Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NHL Preview: Western Conference

     Last week, I gave you my preview for the NHL's Eastern Conference. Now comes the long awaited Western Conference Preview, complete with a Stanley Cup Finals prediction!!

Central Division:
  1. *Chicago Blackhawks:  They have loads of talent at the forward position. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa are all capable of producing at least 70 points in a season. The Hawks also have a very tough blue line. If the goaltending improves, then the Blackhawks will be hoisting Lord Stanley come June. 
  2. *St. Louis Blues:  St. Louis won't score a lot this year, but they won't let you score either. A great blue line and a fantastic goalie tandem in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak, the Blues allowed the fewest goals per game in 2011-2012 (1.89 GA/G). 
  3. *Nashville Predators: Losing Ryan Suter hurts immensely, but Pekka Rinne is tough to score on between the pipes. Barry Trotz is also gaining a reputation as one of the best head coaches in the NHL today. The Predators could be a threat in the postseason if they can duplicate last season's power play success (NHL-best 21.6 power play efficiency).
  4. *Detroit Red Wings: With Nicklas Lidstrom retiring and Brad Stuart going to the Sharks, the blue line is vulnerable. Signing Jordin Tootoo helps, but it doesn't solve the problem. At least the Wings are expected to get Pavel Datsyuk back from the KHL. Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are one of the NHL's better scoring duos. This will be a bit of a down year for Hockeytown.
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets: This team has absolutely no depth. What's more, their premier scorer/superstar Rick Nash got traded to the New York Rangers during the offseason.
 Northwest Division:
  1. *Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks will score a lot of goals via the Sedin twins. Ryan Kesler is expected to be returning sooner than possible, which is even better news for Vancouver. Cory Schneider was a stud for Vancouver last year, posting a 1.96 GAA, a save percentage of .937, and a 20-8-1 record last season.
  2. *Minnesota Wild: Minnesota make a tremendous splash in the offseason by signing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to long term deals. Both will help instantly; the Wild ranked dead last in goals scored per game with 2.02 GF/G.
  3. Calgary Flames: There's an obvious need for some new blood on the Flames. Both of their better players Jerome Iginla and Miika Kiprusoff aren't getting any younger.
  4. Colorado Avalanche: Colorado's a young team. Seriously. They have no veteran presence and a lack of goaltending that will keep them from making the playoffs.
  5. Edmonton Oilers: Another young squad, they'll need a lot of things to happen in order to move up in the division. Yes they signed Justin Schultz in the offseason, but they'll need Ryan Whitney to stay healthy and they'll need Devan Dubnyk to step up in order to at least contend for a playoff spot.
Pacific Division:
  1. *Los Angeles Kings: What's more dangerous than a defending Stanley Cup champion? A defending Stanley Cup champion that has practically all of its key players returning. Los Angeles managed to keep nearly the same roster that won the Stanley Cup in June intact. Jonathan Quick will stop a lot of shots and the Kings will be a threat in the Stanley Cup playoffs once again.
  2. *San Jose Sharks: The good news for the Sharks is that they got a good defenseman in Brad Stuart during the offseason. The question will be whether they're able to keep their second line healthy. Scoring won't be a problem with Adam Burish, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau, though.
  3. Dallas Stars: The Stars will be a playoff team if Kari Lethonen improves on his performance from last season. The stars also need to sign Jamie Benn signed ASAP so that he can join the likes of Ray Whitney, Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro, Jaromir Jagr, and Michael Ryder.
  4. Phoenix Coyotes: Phoenix still has an outstanding goalie in Mike Smith, but they can move up in the division with a stellar defense and plenty of underrated scorers.
  5. Anaheim Ducks: Injuries, Bobby Ryan trade talks, and a lack of toughness all marred the Ducks last year. Lubimor Visnovsky and Sheldon Brookbank were the only Ducks to finish with a positive plus/minus rating last year, and Visnovsky was picked up by the Islanders this offseason.
Stanley Cup Predictions:
     Eastern Conference Finals: Rangers over Bruins in seven
     Western Conference Finals: Kings over Blackhawks in six
     Stanley Cup Finals: Kings over Rangers in seven


No comments:

Post a Comment