playoffs this time around. Others that may not do as well could be the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes, although any of them could still just do enough to make the playoffs.
With the shortened season there may not be a lot of points between those that win their divisions and those that miss out on the playoffs. With the frequency and intensity of the games, a run of a couple of bad weeks could be the difference between those two scenarios.
At the end of the regular season I think it could be the following teams that make the playoffs:
Eastern Conference: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Western Conference: Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings.
As for the two teams who will compete for the Stanley Cup, well I think it will be the Rangers and the Blues. The Rangers were strong last season and Nash only makes them stronger. As for the Blues, they have a solid team and if their Goaltending is good, they definitely have the talent to go far. They were very good in the Regular Season last season but let themselves down in the playoffs, something I think they will learn from and not make the same mistake again. In the end though, I think that it will be the New York Rangers who will finish as Stanley Cup Champions.