2012 NHL Preview: Early Playoff Outlook

NHL-STANLEY/

The NHL this season will be one that hasn’t been seen in a long time as they will only play a total of 48 games. In a regular season that would only be a few games above a half of a season and that means teams and players will need to adjust. One bad streak of games could eliminate a team immediately from the playoffs. There is no room for mistakes and yet there is sure to be more mistakes in this season than any other. With only a week of training camp players and teams will not even be in their starting season form until a few weeks into the regular season. This will lead to sloppy play and many mistakes throughout the season that will not be great hockey but it will be exciting hockey. This is the NHL that these teams and players have been thrown into and it means unpredictability. The key this season will be to start strong and that means that teams who can start strong will make the playoffs without the eventual fall in the midseason. Teams that may never make the playoffs have a chance this year while other teams that are great but take time to heat up will be out. It is a hard season to predict as anything can happen in 48 games but one thing is for sure, this will be a season to remember. As team prepare for the start of the season there will be a lot to overcome. The Stanley cup champions will be remembered for many things this year but one of the main things will be the fact that they came through all of the controversy of a hectic season to win it all.

 

Eastern Conference:

NHL eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference is a strong conference with some legendary teams but can they win the Cup this year. With a shortened season anyone can sneak into the playoffs this year and wreak havoc on the top ranked teams. Still these top teams are going to be good and hard to beat especially when they get into a groove just as the playoffs begin. This year the kings of the East may be the team with the most pieces in place to make a run. This could be the New York Rangers who won the conference last year and added a key piece this year in Rick Nash. They won’t be alone as a team with some potential as the Washington Capitals are hoping for a new lease on life with a new head coach. The Boston Bruins are also in good shape if they can get through the circus created by Tim Thomas. These will be the three division winners but in this type of season anyone could win. There is the Pittsburgh Penguins who will be hoping Sidney Crosby can return to his form this year. The Lightning are also trying to get back to the top with Steven Stamkos leading the charge into the playoffs. The Flyers are another team on their way if they can find a solid goaltending in Ilya Bryzgalov. Meanwhile the Montreal Canadiens will see a bounce back season under new management and make the playoffs behind their young talent. Taking the last spot in the playoffs will be the Ottawa Senators who will take one step back but still remain with a chance. As these eight teams face off in the Eastern Conference playoffs only one will come out on top and get their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

How They Will Finish:
1. New York Rangers
2. Washington Capitals
3. Boston Bruins
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. Montreal Canadiens
8. Ottawa Senators

9. Buffalo Sabres
10. Florida Panthers
11. Winnipeg Jets
12. Carolina Hurricanes
13. New Jersey Devils
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
15. New York Islanders

 

Quarter-Finals:
New York Rangers 4 – 1 Ottawa Senators
– The Rangers are one of the most complete teams that will see the playoffs this year and they will show that against the Senators who will not be rolled over but will not be able to matchup with the Rangers firepower

Washington Capitals 4 – 2 Montreal Canadiens
– The Canadiens have a number of young players, if they can get them under contract, and that will be a positive for them as they will fight it out against the Caps but the new coaching staff for Washington will help them get through the Canadiens

Philadelphia Flyers 4 – 3 Boston Bruins
– The Bruins will be a good team in the regular season but an unproven Tuukka Rask will not be the rock that Tim Thomas was as the Flyers will see a great performance by their goaltender to squeeze by the Bruins

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 2 Tampa Bay Lightning
– The Pens will be rocking going into the playoffs with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby pairing up as a constant scoring threat as they will out power Steven Stamkos and the Lightning to move on to the second round

 

Semi-Finals:
New York Rangers 4 – 2 Philadelphia Flyers
– The Flyers will have enjoyed the strength they received from Bryzgalov in the first round but King Henrik is simply a better goalie that will shut down their very powerful attack leading to a Rangers win

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 3 Washington Capitals
– This matchup is always a good one as Crosby and Ovechkin will face off in a matchup of superstars as the Pens will come out on top in another hard-fought battle between to NHL powers

 

Conference Finals:
New York Rangers 4 – 3 Pittsburgh Penguins
– This will be a battle that will rage all year between two very good teams will face off for the Eastern title and in the end the skill players will cancel each other out as it will come down to the goalies and in that battle Henrik Lundqvist will win

 

Western Conference:

Western-Conference

The Western Conference is a different beast than in the East as they love to concentrate on the defensive side of the ice. The West is a conference that is known for tough defensive play unlike the high-flying East. This could be an advantage in the shortened season as defence can take a toll on a team but with only 48 games in the season the toll will be considerably less. The best teams in the West will be the teams who can have their defence and score goals in the process. One of the best at this is the Vancouver Canucks who will win the West once again this year behind solid goaltending and defence. They will be challenged by the Chicago Blackhawks though who are looking to get back to the Stanley Cup this year. The LA Kings could be the most complete team in the NHL this year with the Stanley Cup ring form 2012 but that doesn’t mean they won’t suffer from a slight hangover. The Blues will have a small let down this year but they are still a good team and will follow Ken Hitchcock to another playoff appearance. The Coyotes are continually getting better but the outside world will eventually have an affect even if they remain in the playoffs. Meanwhile the Oilers look like one of the most promising teams this year although winning the division might be out of the question. The Sharks are looking to end their reputation of failing at the most important moments as they hope to make a run after taking a playoff spot. The Red Wings will round out the playoffs this year as they will no longer be that power that they are used to. The West will be looking to stay fresh with their defensive style in a short season as they try to remain on top of the hockey world.

 

How They Will Finish:
1. Vancouver Canucks
2. Chicago Blackhawks
3. Los Angeles Kings
4. St. Louis Blues
5. Phoenix Coyotes
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. San Jose Sharks
8. Detroit Red Wings

9. Nashville Predators
10. Minnesota Wild
11. Colorado Avalanche
12. Dallas Stars
13. Anaheim Ducks
14. Calgary Flames
15. Columbus Blue Jackets

 

Quarter-Finals:
Vancouver Canucks 4 – 3 Detroit Red Wings
– The Canucks will be the best team in the West this year but they will not be as dominant as last year and the Red Wings will push them to the limit going 7 games but they will not be able to get that last win

Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 2 San Jose Sharks
– The Sharks will continue their disappointing performances in the playoffs as the Blackhawks will be ready for them to get into the next round behind Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews that will be too much for the Sharks goalie

Edmonton Oilers 4 – 3 Los Angeles Kings
– The Oilers are one of the more promising teams this year as their top line have been playing together since the fall and will be used to each other more than anyone else even more than the defending champions

St. Louis Blues 4 – 2 Phoenix Coyotes
– Ken Hitchcock has made a massive change in the attitude of the Blues and that will translate into 2013 even into the playoffs where they will beat the Coyotes who will move on to another unknown offseason

 

Semi-Finals:
Edmonton Oilers 4 – 3 Vancouver Canucks
– The Canucks are a good team but they will still disappoint in big games as they continue a bad reputation while the Oilers will continue their great year behind their top line as they will be in full playoff form

Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 2 St. Louis Blues
– The Blues are a good team but the Blackhawks are better as Ken Hitchcock will not be able to continue their good run against Chicago who will be able to get through the Blues in six games to advance to the conference finals

 

Conference Finals:
Edmonton Oilers 4 – 3 Chicago Blackhawks
– The Oilers will have yet another great run at the Stanley Cup as they roll with their hot team against Blackhawks who will not have the same connection as the Oilers young talent including their great top line

 

2013 Stanley Cup Finals:
New York Rangers 4 – 1 Edmonton Oilers
– The Rangers were a good team last year until they got too banged up playing their style of hockey but that won’t be a problem this year as they will be in good health against a surprising Oilers team that will simply not be able to get past Henrik Lundqvist

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