2014-15 NHL Preview

Posted: October 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

pariseIn less than 24-hours, the 2014-15 NHL season will get underway when the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Boston Bruins from TD Garden. This storied rivalry begins what promises to be yet another electric campaign on the ice. 30 teams enter, with at least half believing they have the goods to capture Lord Stanley’s hardware.

The defending champion Los Angeles Kings are back. With a lineup chock full of talent, they’ll undoubtedly contend once again out West. Joining them in a crowded field of contenders are Chicago, Minnesota, Anaheim, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Darkhorses, meanwhile, are destined to emerge. Teams like New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and Colorado all have enough faith in their rosters to believe that this could be their year.

But, who actually will emerge come June, 2015 as the best-of-the-best? SkoodSports takes a look ahead at what should be another phenomenal NHL season:

Atlantic Division

1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Boston Bruins
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Florida Panthers
7. Ottawa Senators
8. Buffalo Sabres

The Canadiens captured this division’s playoff bracket last season. Until Boston or Tampa prove that they can beat PK Subban and Carey Price, they are the smart pick to come out on top of a top-heavy division…The Bruins are finally seeing their constant run of success come back to bite them in the form of cap difficulties. Last week’s trade of Johnny Boychuk was just the most recent casualty. Boston has the defensive depth to survive. But, they’ll need their young blue liners to play way above their heads if they have Cup dreams…Tampa Bay is the sexy pick to win this division going into the season. The play of Ben Bishop a year ago, coupled with the team’s young, improving core make them a bonafide contender in the eyes of many. But, until the Lightning find consistency on defense, they’ll still play third wheel to the more traditional markets above them…The Red Wings were once considered a shoe-in for the playoffs. If they hope to overcome a difficult division, they’ll need to stay healthy, something Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have had difficulty doing…Toronto remains one of those teams that gets overrated by their fanbase and underrated by the other 29 fanbases in the league. There’s undoubtedly talent there. But, their deficiencies far outweigh the positives north of the border…Florida, Ottawa, and Buffalo are all firmly entrenched in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, as they would need a slew of things to go right before they could even be considered remote contenders.

Metropolitan Division

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
3. New York Islanders
4. Philadelphia Flyers*
5. New York Rangers*
6. Washington Capitals
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Carolina Hurricanes

Pittsburgh’s lack of blue line depth will be a killer come playoff time. But, their offensive prowess should be enough to capture the Metropolitan as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin stay healthy…The Blue Jackets and Islanders are two of the youngest and swiftest improving franchises in the league. Columbus gave the Penguins all they could handle last year, and will only get better with youngsters like Ryan Johansen and Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way. The Islanders, meanwhile, boosted their blueline by landing Boychuk last weekend. That, and their previous acquisition of Jaroslav Halak should put them over the more established franchises to capture their second playoff berth in three years…Philadelphia is likely in a transition year, as their aging defense makes way for their burgeoning crop of talented back-end depth in the AHL and juniors…The Rangers may have won the Eastern Conference last year. But, a long offseason of losses will impact the team adversely; as will the tumultuous reality of a Stanley Cup hangover… Many still have faith in Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. I, on the other hand, think that their putrid signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen will only serve to send them into cap hell by 2018. The short term improvement at defense won’t be enough to overcome weak offensive depth…The bottom feeders figure to be New Jersey and Carolina. Though, the former may have a fighter’s chance at contending for a playoff spot.

Central Division

1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Minnesota Wild
3. Dallas Stars
4. Colorado Avalanche*
5. St. Louis Blues*
6. Nashville Predators
7. Winnipeg Jets

The Blackhawks gambled in their sizable investments to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane this offseason. That could end up hurting them in the long run. But, 2014-15 figures to be yet another banner season for a team that has to be considered the most complete in hockey…Minnesota nearly made it to the Western Conference Finals with Ilya Bryzgalov in net last season. A return to form of Niklas Backstrom as well as the addition of proven playoff performer Thomas Vanek should send this young franchise deep into the playoffs once again…Dallas brought in Jason Spezza to give them one of the best 1-2 punches at center in the league (along with Tyler Seguin). If Dallas’ defense can build upon where they left off last year, this is a darkhorse in a crowded division…Colorado was one of the feel good stories of the season, along with the emergence of young goalie Semyon Varlamov (who should have won the Vezina Trophy). Expect them to have a little more trouble this season, though a return to the playoffs looks likely…St. Louis gambled by dealing for Ryan Miller last offseason. The former Olympic star is now in Vancouver, and the Blues are going to feel the burn of a disappointing campaign that still might include a playoff berth thanks to a weak Pacific Division…Nashville brought in James Neal from Pittsburgh to try and finally get some offense in The Music City. They’ll need to find a center that can pass him the puck first…Finally, we have the Winnipeg Jets, who once again sat on their hands most of the offseason and decided to stick with Ondrej Pavelec in net. They’d need hell to freeze over twice if they’re to contend in this grueling division.

Pacific Division

1. Anaheim Ducks
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Arizona Coyotes
5. Edmonton Oilers
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. Calgary Flames

Anaheim and Los Angeles are far-and-away the cream of the crop in the Pacific. The Ducks landed former Canucks star C Ryan Kesler to add to an already impressive roster. Meanwhile, the Kings are the defending champions, and bring back enough of their talented roster to be considered candidates for a repeat. San Jose, always a contender, could see a bit of a regression just based on their aging core. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton aren’t getting any younger. Though, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski remain two of the best forwards in the game. If Antti Niemi can continue to put up Vezina like numbers, the Sharks could contend once again…The franchise formerly known as Phoenix, the Arizona Coyotes, changed their name in order to better represent their state as a whole. That’s not likely to help them on the ice, where a talented defense is handicapped by an inconsistent top-six…Finally, Canada will not be enjoying their blistery winter, as all three of Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary are likely to be in the lottery next spring.

Awards

Hart Trophy – C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Norris Trophy – D PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens
Vezina Trophy – G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Jack Adams Award
 – Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild
Conn Smythe Trophy – LW Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Art Ross Trophy – C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Rocket Richard Trophy – C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Calder Trophy – C/LW Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

Playoff Predictions

First Round

Montreal Canadiens OVER New York Rangers in 6
Boston Bruins OVER Tampa Bay Lightning in 7

Philadelphia Flyers OVER Pittsburgh Penguins in 7
Columbus Blue Jackets OVER New York Islanders in 5

Anaheim Ducks OVER St. Louis Blues in 4
Los Angeles Kings OVER San Jose Sharks in 6

Chicago Blackhawks OVER Colorado Avalanche in 5
Minnesota Wild OVER Dallas Stars in 7

Quarterfinals

Montreal Canadiens OVER Boston Bruins in 6
Columbus Blue Jackets OVER Philadelphia Flyers in 7

Anaheim Ducks OVER Los Angeles Kings in 5
Minnesota Wild OVER Chicago Blackhawks in 6

Semifinals

Columbus Blue Jackets OVER Montreal Canadiens in 6
Minnesota Wild OVER Anaheim Ducks in 7

Stanley Cup Final

Minnesota Wild OVER Columbus Blue Jackets in 6

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