It’s time to predict the eventual winners for the 2011-2012 season, so we can look smart and important when spring rolls around. Or not. Last year we all picked some combo of the Caps, Blackhawks, Canucks and Penguins [link]. That 25% result is less than the chance that Intern Jeff Skinner’s going to take you to the prom. So here we go again:
Eastern Conference Finals: Bruins vs. Capitals
Eastern Conference Champs: Bruins
Western Conference Finals: Canucks vs. Kings
Western Conference Champs: Kings
Stanley Cup Champs: Bruins
We all know that repeating as champs is nigh impossible though in the NHL these days, but the Bruins only lost two players to free agency (Kaberle & Ryder) and 1 to retirement (Recchi). The heart and soul of the Bruins are still here. Bruins have arguably the best and deepest set of forwards in the game and can get production from all 4 lines. Plus, let’s not forget that you have Tuukka Rask, a top-notch goalie in his own right, backing up Thomas.
Kings are my dark horse team. After picking up Mike Richards and Simon Gagne and resigning Drew Doughty, the Kings look to be a serious contender in the Western Conference. They have good young netminder in Jonathan Quick and if Gagne and Anze Kopitar can stay healthy, they could be the team to watch.
Eastern Conference finals: Penguins vs. Capitals
Eastern Conference Champs: Penguins
Western Conference finals: Canucks vs. Sharks
Western Conference Champs: Canucks
Stanley Cup Champs: Penguins
Like everyone else, I think the Capitals will be a force to reckon with this season. It’s (mostly) selfish hope that they will carry it all the way into the playoffs, so I can have the longest hockey season ever. But I think the Pens will be strong early with Malkin and Staal in, and maybe James Neal will get his scoring touch back. The Return of Crosby will be like Willy Wonka somersaulting down the orange carpet to greet his lucky minions at the gate. Chocolate Stanley Cups for everyone!
Much like the Caps, I think the Sharks are long overdue for a dominating post-season performance. They’ve won their division the last four years in a row and made it to the Conference finals the last two years. Ultimately I don’t see them beating Vancouver, but I think they can do better than last May’s 4-1 failfest.