by MATT GORDON Editor-in-chief
The long awaited NHL season is set to begin next Tuesday, January 15, and it is time to drop the pucks and finally get the season underway. The biggest story of the season will be the stars, and how they react to the cancellation of the first half of the season.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist look to star in the Eastern Conference as Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin and Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick look to oppose them in the Western Conference. Can the New Jersey Devils repeat as conference champions in the East? Can the Kings remain victorious and win the Stanley Cup for the second straight year? Here is my ranking of the top 10 teams in the league:
10. Detroit Red Wings- The Red Wings lost their defensive leader in Nicklas Lidstrom and grow older every year, but you cannot count them out as contenders in the west. This team seems to be in the hunt every year, and I do not think this year will be any different.
9. Chicago Blackhawks- This team can score, there is no doubt about that. It is their defense and goaltending that will be the issue if this team wants to make the playoff run that they were expected to make last season. Captain Jonathan Toews and leading scorer Patrick Kane look to lead this team to the playoffs and beyond.
8. Philadelphia Flyers- Much like the Blackhawks, the Flyers have no trouble scoring. Their offense, led by right winger Claude Giroux, is one of the best in the league and is what carried them to the conference semifinals last season. However, their inconsistent goaltending and poor defense has held them back from making playoff runs in the past. Will this year be any different?
7. Boston Bruins- The staple of this team is their lock down defense, led by big man Zdeno Chara. Goaltending is no longer an issue, as Tuukka Rask has stepped up to take the place of the grouchy Tim Thomas. Scoring will be a big problem for this team, and may hold them back from competing with the high-flying teams, but their toughness and overall size will ultimately overcome.
6. Minnesota Wild- With the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild have immediately climbed out of the Western Conference’s basement into the limelight of the league. This early season favorite has some issues to deal with and lacks playoff experience, but the addition of two leaders should allow them to adjust and make a playoff run.
5. St. Louis Blues- With no huge stars on the team, you would think that the Blues would suffer a fall back from last season’s run, right? Wrong. This team flat out knows how to play together, and benefits from having a top-of-the-line goaltender in Brian Elliot. This team can compete for the top spot in the West and even the overall top seed of the playoffs.
4. Vancouver Canucks- Can this team finally break through to win it all? Every year, they have come so close to taking home the cup, but fall short due to bad goaltending and bad luck. Thankfully for them, offense is not an issue as they have the high scoring Sedin brothers, Henrik and Daniel. The top seed is definitely within reach for the team that took it last year.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins- Whether you love him or hate him, Sidney Crosby is the top star in the league and his team is a force to be reckoned with. After sitting out most of the season last year with concussion-like symptoms, “The Kid” looks to lead his team back to the top of the Eastern Conference. A much improved defense and the usual great offense should help.
2. Los Angeles Kings- The reigning champs look to follow up their magical playoffs from last year with a big season this year. Their offense was not a problem toward the end of last year, as they scored 16 goals in the Stanley Cup Finals alone, including six in the last game. Goaltender Jonathan Quick has “quick”ly established himself as one of the best in the league and does not want to disapoint this year.
1. New York Rangers- With a disapointing end to last season, the Rangers are motivated to finally make the playoff run that wins their first Stanley Cup since 1994. Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best goaltender in the league, and their defense can block shots like no other. The addition of Rick Nash on offense will boost this team far more than many believe. With a much-improved offense, prolific defense, extraordinary goaltender, and extreme passion, how could you not have this team as the year’s favorite to win the Stanley Cup?
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