As the final installment of our 2014-2015 NHL Preseason Prediction Series, we give our thoughts on who will make the playoffs and who will be playing golf in May.
1) Tampa Bay Lightning: Improved roster, weak division, MVP candidate at the helm and not on anyone’s radar. That is a formula for a division champion.
2) Boston Bruins: Probably no team in the NHL is more driven to win this season than the Bruins. Heartbreaking losses in the playoffs in each of the last three years have Boston more motivated than ever to win. Stay tuned.
3) Ottawa Senators: The Senators just missed the playoffs last year. With their core players returning, Ottawa has the potential to be that one team that quietly sneaks into the playoffs.
1) Pittsburgh Penguins: As long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are Penguins, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with, especially after a stinging Game 7 loss to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
2) New York Rangers: The Rangers are bound to take a step back this year after their incredible run to an Eastern Conference title. The loss of Brad Richards in the off-season will be very evident.
3) Columbus Blue Jackets: Much like the Senators, the Blue Jackets are an under-the-radar team that can surprise a lot of people. But unlike the Senators, Columbus made the playoffs last year, showing that they already know what has to be done to make the big dance.
1) Montreal Canadiens: Montreal has one of the best goaltenders in the league to go along with super-star P.K. Subban. It is hard to leave such an experienced team out of the playoffs, despite their inconsistencies in the past.
2) Washington Capitals: A new coach, a new emphasis on defense and the same Great 8. The Capitals can only go as far as Alex Ovechkin can take them, and if the defense improves, that can mean the playoffs.
1) Anaheim Ducks: Last year was the Ducks’ first year of NHL dominance in a long time. After one last of glory and a sour, early exit in the playoffs, Anaheim will be hungry for more.
2) L.A. Kings: The defending Stanley Cup Champions and the modern dynasty of the NHL. To place them any lower than second in their own division would be ludicrous.
3) San Jose Sharks: The Sharks feel like the Houston Rockets of the NHL. All the talent in the world and consistently in the playoffs, but never able to get over that playoff hump.
1) Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks pushed the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to an overtime Game 7. If they were able to score just one more goal, we could be having the conversation of them as the defending champion. Stay tuned.
2) St. Louis Blues: The Blues added Matt Carle and Vladimir Tarasenko to their already young and thriving core. St. Louis has potential to make a lot of noise come playoff time.
3) Colorado Avalanche: Colorado was right behind the Ducks for the No. 1 seed in the West. They did not do much to improve in the off-season and are suspect to a set-back.
1) Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes just missed the playoffs last year and have more than enough talent to make that extra push into the playoffs.
2) Minnesota Wild: The Wild made the playoffs last year, proving that they know how to get it done, but questions at the goal tending position may case Minnesota to fall back into the Wild Card category.
Stanley Cup Finals:
Boston Bruins 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3
Top to bottom, these are the most experienced and talented teams in their respective conferences, which is why we have them reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. As previously stated, no team in the NHL is more motivated than the Boston Bruins to go along with one of the best goalies in the NHL. Although Chicago has arguably the most talented roster in the NHL, the tough road through a stacked Western Conference is bound to take its told on the Blackhawks. It is tough to bet against Boston, especially a determined one.