Here are the post-Olympic predictions for the NHL…
1. Boston: The B’s have been a dominant team all year, look for more of the same going into the playoffs, starting with goalie Tuukka Rask
2. Toronto: It finally looks like the Leafs will have their projected line up going into the season, in tact starting after the Olympic break. With a health roster, watch for the Leafs to impress in the Atlantic.
3. Tampa Bay: The Lightning will still be without Steven Stamkos until at least after their 4-game road trip. Once he returns, the team will return to their full form and earn a Top 3 spot in the Atlantic.
4. Montreal - Wild Card: As much as I hate to say it, the Habs don’t look so bad this season. Especially with goalie Carey Price coming off of a great Olympic tournament, look for the Habs to stay in the race for a Top 3 spot in the Atlantic, going into the playoffs.
5. Ottawa: Players like Spezza, Michalek, and Anderson have got to step it up in order for this team to have any chance at making the playoffs. It might come down to the wire, but this isn’t Ottawa’s year.
6. Detroit: After making the playoffs 22 straight seasons, the Wings will not be able to make it in 2014. Too many injuries and a busy schedule will take its toll on Detroit.
7. Florida: Look for the Cats to slightly improve going into latter half of the season, but don’t expect anything big from them in the standings.
8. Buffalo: The only excitement coming from Buffalo the rest of the season will be on Mar. 5, the trade deadline.
1. Pittsburgh: The Pens have been dominant and atop the East virtually the whole season. More of the same for Pittsburgh will come after the Olympics.
2. Washington: The Caps are near the bottom of the league in GAA and GA, but near the top offensively. Look for a shakeup in net *cough cough Ryan Miller cough*, allergies, right?
3. NY Rangers: The Rangers started the season slow, but have recently picked it up. Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist will lead the team to a Top 3 spot in the Metro division.
4. Columbus – Wild Card: With Gaborik and Horton returning from injuries, and Bobrovsky finding his groove as of late, don’t count the Blue Jackets out. This could be a dangerous team heading into the playoffs.
5. Philadelphia: Although Steve Mason has looked good, it can’t last for too long. Injuries will ultimately lead to Philly’s downfall this season.
6. Carolina: Unless goalies Khudobin or Ward suddenly step it up, this team is not making the postseason.
7. New Jersey: The Devils need more offense. When a 42 year old is leading your team in points, (props to Jagr) something has to change offensively.
8. NY Islanders: John Tavares is likely out for the year, Vanek is getting traded, not looking good for the Isles
1. Anaheim: The Ducks have been unreal so far this season. After a great Olympic tournament, the established #1 goalie, Jonas Hiller, will lead the way for the Ducks, along with Getzlaf, Perry, and Selanne.
2. San Jose: The Sharks are a strong team in the west, and are among the elite teams in west. As long as Niemi stays healthy, and the team continues what they’ve done all season, the Sharks should be fine.
3. Los Angeles: The Kings couldn’t seem to find any offense going into the Olympic break, however Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and Dustin Brown all put up big points at the Olympics.
4. Phoenix – Wild Card: The Coyotes have quietly been on a roll thus far, even without captain Shane Doan who had Rocky Mountain Fever. Key guys like Ribiero, Vrbata, and Hanzal have got to step it up offensively in order to support Mike Smith in net.
5. Vancouver: The Canucks went on a terrible losing streak without coach John Tortorella and are in for more trouble without Henrik Sedin. I don’t see the Canucks coming back and making the playoffs this season.
6. Calgary: The Flames are not a skilled team, need better goaltending, and have no real star player. At least they aren’t as bad as Edmonton.
7. Edmonton: This was supposed to be the season to start a new era for the Oilers, what happened? Poor goaltending, not enough offense, and no strong defensive core. Look for moves to be made on deadline day.
1. Chicago: The Hawks are one of the NHL’s elite teams this season. They acquired Bouchard and Regin from New York to further benefit their offense, and still have a very strong defensive team. Look for Chicago to get even better moving forward.
2. St. Louis: The Blues are looking scary good. They won’t be able to top Chicago in the standings, but are structured to go far in the playoffs.
3. Colorado: The Avs are in a Top 3 spot basically because of their incredible start to the season. They will get manhandled and swept by the Blues in the playoffs, mainly because of how young of a team they are. Talent wise they are among the leagues best, but don’t expect a lot from them.
4. Minnesota – Wild Card: Anticipate a huge rest of the season from Minnesota. It doesn’t look like they’ll get Harding back this season, but a healthy Niklas Backstrom would immensely help this club moving forward.
5. Dallas: The Stars have looked good as of late, but they won’t be able to catch up to Minnesota in the standings.
6. Winnipeg: The Jets are looking great under new coach Paul Maurice. This is a real dark horse in the West. They have dug themselves a pretty deep hole from the beginning of the year, but could make a real push for a playoff spot.
7. Nashville: The Predators are still without goalie Pekka Rinne, and lack an offensive spark. They have Shea Weber on the blue line, but he can only do so much.
PIT vs CBJ, BOS vs MTL, TOR vs TBL, WSH vs NYR
CHI vs PHX, ANA vs MIN, SJS vs LAK, STL vs COL
PIT vs WSH, BOS vs TOR : CHI vs STL, SJS vs MIN
PIT vs TOR : STL vs SJS
Stanley Cup Finals:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs St. Louis Blues in 6, MVP: Vladimir Tarasenko
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