Wow! That was fast! Maybe it is because I now live on the other side of the world, but I can’t remember a shorter offseason for the National Hockey League. Opening Night definitely snuck up on me. But now that rosters have been pared down, line combinations finalized, and the Zamboni has left the ice, it’s time to drop the puck on a brand new season. Before you read on to see how your team will fare and who will hoist the most treasured trophy in sport . . . five bold predictions to keep you warm this winter:
1. Last year’s Stanley Cup finalist, the New York Rangers, will fail to make the playoffs.
2. Former Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz will do very well in his first season behind the bench in D.C. but the Capitals will still not make it out of the conference quarterfinals.
3. Detroit rookie Anthony Mantha will score 33 goals for the Red Wings this season.
4. Anaheim Ducks rookie John Gibson will win the Vezina for the best goaltender but not the Calder for most valuable first year player.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos will stay healthy, lead the league with 60 goals, and have one of the greatest single seasons in NHL history.
The award(s) goes to . . .
Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): Steven Stamkos, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Hart Trophy (Regular season MVP): Steven Stamkos, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender): John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward): Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player): Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit Red Wings
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year): Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
Finally, what prognostication piece would be complete without my bold (and uncannily accurate) team-by-team predictions for the upcoming campaign? As for the best two months in sports, the Stanley Cup playoffs, here is how I see it playing out:
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) over Montreal Canadians (8), 4 games to 2
Pittsburgh Penguins (2) over New Jersey Devils (7), 4-3
Columbus Blue Jackets (6) over Boston Bruins (3), 4-2
Detroit Red Wings (4) over Washington Capitals (5), 4-3
Western Conference Quarterfinals
Anaheim Ducks (1) over Edmonton Oilers (8), 4-2
St. Louis Blues (2) over Dallas Stars (7), 4-2
Los Angeles Kings (6) over Colorado Avalanche (3), 4-3
San Jose Sharks (5) over Chicago Blackhawks (4), 4-2
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) over Columbus Blue Jackets (6), 4-2
Detroit Red Wings (4) over Pittsburgh Penguins (2), 4-3
Western Conference Semifinals
Anaheim Ducks (1) over Los Angeles Kings (6), 4-3
St. Louis Blues (2) over San Jose Sharks (5), 4-2
Eastern Conference Finals
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) over Detroit Red Wings (4), 4-3
Western Conference Finals
Anaheim Ducks (1) over St. Louis Blues (2), 4-3
Stanley Cup Final
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) over Anaheim Ducks (1), 4-2