NHL 2017-2018 Predictions (Repost)
The NHL season is here so with that comes the amazing time we all have been waiting for; the wonderment that is the race to the Stanley Cup. It all begins now, and everyone will monitor their teams to see who can contend for the world’s greatest trophy. With that said, here are my predictions in division orders followed by the playoff predictions.
EDMONTON OILERS: The Oilers will win the Pacific Division this season only because they are a little healthier than the Ducks are at the moment. Cam Talbot is a legit goalie, and Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL. The Oilers are the darlings of the NHL at the moment and many people believe they could be cup contenders. They also have some top tier talent to assist them with Leon Draisaitl and newcomer Ryan Strome. Oscar Klefbom returns to anchor the defense.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: The Ducks will finish the season strong, as they always do. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler are another year older, but this season will hinge on the health of John Gibson and the development of players like Cam Fowler, Rickard Rakell, and Jakob Silfverberg. The Ducks have the talent and the coaching to beat any team in the league.
CALGARY FLAMES: Adding Travis Harmonic to the defense will be very beneficial to them and grabbing top free-agent goalie Mike Smith. But will they be able to live up to the hype this season?
SAN JOSE SHARKS: The Sharks still have enough talent to finish fourth in the Pacific Division, but will it be enough for a playoff spot? Losing Patrick Marleau can hurt them, but Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns all return. Martin Jones is their top-notch goalie and always keeps them in every game.
LOS ANGELES KINGS: The Kings saw some of their future last year when they lost Jonathan Quick for the majority of the season. The Kings are banking on some of their top guys returning to form, such as Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli. But the Kings are rebuilding and will need a little more before they contend again.
ARIZONA COYOTES: The young guys are another year older, and Anthony Duclair and Max Domi are going to carry this team along with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. But now they have issues in net as Antti Raanta takes over. The principal thing for the Coyotes is that they are still looking to get better and have struggled for a long time.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: It’s rebuilding time in Vancouver and the only holdovers left from the ERA in which the Canucks were remotely decent are the Sedin twins. Anders Nilsson is in net, so you know they are going to give up a lot of goals and their entire team is going to struggle. The rebuilding process is going to be long and painful.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: When your starting goalie is Marc-Andre Fleury, you’re in a lot of trouble. The best player on the Golden Knights is James Neal, and Neal has never been the best player on any of his teams. He is used to being third or fourth-best. Now he is the star in Las Vegas. How will the players adjust to the bright lights of Las Vegas? Shea Theodore is a great defenseman and will anchor that defense for a while.
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DALLAS STARS: How do you fix your goalie issues? You go out and get Ben Bishop! The Dallas Stars did just that and now have a legitimate goalie to go with a star-studded lineup that includes Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and recruit Alexander Radulov. The only weakness the Stars have is their defense as their only excellent player to anchor it is John Klingberg. However, with Bishop there, they might not give up as many goals as they have in the past and might function better than in the past.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: The Predators have the best defense in the NHL next to the Anaheim Ducks. When you have a lineup that features Roman Josi, P. K. Subban,
Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm, offenses are going to have a tough time getting anything past them. Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg lead the first line. The Predators added a great second-line center in Nick Bonino. Pekka Rinne returns for another season in net.
ST. LOUIS BLUES: The Blues always seem like they are in the playoffs yet consistently fail. They went out and added Brayden Schenn to anchor their top line next to Alexander Steen. Vladimir Tarasenko returns to put up numbers for the Blues, and Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko return to anchor the defense. The question I have is, can Jake Allen succeed for an entire season? Last season he was mediocre for the first three months before catching fire in the final three. He needs to be more consistent to give the Blues a better chance this season.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: What are the Chicago Blackhawks thinking? Seriously? They traded away Artemi Panarin to Columbus for Brandon Saad, who won three Stanley Cups with them previously. The Hawks also reacquired Patrick Sharp, who also had success with them during their three cups. The difference here is that these two players are a little older, so it’s dangerous believing that the formula is going to work again. Saad had a lot of success with Jonathan Toews. Patrick Kane is also back to lead the Hawks in scoring, and Corey Crawford returns once again. The Blackhawks will always contend as long as they have their core, but their core is getting older.
MINNESOTA WILD: The Wild stood pat. They did nothing during the offseason to improve themselves and they are in the best division in hockey, so it’s difficult to see them getting better in the long run. Devan Dubnyk returns as their top-notch goalie and will be the one to keep the Wild in games. Tyler Ennis is their only significant addition in the offseason.
WINNIPEG JETS: The Jets have offense, a lot of offense. But what else do they have? They added Steve Mason in the offseason to take over in the net. But he is not exactly an all-star goalie. He is good but inconsistent. Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Mark Scheifele return to lead the Jets in offense and Dustin Byfuglien returns to hit everything in sight. The Jets will just barely miss the playoffs again.
COLORADO AVALANCHE: They were not just the worst team last season, they were the worst team in modern history. They mounted just 48 points. That is pathetic for a modern-day NHL franchise. Things were in turmoil when Patrick Roy abruptly resigned as head coach of the Avalanche a month before the season last year. It’s going to be a while before they get back to respectability. They have some talent which includes Tyler Jost, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. They’re going to have to figure out how to make that talent work.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: The fate of the Tampa Bay Lightning will now hinge on three things. The first thing is the continued development of Nikita Kucherov, who exploded for 85 points last season. The second thing is the health of Steven Stamkos as he needs to avoid injury and stay on the ice and lead the Bolts back to the playoffs and back to the Final. The unalterable part of the formula for the Lightning is the improved play of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and how well he holds up over a full season as the starting goalie. The Lightning knows it’s Stanley Cup or bust this year.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: The Maple Leafs rejoined the playoff party last season and I believe they will not only make it again, but they will make a larger dent in these playoffs. Mike Babcock has clearly cemented himself as one of the greatest coaches in the NHL and he even did the unthinkable; he brought the sad, hapless Maple Leafs back from the dead and made them into an exciting team. Auston Matthews leads them along with dynamic scorers like Mitchell Marner and Nazem Kadri. They also got a great veteran addition in Patrick Marleau, who still has some stuff left in the tank. William Nylander is also a force that helps make the Leafs extremely dangerous. Freddie Andersen returns to man the crease in net and gives the Leafs a calming prescience.
MONTREAL CANADIENS: The big fish for the Canadiens was Jonathan Drouin. The Habs recognized a major weakness in their arsenal of which was an offense. They addressed it by acquiring one of the hottest free agents on the market. Shea Weber returns to anchor the defense, which was very stout last season and gave the Canadiens some protection on the back end. Of course, losing Radulov in free agency is going to hurt them a lot. Alex Galchenyuk needs to step up if the Canadiens want to improve at all. Max Pacioretty is a model of consistency and has been the one constant for the Canadiens, but the heart and soul of Montreal lies with goaltender Carey Price, who carried the Canadiens to the playoffs last season.
BOSTON BRUINS: The only reason I have the Bruins in fourth instead of the Senators is that the Sens will be without Erik Karlsson for a short while. The Bruins return intact. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak return to anchor the first line for the Bruins while the Davids — Backes and Krejci — anchor the second line. Bruce Cassidy will get his first full season as head coach and the question is, can he get a full effort out of the Bruins like he did when they hired him mid-season last year? The Bruins won home games last year — something that did not happen under former coach Claude Julien. Goalie Tuukka Rask, who started hot and then fell off, returns. He will need more consistency.
OTTAWA SENATORS: Losing Erik Karlsson for the first few games of the season should throw the Sens out of sync for a while. Even with him, they were not that good. Kyle Turris and Mark Stone return as their best scorers. Bobby Ryan is past his best days. Goalie Craig Anderson is 37 years old and the Senators need to plan for life after him. The road to the playoffs will be difficult.
FLORIDA PANTHERS: The Panthers were in complete disarray last season and even made the idiotic decision to fire Coach Gerard Gallant. Now they made their bed and have to lie in it. The good news is that they still have talent. Alexander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and new Russian free agent Evgenii Dadonov anchor their top line. Vincent Trocheck anchors their second line. Their goalies are Roberto Luongo and James Reimer. The key to their success will be the development of their third and fourth lines. The Panthers are a one-line team right now.
BUFFALO SABRES: Ryan O’Reilly would be a third-line player on most teams, yet he is the top-line center on the Sabres. Jack Eichel just re-signed with the Sabres for a brand new contract so we know he is ready to commit, but will the Sabres ever give him anything to build around? We can count Evander Kane on to get injured at least once a season and also rack up penalty minutes. Chad Johnson and Robin Lehner are competing for the top goalie spot.
DETROIT RED WINGS: The Detroit Red Wings are in complete rebuilding mode and may even start a playoff-less streak. Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have not panned out the way the Red Wings thought they would, and that has caused the Red Wings to suffer. Petr Mrazek has been both great and terrible through stretches, and Jimmy Howard suffers through stretches of inconsistency and a bad contract. It’s going to get bad in Motown.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The Capitals lost a few weapons, but they always excel in the regular season. Alex Ovechkin returns for another season and another chance at Stanley. Nicklas Backstrom and T. J. Oshie will be back along with John Carlson to help the Caps get the ball rolling, and Braden Holtby will be in net once again to try to stop every single shot that passes through. The Capitals lost some depth but still have the talent and coaching to get through another regular season as division champions.
NEW YORK RANGERS: The core returns and the Rangers have everyone questioning what they are doing. Their biggest addition was defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who may be the guy who helps put the Rangers back over the edge and into competition with teams like the Penguins. Henrik Lundqvist is another year older, but still a great goalie. Mats Zuccarello is consistent, and Mika Zibanejad is a dynamic player with him. The Rangers succeeded and failed on the depth of all four lines last season and that will be the story again this season.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: They are too good to be any lower than third. They return Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They also return some new exciting players such as Jake Guentzel, who showed he can hang with the vets. It’s now the Matt Murray show as the young goalie gets the chance to do it all by himself without Marc Andre Fleury leering over his shoulder. Many feel that the Penguins will three-peat, but I feel that the last two postseasons will have finally taken its effect on them.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: They added a great scorer in Artemi Panarin. The real question is, how will he do without Patrick Kane by his side? Sergei Bobrovsky is probably one of the best goalies in the NHL. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are establishing themselves as the leaders of this defense. The Jackets need scoring from everyone, and that includes Boone Jenner. The only way the Blue Jackets get past the Penguins, Capitals, or Rangers is if they can score more.
CAROLINA HURRICANES: The last pieces to the puzzle and a return to the playoffs? It’s possible. Scott Darling played behind a great team in Chicago, so now we will see just how good he is. The talent level in Carolina includes guys like Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho, and Jordan Staal. They also have a fantastic second-line center named Victor Rask. They added Justin Williams via free agency and will bring great veteran leadership to the team. The Hurricanes are a playoff contender.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: The Flyers are a team that seems to be forever in mediocrity. They can occasionally beat the best teams in the NHL, yet somehow string together a bunch of losses and miss the playoffs. Wayne Simmonds is an exceptional talent. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux are two of the best this team has ever had. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are solid defensemen but lack the consistency to remain elite. They now will have a new goalie in Brian Elliot who had a nightmare season in Calgary. But the biggest ray of hope for Philadelphia is new draft pick Nolan Patrick, who was the Flyers' number one draft pick.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Two big questions are circling the Islanders and it has nothing to do with the 2017 team’s actual play. The first question is, will they stay in their arena for longer than a year? The second question is, will John Tavares remain an Islander, and for how long? The Islanders are going to be a hot mess this season.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: No offense, but there is no offense — literally. The Devils have Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall and not much else. Their goalie is Cory Schneider, one of the best in the NHL with the least amount of goal support. The Devils have some hope for the future with number one overall pick Nico Hischier, but not much for the recent future.
Dallas Stars Over Minnesota Wild in 4 Games
Edmonton Oilers over Chicago Blackhawks in 5 Games.
Anaheim Ducks over Calgary Flames in 5 Games.
Nashville Predators Over St. Louis Blues
Nashville Predators Over Dallas Stars in 7 Games
Edmonton Oilers over Anaheim Ducks in 7 Games.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Nashville Predators over Edmonton Oilers in 5 Games.
Capitals over Hurricanes in 6 Games.
Lightning Over Blue Jackets in 5 Games.
Rangers over Penguins in 6 Games.
Maple Leafs Over Canadiens in 7 Games.
Rangers over Capitals in 7 Games.
Lightning over Maple Leafs in 5 Games.
Lightning over Rangers in 6 Games.
STANLEY CUP FINAL PREDICTION
PREDATORS over LIGHTNING in 7 Games.