Here’s how I see the NHL shaking out this season. OK, so I took the short way out when it came to the Western Conference, but I wanted to get my picks on the record before the start of the season tonight! Playoff picks only…
1-Washington Capitals– The Caps took care of their biggest problem by adding Tomas Vokoun to keep pucks out of the net. Alex Ovechkin dedicated himself, during the offseason, to physical conditioning for the upcoming season. He reported 10lbs. lighter and with a renewed focus. Alexander Semin will look to prove that he is the 40 goal scorer of 2 years ago and Mike Green will look to stay healthy and get back to his offensive ways on the blueline.
2-Pittsburgh Penguins– Nobody knows exactly how long Sidney Crosby will be out. Evgeni Malkin is an offensive machine and is healthy though, and has proven in the past that he can lead the Pens when Crosby is out of the lineup. Malkin will team with Jordan Staal to form a formidable duo at the center position. Marc-Andre Fleury is 27 years old this season and brings a resume full of experience and a stanley cup. They also have Dan Bylsma, who is one of the finest coaches in the NHL.
3-Boston Bruins– Tim Thomas was an aging wonder last season performing as well as any goalie has, in the history of this game, when looking at the regular season and playoffs. Vezina trophy and Conn Smythe trophy says it all. Zdeno Chara will lead the defense once again and Tyler Seguin is only 19 years old at the start of his 2nd season.
4-Tampa Bay Lightning– Steve Yzerman did a fine job in his first year as GM and Guy Boucher was a focused and determined coach, who got results in year one and will look to build on that success this year. Add in the trio of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier and offense should not be a concern.
5-Philadelphia Flyers– The Flyers went in a different direction as they traded a couple of scorers and invested in goaltending. They are counting on Ilya Bryzgalov to be lockdown between the pipes and if Chris Pronger is healthy, he leads the best 6 man defense corps in the league. Up front, Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are young and have skill.
6-Buffalo Sabres– Ryan Miller is a workhorse game after game between the pipes and will do the same this year. They are led by Thomas Vanek up front and Tyler Myers on defense. The major factor for this team is that Lindy Ruff get more from his players than any other coach in the league. he will do the same this season.
7-Carolina Hurricanes– Cam Ward is their superstar goalie and has a stanley cup to prove it. Jeff Skinner will follow up his Calder trophy season with a bigger offensive season that will help the Canes avoid missing the playoffs. Eric Staal is as skilled and as clutch as they come at the foward position. If you have any questions about his toughness as a power foward, just ask his brother Marc.
8-New York Rangers– The Blueshirts made 2 key moves leading up to this season. First, they made Ryan Callahan(ultimate work ethic) their captain. Second, they cut Sean Avery who was MIA on most nights and a waste of ability. Full credit to coach Tortorella on both moves. They brought in Brad Richards, a former Torts soldier from Tampa’s 2004 cup year. He will be counted on to make sure that Marian Gaborik gets back to his 40+ goal production and to upgrade a PP that has suffered since the lockout ended. Fan favorite and goalie diva, Henrik Lundqvist, will get his 65+ games and try once again to carry the team as the defense continues to develop. Marc Staal’s concussion problem is something to keep track of because he is the leader of this Ranger D corps.
Picks and key players only
1-Los Angeles Kings- Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty
2-Vancouver Canucks- Ryan Kesler, Sedin Twins, Roberto Luongo
3-Chicago Blackhawks- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith
4-Detroit Red Wings- Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom
5-Anaheim Ducks- Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry
6-San Jose Sharks- Joe Thorton, Patrick Marleau, B&B Boys(Brent Burns and Dan Boyle
7-Nashville Predators- Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne
8-Columbus Blue Jackets- Rick Nash and Jeff Carter
Stanley Cup Prediction: Washington Capitals over Los Angeles Kings