The 2013-2014 NHL season kicks off tonight! The Chicago Blackhawks raise their championship banner as they host the Washington Capitals in the first premier matchup of the season. This season, as with every season, is not devoid of superstars, great teams, and exciting story-lines. Who will take home the Stanley Cup? 17 predictions for the season, let’s do it!
- 1. Sidney Crosby will win the Hart Trophy. The Penguins star would have won the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season, but he got hit in the face with the puck and missed ten games, and the award went to Alexander Ovechkin. This year, Crosby will stay healthy (the city of Pittsburgh is crossing their collective fingers), lead the league in points and take home a second Hart.
- 2. Sidney Crosby will win the Art Ross Trophy. Most points= Art Ross. Crosby will easily lead the league in points.
- 3. Tuukka Rask will win the Vezina Trophy. Rask wasn’t even named a finalist for the award for best goalie last season despite a phenomenal season where he tied for the league lead in shutouts, was third in save percentage and fourth in goals against average while leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year, Rask is finally in the spotlight and ready to avenge last year’s disappointing loss in the Finals where he didn’t play as well as he had in the regular season. He has all of the qualities of a top-tier goaltender in the NHL.
- 4. P.K. Subban will win the Norris Trophy. Subban won the hardware last year, and nobody has been convincing enough to supplant him as the league’s best defenseman. He’s good for 30 points every year, and his play on the defensive end is stellar. The Canadiens star will take home the Norris.
- 5. Mike Babcock will win the Jack Adams Trophy. The Jack Adams Trophy, given to the best coach in the league, will be awarded to Mike Babcock. Detroit will be in Cup contention again after adding Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, and Babcock has never won the award despite consistently being one of the top bench bosses in the league. If the Red Wings can have another great year, hockey writers will give him the much-overdue trophy.
- 6. The Bruins will win the Atlantic Division. Detroit will make this a tight division race all the way to Game 82, but the Bruins will hold them off to take the division. With Vezina contender Rask in net and the additions of Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson improving the already-powerful offense, Boston will be Atlantic Champions.
- 7. The Penguins will win the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers will make it tough, but Pittsburgh is simply the class of this division. Hart winner Crosby, Chris Kunitz and James Neal make up one of the best lines in hockey, Evgeni Malkin will compete for the Art Ross with his teammate, and Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik are three of the best defensemen in the league. The question for Pittsburgh will not be if they can win the division, it will be if Crosby and Malkin can produce more in the playoffs this year after they were swept in the Conference Finals by Boston last year.
- 8. The Blackhawks will win the Central Division. The offensive firepower on this team is still remarkable with Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa all on the first two lines. But the defensemen make this team complete on both sides of the ice. Duncan Keith will contend for the Norris, Brent Seabrook was the hero in the playoffs, and Johnny Oduya is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. The points streak last year was no fluke, and neither was the Cup; the Blackhawks are that good.
- 9. The Sharks will win the Pacific Division. Offensive firepower? Check. Depth on defense? Check. Solid goaltending? Check. A Cup? The Sharks don’t have one yet, but they will contend for one again this season. Marleau, Couture, and Thornton are the point-getters on offense, and if Brent Burns or Tommy Wingels can step up, the Sharks are going to score the most goals in the West. The defense was one of the best in the league last year, and Dan Boyle has a lot to do with that. Antti Niemi is one of the best in the league between the pipes, so the Sharks aren’t going to lose a lot of regular season games. The biggest problem for San Jose has always been the playoffs; they’re the Broncos of hockey. Can they get the monkey off their back this year? A division title over teams like Los Angeles and Anaheim will be a start.
- 10. Eastern Conference first round: (1) Pittsburgh defeats (8) Montreal, (2) Boston defeats (7) Tampa Bay, (3) Detroit defeats (6) New York Rangers, (5) Toronto defeats (4) Washington
- 11. Western Conference first round: (1) Chicago defeats (8) Minnesota, (7) Edmonton defeats (2) San Jose, (6) St. Louis defeats (3) Anaheim, (4) Vancouver defeats (5) Los Angeles
- 12. Eastern Conference semifinals: (1) Pittsburgh defeats (5) Toronto, (3) Detroit defeats (2) Boston
- 13. Western Conference semifinals: (1) Chicago defeats (7) Edmonton, (4) Vancouver defeats (6) St. Louis
- 14. Eastern Conference Finals: (3) Detroit defeats (1) Pittsburgh
- 15. Western Conference Finals: (4) Vancouver defeats (1) Chicago
- 16. Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings beat Vancouver Canucks in 6
- 17. Jimmy Howard wins Conn Smythe as playoff MVP
I’ve got the Red Wings winning it all this year. Let the season begin!