The greatest game on ice is back
By Adam Williams in Sports
October 6, 2011
With the drop of the puck taking place tonight, the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins take on the newly revamped Philadelphia Flyers team that had some heads turning this off-season with the acquisitions of Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and most unexpectedly, former rival and returning Russian winger, Jaromir Jagr.
A lot has happened since June when Timmy Thomas held up Lord Stanley and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Mike Modano retired after 20 plus years of service. Philly revamped their team by trading away their captain, Mike Richards and star center/winger, Jeff Carter, essentially just to make space for Ilya Bryzgalov, their hopeful goaltending savior. The Atlanta Thrashers shipped up north and are now, once again, the Winnipeg Jets. Washington toughened up their squad with former Predators winger Joel Ward and the Western teams, besides the Minnesota Wild, who acquired Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from the Sharks in exchange for Martin Havlat and Brent Burns, stayed quiet in this off-season rebuilding. The Penguins did what they always do; bring in a 35 year old winger with inconsistencies in health, hoping to be “the winger” for Crosby, but as most Pens fans will tell you, “In Shero We Trust.”
The surprise team was the Florida Panthers. After not making the playoffs in more than a decade, they signed multiple free agents like Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann and Ed Jovanovski, acquired many players through trade, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky being the standouts, and let go of long time goalie, Tomas Vokoun, now in Washington. Don’t be surprised to see them making a chase for the cup this year, and no, not the NASCAR cup.
This brings me to some bold predictions for the 2011-2012 campaign:
Boston will not repeat as champions and Tim Thomas will not be the starting goaltender in Boston after November.
The Washington Capitals will finish third in their division; won’t make the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, and Toronto Mapleleafs will make the playoffs.
Brad Richards and Marion Gaborik, barring injuries will be the best one-two combination in the league for the Rangers.
Evgeni Malkin will lead the league in all major offensive categories; goals, assists, points and win the Richard, Art Ross and Hart Trophies.
The Sedin Twins, Henrik and Daniel, will have the worst season of their careers to date.
The Flyers will not be as offensively gifted and their defense will squander this year and will struggle to make the playoffs.
Calgary’s Olli Jokinen will have resurgence with Jarome Iginla and Rene Bourque to flank him.
The Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild will be the most underrated Western Conference teams and dampen many spirits of the usual suspects, Chicago included.
Edmonton will not get the first overall pick this year. That honor will go to the Ottawa Senators.
Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes will not be the superstar he has been the last few years in Raleigh. Welcome Jeff Skinner.
The New York Islanders will push for a playoff birth, but not with Rick DiPietro in net.
The Dallas Stars will struggle mightly, but Jamie Benn will be their team MVP by the end of the season.
Ottawa’s Sergei Gonchar and Daniel Alfreddson are on their last legs and that will show as the team will have the worst record in the league.
Edmonton is led by HOPE (Hall, Omark, Paajarvi, Eberle) and will make the playoffs.
Martin Brodeur, the greatest goalie of all time, will have one more magical run as Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise carry the squad with breakout offensive years.
The Los Angeles Kings will make a deep playoff run all thanks to Jonathan Quick and the most underrated center in the league, Anze Kopitar.
Now, the one everyone wants to hear. It’s been said once, it will be said again. If Sidney Crosby comes back healthy and Malkin can stay the same way he has been playing in the preseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins will battle the Detroit Redwings for the third time in five years for Lord Stanley’s Cup and will come out on top in six games.
The hockey world also had its bad offseason moments and everyone was affected by the tragic events of the passings of Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, and the whole KHL team, Lokomotiv Jaroslavl in that horrible plane crash on September 7. These were horrible stories to read about in the offseason. Hopefully, the season won’t produce anymore unnecessary tragedies.
There is so much to look forward to for the next nine months and so many games to be played, that any or all of these predictions can come true. The greatest game on ice is back and couldn’t be hotter. Stay tuned for more regarding thoughts on the season, teams, players, throughout the 82 game schedule and don’t let the information slide through your five-hole.