While America’s Pastime, Baseball, gets ready for another postseason and America’s Obsession, Football, back in full swing, it will be easy to miss the start of the fourth major league, the NHL. Not here at AVS, where we think the NHL is severely undervalued by casual sports fans in the US. This season will be full of action, excitement and something all other major sports do not allow, fighting. Try and find this kind of intensity during an NFL preseason game. This will be the first year of the new alignment for hockey and it will lead to a bunch of changes regarding rivalries and playoffs.
Here a quick breakdown of the new NHL:
The years of the top 8 teams making the playoffs is now out the window, take a look how the 16 teams fighting for Lord Stanley will be decided:
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division (ala MLB Wild Card) will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three..
The other biggest takeaway from the realignment will be about the Detroit Red Wings. They have finally gotten their wish and moved back to the Eastern Conference after being in the West since ’94. Detroit has been asking for this for year since they play so many games in the Pacific Time Zone and fans do not want to stay up late all season for their games. It makes sense for the fans but for the team does it? Detroit won 4 Stanley Cups in the West and the East may be the more talented conference right now. Another change will be rivalries, the Detroit / Chicago rivalry was one of the best in hockey but that will now only happen a few times year and never in the playoffs. It does leave the opportunity for a Red Wings / Blackhawks Cup series, which would be an epic battle. Detroit joins 4 other Original Six teams (Rangers, Bruins, Maple Leafs, Canadians) and new rivalries will happen fast, thinking Boston and Montreal will be ready to toss the gloves down with Detroit. Speaking of other teams in NHL, here are the top 4 teams to watch in each Conference.
They seem to be the NHL’s version of the Yankees, the team everyone hates but they are the team everyone judges themselves by. Pittsburgh will looks at last year as a disappointment as they should, they have the talent to win the Cup every year. This year will be no different, Sid the Kid will be at an MVP level. Look for the Penguins for to win the President Cup in 2014.
New York Rangers
The Blueshirts are another team looking to rebound from a disappointing season. They have the best goalie in the league and tons of talent in all areas of the ice. They will look a lot differently this season going from a defensive coach in Torts to an offensive mind in AV. Look for a big year from Nash and a career saving rebound year for Brad Richards. Spotlight will be on at the Garden as the Stanley Cup window is now.
Boston made some noise this offseason by trading wild child Tyler Seguin. Coming off a great run last year that came up just short Boston will try to continue off their recent success. As long as Tukka and their blue liners stay healthy expect Boston to be their fighting for home ice come playoff time.
Need to have at least one team from Canada on here eh? This team was destroyed by injuries last year, including starting goalie Anderson. If they can stay healthy, the Sens have tons of young talent and added Bobby Ryan this offseason. Playoff games in Ottawa are extremely tough for visitors so look for Ottawa as a surprise team that could make it to promise land.
The Blackhawks have the most fun on and off the ice then anyone in the league. As long as they keep producing Stanley Cups they can do whatever they like. Lead by Kane and Towes, Chitown is the clear favorite in the West. They wont have as good as a regular season compared to last years record setting year but come playoff time no ones will want to travel to the Windy City.
The Blues were the hot pick last year as the team to take it to the next level. Well that didn’t happen but I am picking them to do just that this year. Another year of maturity for their young players like VladimirTaransenko and Jaden Schwartz will do wonders for this team. They have several options at goalie so they can keep Elliot / Halak fresh and ride the hot glove come May.
Here where things will get interesting in the West. Dallas has spent last couple years deciding between rebuilding or hanging around in medicoary. They made the big move for Seguin this offseason. If it works, Dallas is ready to go but no one knows how the young partier will handle his new city. This is a very important year for Dallas and first year GM Jim Nill.
After years for ownership issues and possible relocation Phoenix can finally focus on hockey. New owner, great coach, trustworthy GM will all start to add up in the wins column this season. For a team that was the laughing stock for years, other teams will start to be envy the Coyotes. Locking up young D man Ekman-Larsson long term was the first move in this upward direction.
Stanley Cups Prediction
Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is why every game is must watch. It is the most exciting postseason in sports. This year won’t be any different. I think the West will be the Wild Wild West this year and picking the Stars to shock the NHL with their return back to the Finals. Their magical season will come up just short though as Henrik Lunqvist stamps his place in history and returns hockey glory to NYC.
Rangers over Stars in Seven