This year’s NHL season is filled with many story lines and with no lockout talk to start the season, fans could not be more eager to cheer on their respective teams.
In terms of predictions, there are three that I should probably get spot on this year. First, each team will actually play a full 82 game season, the Detroit Red Wings will make the playoffs — they haven’t missed the playoffs in my lifetime — and Calgary Flames’ general manager Jay Feaster will be the laughing joke of the National Hockey League (NHL).
The 2013-14 season is going to have a different look this year as the new divisional alignment will make it harder for some teams to make the playoffs. In previous years, the top three divisional winners would automatically make the playoffs and then the remaining top five teams in the conference would follow.
This year is completely different as the Eastern and Western Conference’s have now been split into two divisions, instead of three. The top three teams in each division will now make the playoffs and then two wild-card teams will fill the remaining spots. These new divisions now make it tougher for teams to make the playoffs, especially for a team like the Washington Capitals who had the luxury of playing in a very weak Southwest division the last few seasons.
Lets start the predictions in the Eastern Conference with the Atlantic division. This division consists of: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and last but not least Toronto Maple Leafs.
This division is by far the toughest division in the NHL and it will be a grind for teams to make it in the playoffs. However, I believe that this division is so good that it will produce five playoff teams. Boston, Detroit and Ottawa will take the three divisional spots and Toronto and Montreal will be the wild-card teams.
The next division in the Eastern Conference is the Metropolitan division. This division consists of: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
With my prediction of the Atlantic division having five playoff teams, this only leaves three playoff spots for the Metropolitan division. The three teams that I think will make the playoffs from this division are Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Washington.
If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin stay healthy and they don’t run into goaltending trouble, the Penguins should run away with the division. With this being said, this is far from a bold prediction but I think the Penguins will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals.
With the divisional alignment this season, the Western Conference became a lot easier as the powerhouse Red Wings swapped conferences with the lesser Winnipeg Jets. Also, the Western Conference only has seven teams in both the Central and Pacific divisions, so making the playoffs is substantially simpler.
The Central division is probably the harder of the two divisions as it consists of: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. Within this division, I predict that Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota and Dallas will make the playoffs and that St. Louis will go on to win the Western Conference.
The Pacific division has a few locks for playoff spots however the final spot is up in the air in my opinion. The teams that should have no problem making the playoffs are Vancouver, San Jose and Los Angeles. The remaining four teams in the division are: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes. I expect Calgary to be the worst team in the league this year but think that their provincial rival Edmonton will grab the final spot in the Western conference this season.
As much as I wanted to predict that the Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup this season, I have to be realistic. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong and the Leafs miraculously win the cup but I think that the St. Louis Blues will defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins to win their first ever Stanley Cup.