Pop’s Power Play: NHL season predictions

Chris Popovich ‘14
Reporter/Columnist

 

The NHL’s new divisions have opened up new opportunities for certain teams.
The Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference is home to the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadians, and Boston Bruins.
Boston, coming off of a Stanley Cup finals loss, is looking for a new start. The Bruins lost power forward Nathan Horton to free agency. In addition to losing Horton, the Bruins lost backup goalie Anton Khudobin. Fans may not think the loss of a backup goalie is a big one but in the new NHL, a starting goalie cannot start all 82 games. Overall, Boston has the best chance to win the Central Division.
The Detroit Red Wings come into this new division feeling good. Finally out of that rough Western Conference, Detroit has something to prove against the Eastern Conference teams. Detroit lost various players last year but picked up Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson. Detroit will look to strong goaltending to lead them to the top of the Atlantic Division. If Detroit’s goaltending can steal a few wins and General Manager Ken Holland can make some trades, then Detroit is in the hunt to win the Atlantic Division.
Coming in third in the Central Division, I choose the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans remember their game seven collapse against Boston last year where they gave up a 4-1 lead in the third only to lose it in OT. Few changes have been made to this team in the off-season, but one of the few is an upgrade in net. The Leafs acquired Jonathan Bernier from Los Angeles for a price. Bernier is a good goalie who never got a chance to play because LA has Jonathan Quick. Now the Leafs have two strong goalies and can manage the net better on any night. Look for Toronto to score more goals with the addition of Mason Raymond. Overall, I think the Leafs will finish third.
The Tampa Bay Lightning is my pick for the fourth spot in the Atlantic Division. They have failed to make the playoffs in the last few years but management did a small rebuild. I think if Tampa can stay out of the box and play five-on-five hockey, they will be better off. Some issues the Lightning have had can be traced back to goaltending. With the addition of backup Ben Bishop, starting goalie Anders Lindback should get more rest and less responsibility. I think Tampa has a slim chance to win the Eastern Conference wild card.
And finishing out my top five teams in the Atlantic Division, I choose the Montreal Canadians. I feel badly about this team because they keep telling themselves they are a good team when really they aren’t. As if the team wasn’t small enough to begin with, the pick-up of forward Danny Briere isn’t going to help their size. Montreal is just too SMALL. Carry Price is an all-star in net every year and P.K. Subban on defense is one of the best in the league. I think it will be a bad year in Montreal.