By Grant Smeyne aka bcct12_sports

The National Hockey League regular season is now under way and has provided some insight on how the standings will turn out by the end of the eighty-two game season. The season is just twenty games in and anything can happen within the next sixty-two games!  I predict there will be some pretty surprising playoff teams and some playoff hopefuls who will not make the cut this year. I will give you my interpretation and knowledge as a fan to predict how the season will turn out and which teams will make the cut this April. There will be some predictions that may make you think that I’m foolish in my guess but I will do my best to give you the reasons why that prediction was made. Let’s begin!

 

Eastern Conference

 

Will make the playoffs this year

 

1. Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers will end up number one overall in the final Eastern Conference standings after the season is all said and done. I am partial to the Flyers, being form Philly, but judging from the first eighteen games I’ve watched they seem to have some serious chemistry building between Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr, and recently added line mate Scott Hartnell. Together, the line has a total of forty-eight points added up through the season, that’s over a quarter of the points scored by the whole team. Those three players scored 26% of the whole teams points. There has also been some pleasant surprises this season for the Flyers, who traded away their two star players within hours of each other this offseason;  Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Some of these surprises are rookies Sean Couturier and Matt Read who have combined for nineteen points thus far.

 

 

2. Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are sort of a surprise team this season in the standings. They are tied with Washington for the lead in the Southeast with twenty-one points. The Panthers finished last season with just thirty wins under their belts and ended up ten games under five hundred, I doubt this season will be a repeat. They have played nineteen games this year and their leading goal scorer is Kris Versteeg, who had an awful end of the season last year for the Flyers. However, with that being said, he is a fantastic player for the Panthers seeing as that they obtained him for a conditional pick or a third round draft pick. Starting goalie Jose Theodore is 6-4-3 with a GAA of just under 2.50. This is not terrific for a starting goalie, however it is working for them as they are outscoring their opponents 52-46. This number still has room for improvement if Theodore can pull through and make some more saves.

 

3. Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens, at this point, are only playing five hundred hockey with three over time losses though their nineteen games played so far. Goaltender Carey Price is off to a mediocre start to the season being 7-6-4, but he will improve that record as he has a GAA of 2.29, which isn’t all that bad. If, and only if, the Canadiens can score more goals will they be fortunate enough to win their division. If they continue to score a goal for every goal given up (49 GF and 49 GA) they will not make the playoffs this year. They must improve defensively or improve drastically offensively if they want to continue winning. They are currently ranked fourteenth of thirty for goals for and seventeenth for goals against. If the rest of the division continues playing as they are now, I predict the Northeast to be the division who are the “weakest link” in the playoffs this year and will have the toughest time winning the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.

 

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently tied with the Flyers for first in the Atlantic. They have played their first nineteen without star Sidney Crosby, but they’ve gotten good contribution from James Neal and Jordan Staal. Evgeni Malkin has contributed only five goals this season which I believe to be their downfall this year. With little production from stars of the team like Malkin and Kunitz and no production thus far from Crosby I believe this team isn’t good enough to win the Atlantic Division. This Division will however be a very close race up until the end with 3 of its teams being in the top 5 of the entire conference. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is off to another great start to another great season while being 8th overall for GAA in the league with 2.04.

 

5. New York Rangers

The New York Rangers are the third Atlantic Division team to make the countdown of playoff teams. The Rangers, as it stands today are just two points behind the Penguins and Flyers for the lead and could very easily take the lead from them within the next week or so but I think they will end up just behind them this year and wind up fifth, which isn’t all that bad for them because they will play the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. The Rangers won the season series last year between the two teams four games to two and their record this year, I predict, will be similar. Henrik Lundqvist, New York’s veteran goalie, is off good start with a 7-3-4 record and a GAA of 2.13, which is again right there among the leaders. Their leading scorer at the moment is Marian Gaborik with nine goals through sixteen games played, however I believe the leader at the end of the season will be Ryan Callahan with right in the vicinity of forty goals.

 

6. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres went out this off-season and signed some big name players in Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff in the hope of keeping their playoff chances alive. This tactic will work out very well this year for the Sabres and in the playoffs they will play their division rivals; the Canadiens. The Ville Leino contract will turn out to be a bad choice as he will only score seventeen goals for them this year which is hardly worth the money that they agreed to pay him. Christian Ehrhoff will prove to be an asset to the team this year especially at the point, ending the season with seventy points and leading the defensive core in points while Thomas Vanek will lead the Sabres in goals this year with forty-five and closely followed by Jason Pominville with thirty-seven.

 

7. Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals will be a let down this year as they end up underachieving and only holding onto a playoff berth by 4 points over the 9th place team. The Capitals will lose their lead of 13 points on that ninth ranked team over the course of the last month of the season. Star Alexander Ovechkin, I hate to say, will go out this year with a lower body injury (ankle sprain) with just twenty games left in the season. He was well on his way to the Maurice Richard Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy when a slash to the ankle while on a breakaway ruined his hopes of those trophies and playing in the playoffs this year (I know it’s going out on a limb, no pun intended). After this devastating loss,  Jason Chimera finishes the season with the team lead. The Capitals will lose to the Panthers in the first round of the playoffs.

 

 

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs this season will be in the playoffs for the first time since pre-lockout  (2003-04). The current league leader in goals for the season, Phil Kessel’s, goal production will slow down and he won’t finish the season on top, but he will finish in a good spot on those rankings. The Maple Leafs will be very tough opponents for the Philadelphia Flyers and I for see a 7-game series in which all the games will be close and there may just be an upset there.

 

 

Will not make the playoffs this year

 

9. Boston Bruins

The Defending Champs won’t even make the playoffs this season so they have no hope of defending their title. They didn’t get off to a great start and they won’t finish as strong as they’d hoped they would. The defending champions will go golfing instead of going to Disney world. Goaltender Tim Thomas, who currently has a GAA of 2.09 will end up splitting even more time with back-up Tukka Rask this season. It will start in early January when Thomas goes on a losing streak and they turn to Rask for support. Rask will hold the Bruins in playoff contentions while maintains a tight race for the 8th spot with Toronto but to no avail, as they will fall short this year in the last week of the season.

 

10. New Jersey Devils

The Devils who will make another great attempt at a comeback at the end of this season will just miss the playoffs when the season is all said and done. Ilya Kovalchuk will have yet another season that isn’t as superb as his contract pretends he is capable of being. They played mediocre all season and unfortunately for them, that wasn’t good enough to get a chance at a Cup. Goalie Martin Brodeur will be the starter for the year but will only play 55% of the gamesandl split the time with Johan Hedberg in 45% of the time. Hedberg will prove to have the better statistics at the end of the season but he got little goal support throughout the year so his record won’t show it. There leading goal scorer will be a close competition between Kovalchuk and Elias, who will be the team leading goal scorer.

 

11. Tampa Bay Lightning

This season for the Lightning, star player Steven Stamkos will not be able to carry his team to another playoff appearance. However, he will win the Rocket Richard Trophy. They made it pretty far last year in the postseason but this year they just won’t be able to prove that they still are at that level. Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon are currently splitting the job as Goaltender in the Tampa Bay organization. By the end of the season, the job will belong solely to Garon who currently has a 3-3-2 record, though that number won’t show the better GAA and SV%.

 

12. New York Islanders

The Islanders will have yet another disappointing season and finish last in their dominant division for another season. They had some pretty decent production from some younger guys like John Tavares and Kyle Okposo but the team as a whole just isn’t on track for a playoff appearance just yet. Through the course of the season they will show signs that they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I predict they will be performing at a playoff level in two to three seasons.

 

13. Ottawa Senators

The Senators started this year with what appeared to be a decent team when after twenty games they were 10-9-1 but that record will start to fall apart around Christmas time and by the end of the season there will be too much ground for them to make up. They also showed some skill in parts of the season but in the end the team will be deemed to streaky for the playoffs. The Ottawa fans have next season to look forward too.

 

14. Winnipeg Jets

After moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta their fan base definitely got better but their record did not. They weren’t expected to do too much better in a new city considering the fact that they are the same roster for the most part. This season will be a long one in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg newspapers can’t use the headline “Winning in Winnipeg” just yet, that may take a few seasons. However there’s good news for Winnipeg! They won’t be last in their division this year! The honor of last place in the Eastern Conference belongs to…

 

15. Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes will finish a very disappointing season winning just 28 games. Neither of Carolina’s two starting goalies, Cam Ward and Brian Boucher, will be proven a playoff calibre goalie. Cam Ward, the starter and previous All-Star, is currently 6-8-2 which isn’t the normal number for Ward or any starting goalie. However, the job remains his due to the fact back-up Brian Boucher has played in just 6 games and has managed to obtain no wins to help improve his record of 0-3-1 and GAA of 3.31. Boucher’s Save Percentage is at .877 while Cam Ward’s is just over .900. This is not a good year to be a Carolina forward, goalie, or fan.