2013 NHL Preview: Rangers, Senators, Capitals, Blues, Canucks, Kings, Bruins, Penguins and More (Fan Take)

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I think it is safe to say that this is not the way the NHL and the fans wanted to start the season, half way through.  The NHL was going to have one of the biggest outdoor games to ever take place at the Big House at the University of Michigan between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

This would have brought many people to their seats, whether in the stadium or in front of their tvs.  But because of the lock-out, caused by greedy millionaires, the game was cancelled which brought shame to the game.  Along with the Winter Classic the NHL lost more money from not being able to complete another series of 24/7.  This has brought fans closer to the game and given us a behind the scenes look at what goes on throughout an NHL season. With all that being said, the game we love is back. 

As much as I want to stick it to those who brought another lock-out I certainly love the game way too much to miss out on any of the action. I believe this season will be a very exciting season. The playoffs are always exciting, but will all the energy saved up from only playing half a season, the playoffs should be tough, physical, and gritty throughout.

Although people will tell you that if your team does not get off to a great start you will be left in the dust, I believe it will be like any other season (Los Angeles Kings last year) where the team that finishes the strongest will have the best chance to take home the Stanley Cup. So with that here are my predictions on how the teams will finish.

Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division:

  1. New York Rangers

With the addition of star Rick Nash, this team is by far the most stacked in the league when you look through the line-up.  They have solid goaltending between the pipes and plenty of depth in front of “King Henrik”. They also have a good balance of youth and veterans that will push them deep into the playoffs.

  1. Pittsburg Penguins

Although the Penguins have a good team with Crosby and Malkin leading the way, the way the Penguins went out in the playoffs was not pretty. If they want to proceed being a top tier team they will have to shore up their goaltending and get some depth on the backside.

  1. Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux deserves to be the captain, especially with the way he led the Flyers to beat the Penguins in the first round last year, while still needing surgery. But for the Flyers this year it’s all about goaltending, goaltending, goaltending.  If Bryzgalov can’t get back to the form he had with the Coyotes, it will be a long and not fun season.

  1. New Jersey Devils

Lack of scoring will come to be the forefront problem especially with losing their leading scorer and captain in Zach Parise, also Martin Brodeur is not getting any younger and will need more help this year than any other year in his career

  1. New York Islanders

The Islanders will still be in the “rebuilding” phase yet again this year.  Is doesn’t help that they lost one of their top point getters and 1st liner in P.A. Parenteau.  Unless they can get a Vezina performance out of Nabakov they will be sitting at the bottom of the conference.

Northeast Division:

  1. Ottawa Senators

The Senators are coming off one of the best years in a little while and can thank their younger players for it.  Craig Anderson has been known to not give 100% effort every game he plays, but will have to in order to keep Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner off the number 1 spot.  This team will be hungry and ready to build off their last season.

  1. Boston Bruins

Although the Bruins has some depth I have them second due to some questions on the backside and most importantly in goal.  Tuukka Rask hasn’t been a starter since Tim Thomas stole it from him a couple years ago, and will have to step up big in order to propel them through the season into the playoffs

  1. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have been one of the busiest teams around the trade deadline and around the offseason the past couple of years but just have not been able to get their offensive lines connecting, it will be up to Ryan Miller if this team wants to make it back into the playoffs.

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs questions are most certainly on the goalies.  They have added some youth this year and hope to keep everyone healthy, which was the biggest problem for them last year.

  1. Montreal Canadiens

If the Canadiens can sign P.K Subban soon I would have them fourth in the division but it doesn’t look like the team and Subban are getting that close.  Carey Price will have to save his team more times this year than last, and no one knows how long he can keep this up with as many games as he plays every year.

Southeast Division:

  1. Washington Capitals

I have the Capitals finishing first because of the way Braden Holtby shined in the playoffs last year. He knows this year that any slip up will cost him the starting job to Michal Neuvirth.  With this friendly competition in net it will keep the goalies sharp.  It also helps to have a game changer like Alex Ovechkin on your side as well.

  1. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes made some major acquisitions this offseason in trading for Jordan Staal and signing free agent Alex Semin. This provides more depth and scoring that the Hurricanes have been looking for.  Cam Ward always sits in the top of the league in goals against average and save percentage although he doesn’t get as much attention as other goalies.

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning have one of the best pure scorers in Steven Stamkos, and have added a solid defenseman in Matt Carle, as well as now starting goalie Anders Lindback who will finally get his chance to spread his wings.

  1. Florida Panthers

The Panthers had a banner winning season last year winning this division last year, but I have then falling in the division due to a loss in defense, Jason Garrison, and the weakness in net with Jose Theodore.  The offense will have to have a good year in order to move up the totem pole.

  1. Winnipeg Jets

Although the Jets will have one of the best attendance records in the NHL, their team will need more than the fans rooting behind them.  Pavelec just hasn’t been able to bring his game to the next level and bringing in Ollie Jokinen isn’t going to solve their offensive nightmares.

Western Conference:

Central Division:

  1. St. Louis Blues

The Blues will be able to start under Ken Hitchcock and his system, which will help the goalies succeed again.  The Rookies Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko along with everyone being healthy will greatly improve their offense and will put them at the top of this division.

  1. Nashville Predators

Although the Predators lost Suter, I think they will succeed more than Suter will.  It also helps having Pekka Rinne, a Vezina finalist between the pipes.  The offense will have to step up and put in some goals to get them through the playoffs.

  1. Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago’s questions like other teams come from the goalies. Jonathon Toews will be among those in the running for the Hart Trophy.  They have good depth on defense and will get points from them too.

  1. Detroit Red Wings

For all you Detroit fans out there, this just won’t be your year.  This is the year the Red Wings miss the playoffs.  With losing the bid of Suter and not picking up a top 4 defender to replace Lindstrom this will be a sad season.

  1. Columbus Blues Jackets

Like the Islanders, the Blue Jackets are still in the “rebuilding” phase this year, but will improve a little more this year with all of the youth that will be brought up.  They have more depth this year and if they can get more work out of Steve Mason like in his rookie year things could be looking up.

Northwest Division:

  1. Vancouver Canucks

The drama will all be on Luongo this year and the Canucks can help the hand they have been dealt to start the season if they choose to deal him to another team, say Toronto, with Kesler and Booth both getting injured before the start of the season.

  1. Colorado Avalanche

I have the Avalanche second because of depth, but again this all rides on whether they can sign Ryan O’Reilly or at least deal him for some depth on the wings.  The longer O’Reilly stays out, the lower they will drop. The addition of P.A. Parenteau could be just what the doctor ordered to help get Matt Duchene out of his slump.

  1. Minnesota Wild

The Wild made the biggest splashes this offseason with breaking the bank on signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Although they brought in the top two free agents they still lack depth and their defense is far from solid.

  1. Calgary Flames

Calgary hasn’t been able to be consistent since they lost to the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, and will continue to get more of the same. They need to shore up their defense and get their offense firing on all cylinders.

  1. Edmonton Oilers

With all the young talent the Oilers have, they will only get as far as Devan Dubnyk will take them.  I have them this low due to the fact that Dubnyk has yet to show he can carry a team to the playoffs.  This will give the young guys some bonding time and a change to grow in the shortened season.

Pacific Division:

  1. Los Angeles Kings

The defending champs will look to keep the crown on their heads and the momentum going into this season.  They still have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and have plenty of depth all around and have experience to go around.

  1. San Jose Sharks

The Sharks aren’t getting any younger and will have to make a splash in the playoffs if they want to finally take home the Cup.  They will need Joe Thornton to lead the team through the playoffs and produce as much as he does during the season.

  1. Dallas Stars

With picking up Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney it seems to be that they are looking to fix their offensive struggles short term and could possibly squeak into the playoffs.

  1. Phoenix Coyotes

Mike Smith is have to be just as brilliant as he was the last year, and do it with less talent around him.  They will take the momentum they had form making the conference finals into this season.

  1. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks top line still won’t be able to carry the team, and could find their ways out of Anaheim if the Ducks aren’t careful. Things aren’t looking good especially after losing an up and coming star in Justin Schultz to the Oilers.

To get into the playoffs I have:

Eastern Conference:

  1. New York Rangers
  2. Washington Capitals
  3. Ottawa Senators
  4. Pittsburgh Penguins
  5. Boston Bruins
  6. Carolina Hurricanes
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning
  8. Florida Panthers

Western Conference:

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Vancouver Canucks
  3. Los Angeles Kings
  4. San Jose Sharks
  5. Nashville Predators
  6. Chicago Blackhawks
  7. Colorado Avalanche
  8. Dallas Stars

Although it seems I have been waiting for this for an entire year, tomorrow can’t get here soon enough! It’s game time, time to strap up, and light the lamp