20 questions: PHT predictions for the 2013 NHL season

45 Comments

We’ve already made our Stanley Cup picks. Now here are 20 more predictions from the PHT staff. You never know — a few of them may be correct.

source: Getty Images

1. Which team will win the Presidents’ Trophy (first overall in the regular season)?

Jason Brough: Boston Bruins. A bunch of B’s were playing in Europe, making a fast start likely.

Mike Halford: New York Rangers. Who should’ve won it last year, but lost three of four to finish the season.

Ryan Dadoun: Boston Bruins. A strong team in a weak division.

Joe Yerdon: Boston Bruins. Good team, bad division.

James O’Brien: Vancouver Canucks. They’ll feast on the Northwest yet again.

2. Which team will finish last overall?

JB: New York Islanders. Glaring weaknesses in all areas.

MH: Columbus Blue Jackets. The Central Division is loaded; they’re going to get slaughtered.

RD: Columbus Blue Jackets. I hate being predictable, but I can’t think of anyone even remotely close to CBJ.

JY: New York Islanders. The rest of their division is a meat grinder and they’re ridiculously young.

JOB: Columbus Blue Jackets. On paper, it doesn’t get much worse.

3. Which team will be the most pleasantly surprising?

JB: Columbus Blue Jackets. Not saying they’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll be better than most of my colleagues think.

MH: Montreal Canadiens. Had quite a few guys playing in Europe, and Andrei Markov is healthy now.

RD: Nashville Predators. Their young defensemen will step up without Ryan Suter.

JY: Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller is fresh and Mikhail Grigorenko could be a stud.

JOB: San Jose Sharks. Lowered expectations, but still dangerous.

4. Which team will be the most disappointing?

JB: Detroit Red Wings. Like their general manager, I wouldn’t be shocked if they missed the playoffs.

MH: Florida Panthers. Primed for a letdown after winning the first Southeast Division banner in franchise history.

RD: New Jersey Devils. They lost Parise and I’m not confident in their aging goaltenders, especially after a long break.

JY: Minnesota Wild. Not because they’ll be bad; the bar is just set too high right now.

JOB: Edmonton Oilers. Lots of hype, but can’t keep the puck out of their net.

5. Which player will be the most pleasantly surprising?

JB: Dany Heatley. Has been skating with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, two pretty good line-mates.

MH: Semyon Varlamov. Finished last season strong and posted great numbers in the KHL.

RD: James Reimer. If given a chance, he’ll bounce back nicely.

JY: Matt Duchene. He’ll come flying out of Joe Sacco’s doghouse (to be replaced by Ryan O’Reilly.)

JOB: Cam Ward. Thanks to Kirk Muller’s system and improved goal support.

6. Which player will be the most disappointing?

JB: Jaromir Jagr. Still don’t know why he picked Dallas. Except I guess for the $4.5 million they gave him.

MH: Pekka Rinne. Lost his second-best defenseman (Ryan Suter) and trusty backup (Anders Lindback).

RD: Ilya Bryzgalov. But I’m sure he’ll continue to give the Daily Show/Colbert Report a run for their money.

JY: Ryan Suter. Expectations are too high given his supporting cast.

JOB: Braden Holtby. Danger of small sample sizes.

7. Who will finish with more points – Sidney Crosby or Claude Giroux?

JB: Crosby

MH: Giroux

RD: Crosby

JY: Crosby

JOB: Crosby

8. Will Ilya Bryzgalov be Philadelphia’s starting goalie for the first game of the playoffs?

JB: Yes, and it won’t even be a debate.

MH: Yes, but I could see Michael Leighton getting some action.

RD: Yes, but not because he’ll be great.

JY: Excepting injury, yes, he’ll be the man.

JOB: Yes, but a putrid defense won’t help him silence critics.

9. Who will win the Hart Trophy (most valuable)?

JB: Sidney Crosby

MH: Claude Giroux

RD: Sidney Crosby

JY: Claude Giroux

JOB: Evgeni Malkin

10. Who will win the Art Ross (most points)?

JB: Sidney Crosby

MH: Claude Giroux

RD: Sidney Crosby

JY: Sidney Crosby

JOB: Evgeni Malkin

11. Who will win the Rocket Richard (most goals)?

JB: Steven Stamkos

MH: Steven Stamkos

RD: Rick Nash

JY: Steven Stamkos

JOB: Steven Stamkos

12. Who will win the Vezina (best goalie)?

JB: Jonathan Quick

MH: Tuukka Rask

RD: Henrik Lundqvist

JY: Henrik Lundqvist

JOB: Henrik Lundqvist

13. Who will win the Norris (best defenseman)?

JB: Zdeno Chara

MH: Alex Pietrangelo

RD: Alex Pietrangelo

JY: Shea Weber

JOB: Drew Doughty

14. Who will win the Calder (top rookie)?

JB: Justin Schultz (Edmonton)

MH: Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)

RD: Nail Yakupov (Edmonton)

JY: Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay)

JOB: Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis)

15. Who will win the Jack Adams (top coach)?

JB: Adam Oates (Washington)

MH: Kirk Muller (Carolina)

RD: Barry Trotz (Nashville)

JY: John Tortorella (New York Rangers)

JOB: Barry Trotz (Nashville)

16. Who will be the first coach fired?

JB: Todd McLellan (San Jose)

MH: Joel Quenneville (Chicago)

RD: Mike Yeo (Minnesota)

JY: Joe Sacco (Colorado)

JOB: Jack Capuano (New York Islanders)

17. Of last year’s 16 playoff teams, which one is most likely to miss the postseason?

JB: Florida Panthers. Weren’t very good to begin with, plus lost defenseman Jason Garrison.

MH: Florida Panthers. Injuries and departures will get them off to a slow start, and they won’t recover.

RD: New Jersey Devils. Tough division, no Parise, old goalies.

JY: New Jersey Devils. Brodeur will do his best, but yikes to scoring depth.

JOB: Ottawa Senators. Will regress after overachieving last season.

18. Of last year’s 14 non-playoff teams, which one is most likely to make the postseason?

JB: Buffalo Sabres. Panicked with high expectations last season. No shortage of talent. Tougher now too.

MH: Montreal Canadiens. Michel Therrien has a history of turning bad teams into playoff teams.

RD: Colorado Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov looked good in the KHL, and Matt Duchene should bounce back.

JY: Carolina Hurricanes. East is open enough to make it happen.

JOB: Tampa Bay Lightning. They might even win the Southeast.

19. Will the Minnesota Wild make the playoffs?

JB: Yes. Better roster, worsening competition in West.

MH: Yes. I even think they’ll win the Northwest Division.

RD: No, they’ll fall just short. Next season though…

JY: They’ll just miss out. Next year though? It’s on.

JOB: No, the West is too deep and they’re still too shallow.

20. Will the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs?

JB: No. They’re not very good, and the East has too many strong teams.

MH: No. They’ll finish dead last in the Northeast.

RD:  Yes, thanks to stronger goaltending from Reimer.

JY: No, but hey, maybe they can make a run at the top pick in the draft.

JOB: No. Not a good team.

Maple Leafs end skid in first Babcock-less game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it weren’t for Vinnie Hinostroza spoiling Frederik Andersen‘s shutout with 17 seconds left, Thursday would have been just about perfect for the Toronto Maple Leafs during their first game post-Mike Babcock.

Most importantly, the Maple Leafs ended their six-game losing streak with a win. (Yes, that makes brand-new head coach Sheldon Keefe 1-0-0.)

The symmetry starts to go up a notch when you consider that, on this night, Tyson Barrie finally scored his first goal of the 2019-20 season, which is also his first with the Maple Leafs. Barrie is up there when you picture Leafs with relief of Babcock grief, so scoring here almost feels on-the-nose:

That Barrie goal gave the Maple Leafs a coveted 1-0 lead, and that’s quite a reversal from how things could have felt if Andersen didn’t make this great glove save (which would have stood out even more if Tuukka Rask didn’t give Marc-Andre Fleury competition with an absolutely ludicrous stop).

The underlying numbers are promising, too. In particular, it has to be uplifting to see that the Maple Leafs managed an impressive 18-7 advantage in high-danger chances at all strengths, according to Natural Stat Trick.

There’s a lot to like for the Leafs, but there’s also no denying that the Maple Leafs have a lot of work to do — and a hole they need to dig out of. That win merely brought them back to “.500,” as they’re now 10-10-4 for 24 standings points in 24 games. They wouldn’t make it into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they began on Thursday night, and Toronto’s ninth place standing is even inflated when you realize that teams right behind them hold games in hand. (Toronto’s 24 games played ties for the most in the NHL, while teams like the Lightning [22 points in 19 GP] loom large.)

Ultimately, though, the Maple Leafs can only control what they’re doing on the ice. So far, so good then, when you consider how they’re playing with Keefe pulling the strings instead of Babs.

More on Babcock, Leafs:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues’ Dunn levels Flames’ Mangiapane with huge hit

Leave a comment

These are painful times for the Calgary Flames … sometimes literally.

By falling 5-0 to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, the Flames have now dropped six consecutive games. It’s hard not to think a little bit about the Toronto Maple Leafs firing Mike Babcock amid their slump when considering the Flames’ own struggles, both now and in their own disappointing showing in Round 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Talk of big changes (to coaching, Johnny Gaudreau, the GM, or anything else) can wait for another day … maybe one soon? For now, let’s bask in the fearful glow of Vince Dunn‘s hit on Andrew Mangiapane, as you can witness in the video above this post’s headline.

Is that hit symbolic of the Flames’ pains lately, or could you best embody that agony by comparing the team to its most snakebitten player, Sam Bennett?

Either way, these are uncomfortable times for the Flames, and not just Mangiapane.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Islanders’ point streak hits 16 games, a new franchise record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Penguins spoiled the Islanders’ 10-game winning streak, but not the Islanders’ point streak, back on Nov. 7. The Islanders really haven’t slowed down since then, as Thursday’s 4-3 OT win against Pittsburgh extended their latest winning streak to five games, and allowed them to set a new franchise record.

By going 15-0-1 in their last 16 games, the Islanders set a new franchise mark for longest point streak. Yes, that means Barry Trotz’s odds-defying group has accomplished something the dynastic Mike Bossy-powered ’80s group never did.

At this rate, the Islanders might just bank enough standings points that it might not matter much when/if they “come back to Earth.”

In the spirit of Derek Jeter wedging his jersey number into a word where it only kinda sorta works, the Islanders embraced the history of the 16-game streak:

When you’re winning (or at least getting a point) as often as the Islanders have been, you’ll need to win in different ways. After some comeback wins recently, Thursday’s game against the Penguins was a back-and-forth affair where the two teams traded leads, and the Penguins needed a last-minute goal to even get the game to overtime. Brock Nelson‘s two goals were key, including his OT-winner:

There’s been a “cardiac kids” element to this run, especially lately. Thursday’s win marks the third consecutive game where the Isles’ action went beyond regulation, and six of the Islanders’ wins (plus their lone OT loss to the Penguins) have come via either a shootout or overtime goal.

This also marks the best 20-game start in franchise history for the Isles, according to The Athletic’s David Staple.

Just resounding stuff.

It says a lot about the Capitals’ own hot start (16-4-4, 36 points in 24 games played) that the Islanders still aren’t in the lead in the Metro. Of course, the Islanders could close a ton of ground considering their games in hand, as they’re 16-3-1 for 33 points in just those 20 games played.

Looking ahead, the Islanders will go on the road quite a bit as they try to extend this point streak even beyond 16 games. To start, they’ll take a California road trip, and the away-heavy stretch doesn’t end there.

Nov. 23: at San Jose
Nov. 25: at Anaheim
Nov. 27: at Los Angeles
Nov. 30: vs. Columbus
Dec. 2: at Detroit
Dec. 3 :at Montreal
Dec. 5: vs. Vegas
Dec. 7: at Dallas
Dec. 9: at Tampa Bay
Dec. 12: at Florida

As you can see, the Islanders face a run where eight of their next 10 games are on the road. You’d think that maybe there will be stumbles (dare I wonder, *gasp* maybe even a single regulation loss?) along that way, but the Islanders keep buzzing along, and they’re 6-1-0 on the road thus far this season … so who knows?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins’ Rask gives Fleury competition for save of the week/year

3 Comments

When Marc-Andre Fleury flashed the glove for a ridiculous save, PHT’s Adam Gretz was right in wondering if calling it a save of the year candidate was an understatement. And then Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask came along and gave Fleury competition for save of the week.

Buffalo Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues had so much net to aim for, but also needed to get his shot off quickly. As much as the Bruins swarmed the situation — making for an even better visual — Rask ended up having to save the day, and that he did.

This would have been an amazing glove save, but Rask managing the feat with his blocker hand is just … wow. Watch in awe in the video above.

It sounds like even Rask was impressed.

Again, wow. Let’s take a paragraph break to just mutter wow a few times.

Now, let’s compare and contrast: was it more or less amazing than Fleury’s save? Don’t say it was a tie, cheaters.

Now, what do I think is the better save? Uh …

(Tries to throw a smoke bomb and run away, but Rask and Fleury keep batting it around between each other.)

The save ended up being important, as the Bruins narrowly beat the Sabres 3-2 on Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.