Predictions are a very silly thing to do. The NHL is a very unpredictable league with a salary cap that prevents powerhouse teams from being at the top on a consistent basis. Breakout players emerge everywhere and can carry their respective teams to the playoffs. Injuries are also a factor in a teams success and are impossible to predict. Goaltending is also a huge factor, if you’re goalie falters, your team could be extremely screwed. However, just because predictions are silly doesn’t mean they are not fun to do.
To recap, here are my predictions on how the league will shake down this year.
I don’t think I threw too many surprises in there. Carolina making the playoffs could come as a surprise to some. I don’t think people have Dallas being as good as I think they will be. San Jose missing the playoffs could come as a surprise to some. Perhaps having Minnesota as low as I do after a 106 point season could surprise people. Columbus is in the same boat as Minnesota for that matter. Many people are very high on Winnipeg this season after how well they ended their season last year and a better goaltending situation.
I don’t think teams I kept out of the playoffs like Boston, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or New York should come as a surprise. Each of these teams are either on a very downward spiral (Boston, LA, Ottawa) or are just a few pieces away from being playoff contenders (New York, Philadelphia).
With that, I think a playoff prediction is in order!
That’s right, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to dethrone the back-to-back champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The top two lines in Tampa Bay are absolutely absurd. Palat-Johnson-Point and Killorn-Stamkos-Kucherov is one of the most dangerous top 6’s in the NHL. Their top D-pair of Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman is also among the leagues best. Andrei Vasilevsky is a very young and talented goalie looking to emerge as an elite starting goaltender. Up and down the lineup there are very few holes aside from Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan. They have solid depth guys in J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Cederic Paquette, and recently added Chris Kunitz who could be very well on his way to his fifth cup.
As for the runner up in Edmonton, McDavid and Draisaitl are a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention Ryan Strome is looking to breakout alongside McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi is on his way. I just don’t have enough confidence in their defense. Cam Talbot is great and all, but how long before he cracks behind that below average defense? Klefbom, Sekera, and Larsson are solid but I don’t think it will be enough to contain Tampa’s top 6.
I am very excited for this NHL season and what is to come of it. I haven’t been this anxious for NHL hockey in my entire life. Everyone loves a good story when it comes to sports. That’s what I hope we as fans get a lot of out of this hockey season!