Nate Ward ’16
The season is finally upon us and this year looks like as good as any that we’ve seen in the NHL. Coming off of one of the most exciting playoffs in history, the energy that was so prevalent last spring is sure to carry over into this season. Truly, there is an abundance of talent in the league right now and therefore, it’s really anyone’s game when it comes to winning it all next June. This season’s unpredictability is sure to make it an interesting one as there is no clear cut favorite. Obviously, there are a few teams that stand above the rest, but that does not make any guarantees about who we’ll see in the later rounds of the playoffs. Need proof? Look no further than college football’s crazy week 6.
For those who don’t know a lot about the NHL, it has a setup very similar to the NBA. In the west, there is a gauntlet awaiting any team that hopes to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, while in the east, there are a number of lackluster non-contenders that leave a few good teams like the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins as almost sure shots to make it into June. The last few years have followed this trend as 4 of the last 5 champions have hailed from the west.
The predictions for this year are no cake walk due to the bloodbath in the west and the inconsistency in the east. Aside from that, there are some standouts that look like they could really succeed, but again, you never know. In all honesty, the most likely scenario is one in which we see the winner of the west (Los Angeles or Chicago) come out on top.
With that being said, here is how the rest of the NHL will likely play out this year:
|Metropolitan (East)||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Atlantic (East)||Boston Bruins|
|Central (West)||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Pacific (West)||Anaheim Ducks|
Explanation: In the Metropolitan, no one can match the combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In the Atlantic, as per usual, the Boston Bruins win with their size and physical play. In the central, Chicago’s duo of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews plays on a different level that the rest of their division and have one of the best defenses in the league. Finally, in the west, Anaheim will win because of their obscene amount of talent but they’ll be a bust in the postseason.
Stanley Cup: Lord Stanley’s Cup will be hoisted for the third time in four years by the Los Angeles Kings. Although they won’t win the division against a strong regular season team like the Ducks (and quite frankly, they don’t have to), they will succeed in the playoffs because of their performance in the clutch. Somehow, this team that doesn’t even have a superstar can obliterate everything in its path come playoff time, making them a true testament to what teamwork and chemistry can lead to.
Sleeper: This years underdog is the Tampa Bay Lightning. With one of the most consistent defenses in the NHL, and one of the most prolific scorers in history, they can surprise everyone with an upset in the east, similar to the New York Rangers last season. Even though they haven’t really been tested in a Stanley Cup run, they may still have what it takes to send a shockwave throughout the league. Don’t be surprised if you see Steven Stamkos scoring goals well into the month of June and quite possibly, bringing a title back east.