11 October 2016

2016-17 NHL Predictions

(NHL)
Fresh off the heels of the return of the World Cup of Hockey, the 2016-17 NHL season kicks off this Wednesday. The Pittsburgh Penguins are aiming to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions in almost 20 years after they won their fourth title in franchise history but as you would expect, 29 other clubs are plenty eager to stop them.

In the end, only one team will be hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup this spring and who will it be? It is time for the B-Flo 360 NHL Predictions.

Coaching Carousel
 NHL Eastern Conference (2006 - Pres)
Atlantic
Tampa Bay Lightning (2012 - Pres)Florida Panthers (2017 - Pres)Montreal Canadiens (1957 - 1999)Boston Bruins (2008 - Pres)
Detroit Red Wings (1984 - Pres)Buffalo Sabres (1971 - 1996)Ottawa Senators (2008 - Pres)Toronto Maple Leafs (2017 - Pres)
This looks to me like a fun battle between the league's two Floridian clubs for the division crown but I think the Lightning are the better team and thus will come out on top. From the offense to the defense to the play in net, they have what it takes to get the Cup. Meanwhile, the Panthers surprised many last season and look to be pretty good this season and not just because of the ageless Jaromir Jagr. They have a lot of young talent and made some shrewd acquisitions to boost their defense. Montreal is not to be slept on and especially so if Carey Price is healthy, even after they got the shorter end of the wild P.K. Subban-Shea Weber deal, but their power play does need to improve. I could see the Bruins sneaking into the playoffs thanks to a quality offense and a good goaltender in Tuukka Rask (even as he disappointed a year ago) but that defensive unit is still a mess. Maybe we shouldn't underestimate the Red Wings but it looks like they'll be missing the playoffs this spring because they allowed their defensive corps to get too old and that will hurt them against their spry division rivals. There is no question that with Jack Eichel and their young talent that the Sabres are a club on the rise and they will show it, even as the playoffs will still be out of reach. Ottawa did make some aggressive moves in bringing in guys like Dion Phaneuf but it will take them a whale of an effort to crack the postseason and while the future may be getting brighter in Toronto, that future is still a ways away.

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

Metropolitan
Washington Capitals (1975 - 1995)Pittsburgh Penguins (2017 - Pres)New York Rangers (1997 - 2007)Philadelphia Flyers (2000 - Pres)
New York Islanders (2012 - Pres)Carolina Hurricanes (2000 - Pres)New Jersey Devils (1993 - 1999)Columbus Blue Jackets (2016 - Pres)
Even in such a tough division that features the defending champions, I like the Capitals to repeat as division champs. After all with such a strong regular season a year ago and largely the same team back, why wouldn't they (beyond injury)? The offense, led by Alex Ovechkin, is strong, the defense is good and Braden Holtby is great in net. The Penguins are perhaps as poised as any team in recent years to repeat as champions as they return virtually the same lineup as last year and now many of their fresh faces have been battle-tested from their playoff run, most notably goalie Matt Murray. While the Rangers are on the decline, there is still plenty there to expect another playoff appearance. After all, their goalie is still Henrik Lundqvist and they have added some needed speed on the offseason. And if Sidney Crosby doesn't get off to a slow start, they could claim the division. Dave Hakstol had a really nice debut with the Flyers last season and I think they can do better this season with some talented young pieces. But the question has to be whether the goalie play will be anywhere near as strong as it was last season. The Islanders won their first playoff series in over 20 years this spring but I don't think you can say this team got better after losing a number of key guys in free agency. If Jaroslav Halak actually stayed healthy again, they could surprise somebody in the playoffs. After a dreadful start, the Hurricanes caught fire down the stretch and played pretty well. They could slide into the postseason and would not surprise me but they really need more firepower offensively to match their promising defense and really need to boost their goaltending. The Devils made some big offseason headlines with the blockbuster trade for Taylor Hall and he will certainly boost the offense but having to part with Adam Henrique weakens their defense in front of Cory Schneider and he can only do so much. Columbus looks like the cellar-dweller but who knows what could happen if Sergei Bobrovsky has a big season.

Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Penguins
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers (WC)
New York Islanders (WC)
6 Carolina Hurricanes
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Columbus Blue Jackets
 NHL Western Conference (2006 - Pres)
Central
Chicago Blackhawks (2000 - Pres)Nashville Predators (2012 - Pres)Minnesota Wild (2001 - 2010)Dallas Stars (2014 - Pres)
St. Louis Blues (1985 - 1987)Winnipeg Jets (2012 - Pres)Colorado Avalanche (2016 - Pres)
And here we have the best division in the NHL. Pick yourself a division champion but I like the Blackhawks. Their offensive stars all return, Corey Crawford continues to do a solid job in net and bringing in a guy like Brian Campbell helps improve their defense. The Predators got a great fit for Peter Laviolette's scheme by trading for P.K. Subban and they have got some offensive firepower as well. The key for them is goalie Pekka Rinne holding up. Bruce Boudreau should have an immediate impact with the Wild, particularly in the regular season, he should help coax some offense out of cagey vets Zach Parise and Eric Staal. The Stars have one of the finest corps of forwards in the league and that will power them to another playoff berth but it will be their goaltending that will make the difference. St. Louis did lose some key guys in the offseason but in Ken Hitchcock's final season, this should still be a playoff contender and especially if Jake Allen fills Brian Elliott's void in net. If things go right for Winnipeg, they may get themselves in the Wild Card mix. They definitely have some talent and if they get the kind of play in net that they need from Ondrej Pavelec, they can surprise. Perhaps the departure of Patrick Roy can help the young talent of the Avalanche thrive but they are still a little too green.

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

Pacific
San Jose Sharks (2009 - Pres)Calgary Flames (1981 - 1994)Los Angeles Kings (2012 - Pres)Anaheim Ducks (2007 - 2013)
Arizona Coyotes (2016 - Pres)Edmonton Oilers (1987 - 1996)Vancouver Canucks (2009 - Pres)
The Sharks may not be getting any younger but they showed last postseason that they have what it takes to finally make a deep run and to get to the Cup Finals. Their offense is always strong but their defense looks pretty good and the play in net is solid with Martin Jones. I think the Flames are ready to take a big step this season and bringing in Brian Elliott to play in net is an important reason why and I think that with improved puck possession numbers under new coach Glen Gulutzan, that'll get them back to the playoffs. Los Angeles will miss Milan Lucic and their key guys are getting up there in years plus they did not get that much better in the offseason. That said with those aforementioned key players, there is still enough to coax another postseason berth. Going from Bruce Boudreau to Randy Carlyle is clearly a downgrade for the Ducks and the aging of their key offensive players will help keep them out of the playoffs. The Coyotes have some nice young players and are moving in the right direction but the lack of experience throughout much of the roster will hinder them from doing real damage. And in closing, the Canucks look pretty terrible and I think many would be surprised if they didn't have the worst record in all of the NHL.

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

Eastern Quarterfinals
M1 Capitals vs. WC Islanders
Washington Capitals (1998 - 2002)New York Islanders (1973 - 1995)
Say what you want (and we all have) about the woes of the Caps in the postseason but if they were to lose to a certainly inferior team in the Islanders, that would be a stunner.
Capitals in 4

M2 Penguins vs. M3 Rangers
Pittsburgh Penguins (1993 - 1999)New York Rangers (1969 - 1978)
If Henrik Lundqvist can stand on his head just enough, could a playoff upset happen? Sure! As much as I respect the guy though, I just don't think he can be relief to solely swing a series against a team like Pittsburgh.
Penguins in 5

A1 Lightning vs. WC Flyers
Tampa Bay Lightning (1993 - 2001)Philadelphia Flyers (1983 - 1999)
The Flyers are a team on the rise and I do like Dave Hakstol as a head coach. The talent, as we know, is there but it is not all the way there to where I think they can pull off a big league upset like this.
Lightning in 4

A2 Panthers vs. A3 Canadiens
Florida Panthers (2017 - Pres)Montreal Canadiens (1948 - 1956)
Easily the best postseason series in the quarterfinals would be this showdown between the most northern and southern teams in the Eastern Conference. Roberto Luongo is the man but in a playoff showdown with a guy like Carey Price, I lean Price.
Canadiens in 7

Western Quarterfinals
C1 Blackhawks vs. WC Blues
Chicago Black Hawks (1966 - 1986)
These two teams hate each other and I can certainly attest that their fanbases hate each other as well (cough Mizzou cough). You know the Blues can and will bring it but I don't think they have the depth to go out and knock off the Hawks here.
Blackhawks in 6

C2 Predators vs. C3 Wild
Nashville Predators (2012 - Pres)Minnesota Wild (2011 - 2013)
We know how good of a regular season coach Bruce Boudreau is but his playoff resume is more spotty. They certainly have some quality players to do battle with but I do think that the Predators are the superior club and more experience where it matters most.
Predators in 5

P1 Sharks vs. WC Stars
San Jose Sharks (2017 - Pres)Dallas Stars (2014 - Pres)
As we always know with the Stars, it is their goaltending that will determine how deep they go. The two-goalie system is a little funky but it did work last season and I think it will work here. The Stars have just as much, if not more, offensive firepower than the Sharks do and I think that'll power them to an upset.
Stars in 6

P2 Flames vs. P3 Kings
Calgary Flames (2014 - Pres)Los Angeles Kings (1989 - 1998)
Will the rising young talent of the Flames or the experience of the Kings be the difference? I think the latter will come out on top as the defense and goaltending of the Kings will provide them just enough of an edge to advance.
Kings in 7

Eastern Semifinals
M1 Capitals vs. M2 Penguins
Washington Capitals (2008 - Pres)Pittsburgh Penguins (1969 - 1972)
This is certainly the playoff matchup that everybody east of the Mississippi wants to see this postseason and I would be quite surprised if we didn't see it this year. Both teams are tremendous but I do think that Washington is the better team and they will showcase that in what will shape up to be a classic.
Capitals in 7

A1 Lightning vs. A3 Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning (2012 - Pres)Montreal Canadiens (1933 - 1947)
Montreal will be as competitive as ever and you know they will bring it here. That said, the Lightning are more balanced as a team and that will give them the edge.
Lightning in 6

Western Semifinals
C1 Blackhawks vs. C2 Predators 
Chicago Blackhawks (2000 - Pres)Nashville Predators (1999 - 2004)
In this matchup, here is why I like the Predators even with their likely disadvantage in the net. I think their offense can prove to be just as good and their superior defense will help to push them on. But it will be a thriller, no doubt about it.
Predators in 6

P3 Kings vs. WC Stars
Los Angeles Kings (2012 - Pres)Dallas Stars (1995 - 2013)
The Stars are the younger team here and also the better team here. Their much-stronger offense should be able to push the action and if the goalie duo gets the job done, Dallas will take this one relatively easily.
Stars in 5

Eastern Finals
M1 Capitals vs. A1 Lightning
Washington Capitals (2003 - 2007)Tampa Bay Lightning (2008 - 2011)
Perhaps the two best teams in the Eastern Conference and the two most balanced are featured here in another fun series. You've got your offense, your defense and your play in net. That said, I do think this is the time for Washington to finally get back to the Finals.
Capitals in 7

Western Finals
P2 Predators vs. WC Stars
Nashville Predators (2012 - Pres)Dallas Stars (2004 - 2006)
Do we make too much of goaltending in the postseason? Perhaps, and I know I do but it will be the difference here. Pekka Rinne has had a great career but I do think he is on the decline while Dallas has the rotation of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. I'll be completely honest, I think the latter will make for the difference.
Stars in 6

Stanley Cup Finals
M1 Capitals vs. WC Stars
Washington Capitals (2008 - Pres)Dallas Stars (2014 - Pres)
The Stars have the kind of forwards to pull an upset and stretch this series longer than perhaps it should be. But the Capitals should once again be the top team in hockey and I think this is finally the time where they will show it come spring.
Capitals in 5

2 comments:

  1. Washington will choke again

    ReplyDelete
  2. They have to prove they can make it past the second round

    ReplyDelete