2015-16 NHL Preview: Early Playoff Outlook

stanley_cup_trophyIt has become the biggest reason for the NHL’s growth in the USA and around the world, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There is truly nothing like it in the sports world as it marks a marathon that rewards those tough enough to get through by handing them the best trophy in sports.

The NHL playoffs are not necessarily the most original in sports as the NBA and MLB both play series rather than single game elimination.

As good as the playoffs in both leagues are there is just something about the NHL version of the series that makes it one of the most exciting.

There are constant comments when the playoffs begin by people who never watch hockey.

It is the reason why the league continues to grow as it sucks people in and makes them fans.

For the fans that are already there it is a time to celebrate the game they love for everything that the game brings.

The playoffs are a time in every season where the best of hockey is put on display and those on the outside realize just why it can be one of the most exciting sports in the world.

The playoffs are the last few miles of a marathon as the teams have already gone through 82 games and need twelve more wins in order to take home the thing they have been thinking about since they were children.football-sidebar

There is a toughness in the NHL playoffs unlike any other as that season long marathon in a physical sport like hockey takes its toll.

Then the pressure gets even greater and the checking gets bigger with a lot less room to move on the ice.

There are constantly stories of players who play with major injuries throughout the playoffs.

It’s not uncommon for a player to undergo surgery after the playoffs as they powered through big injuries until the playoffs finish.

Not only is the toughness shown though as the best players often rise to the occasion in the playoffs.

The players with skill showcase everything that they can do on the ice with plays that mean so much more in the playoffs.

It is one of the most thrilling parts of hockey and as the new season begins the anticipation will only grow throughout the year.

Every team is looking to make their mark on the season and all will hope to raise the Cup at the end of the year.

They all have a shot as the new season brings new opportunity for every team as they attempt to put their names on Lord Stanley’s Cup.

It is always tough to think about it this early as changes are sure to make a big difference throughout the season.

Still as they stand right now there are a number of teams that seem to have a great chance at the Cup this year.

The best teams in the league once again begin their season looking for one goal while other teams just try to change their plans.

As the season begins the goal for every team is the same, make it into the craziest and toughest playoffs in sports to achieve a dream of raising the Stanley Cup as the best team in the NHL.

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The Eastern Conference has had plenty of issues over the last four years sending a new team to the Stanley Cup but never coming home with the prize. It’s not for lack of talent though as the Eastern Conference has plenty of great teams and great players. They are home to some of the best offensive teams in the league and some of the most defensively responsible teams. Yet when it comes to the playoffs they can’t find their way back to the top of the league. There are plenty of teams looking to change that this year with plenty of interesting teams that could challenge for the Cup. The Atlantic Division will see much of the same contenders as last year take another run. The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to have one of the best offences in the league and will use that to rise to the top of the division. The Montreal Canadiens have the best goalie in the league and despite their deficiencies he makes them a true contender every year he’s in net. For the 25th time in a row the Detroit Red Wings will enter the playoffs as a veteran team will help their new coach adjust even if they don’t compete for the division. Meanwhile the Metropolitan division will take the rest of the playoff spots with much improved teams that are better than most in the Atlantic. A move to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn will not phase the New York Islanders as a balanced team still looks like the strongest in the division. The Capitals are a very improved team and will fight with the Isles for the division but will fall just short in the regular season. The New York Rangers are no longer the team to beat but they are far from done being a contender as they will enter the playoffs for another year with high expectations. Pittsburgh will make another postseason with the addition of Phil Kessel but they won’t be able to take a top three going into the wild card instead. Right behind them will be the Blue Jackets who fell last year but will make their way back this time around. In the playoffs it is not going to be easy for any team as all have their flaws and reasons why they can win. There are veteran teams and teams that are fairly young and inexperienced. There are also great offensive teams and balanced teams. If history says anything though it is that a team leaning too far to one side of the equation has a much tougher time of making it through. As great as many of these teams are it is the Islanders who seem to have everything, at least at the start of the season, to move through the eastern playoffs and into the playoffs.

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Eastern Conference Champion:
new_york_islanders

western_conference_logo

The Western Conference remains the conference to beat in the NHL as they have taken all four of the last Stanley Cups. As good as the conference has been it has really been only two teams that have made their impression on the league as the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have been on top in those four years. Counting back a little further and the Blackhawks are the greatest franchise in of the era winning three of the last six Stanley Cups. The last time the west was this dominant in the playoffs was in the late 1990s with the Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, and Dallas Stars all taking home Cups from the 1995-96 until the 1998-99 season. There will be eight teams looking to continue that run as the best conference in the league and all have the ability to do it. There doesn’t look to be massive changes in the west but there are still great competitors looking to make an impact. In the Pacific the Anaheim Ducks will once again rise to the top on the back of a solid all-around team. The young and rising Calgary Flames will be there to challenge the Ducks but it likely won’t be too much of a fight for the Ducks to take home the title. The Flames will need to fight a veteran team looking to make good on their closing window of opportunity that isn’t finished yet but could be done soon. The Central makes it a tough conference for everyone though as they are easily the best division in the league. No team had a losing record last year with the last place team earning 90 points making it a tough road to the playoffs. The Blues will rise about again though as their offence full of skill and a solid defence will bring them back as Central champions. Right behind them will be the Predators who are once again a defence first team that can shut down the best offences. The defending champions won’t be the same as last year but they are still not changed enough to be moved from the top three of the division. The Central will also produce the two wild card teams as the Winnipeg Jets seem to be on the rise and a mix of veterans and young talent should put them into the top wild card. The final wild card is going to be tough to earn but the Colorado Avalanche are the most improved team in the division and should find their way to the playoffs this year. The western conference is going to be strong and the playoffs are not going to be easy for anyone. In the end though the Blues are the most put together team in the conference and will move on to try to continue the dominance.

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Western Conference Champion:
st_louis_blues

2016 Stanley Cup:
The Stanley Cup will be an interesting one as two teams that have had plenty of promise in the past but have yet to move their way into the Finals. This year they will get there and it will be an entertaining Finals for a team with a new home. It won’t be successful for those Islanders though as Jonathan Tavares and company will go seven games but will only take three. The Blues are a team that, at least at this point, is just too good from top to bottom. Their goaltending is the only concern but their two netminder system works for them and their defence provides all of the support needed. The Blues will take this deep lineup to the Finals and take home a Stanley Cup becoming the fifth straight western team to win the Cup.

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