The NHL will enter the final stretch of the season next week following the conclusion of the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa on January 29th. With just over two months of play left before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, here are some bold predictions for the second half of the NHL regular season.
What a difference a year makes. A season ago, the Capitals were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference at the conclusion of the regular season. They punched out the eighth-seeded New York Rangers in five games in their quarterfinal matchup.
Now, the Rangers find themselves on top in the East and the Capitals, while leading the Southeast Division at the All-Star break, are a bad bounce away from being on the outside looking in.
Inconsistent play, a new head coach still finding his way in the locker room and a leader who looks lost more often than not will all contribute to an early summer vacation for the Caps in 2012.
Joffrey Lupul and John-Michael Liles were unexpectedly big additions for the Maple Leafs over the last year. Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are finally starting to show that Brian Burke hasn’t lost his touch.
The Leafs have been knocking on the door all year and will make a strong push in February and March toward their first playoff berth since the lockout.
The Jets currently sit five points out of a playoff spot and should benefit from still being in the Eastern Conference. A 10th seed in the East would be good enough for merely 13th in the West and a much tougher hill to climb.
Winnipeg fans have waited quite a while for their Jets to return home and they’ll be rewarded the best way a hockey fanbase can be: with a playoff appearance.
While his contract runs through the 2018 season and his cap hit is a very unmanageable $7.8 million for other clubs, he could be extremely valuable to teams looking for a goal scorer to help their push into the playoffs.
I think Nash is a name that will be moved at the deadline, but I don’t think it will be to a team that will be best served by his presence.
It’s hard to imagine the Flyers entering the Stanley Cup playoffs with their $51 million man, Ilya Bryzgalov, at the end of the bench and not between the pipes, but that may very well be the case for Peter Laviolette’s club.
Does Bobrovsky remain the top dog in goal beyond the first round if he struggles, assuming the Flyers get that far? Most likely no, as Laviolette has shown in the past that he is not afraid to go with the hot hand in net.
It’s not a stretch, however, to think that Bobrovsky will be that hand when the playoffs start.
Major offers from potential suitors of the Predators' top d-men are going to pour in over the next month leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline on February 27th.
The Predators have said a number of times recently that they intend to keep both players this season, though many experts would argue they can’t possibly afford the tandem heading into next season.
Suter makes $3.5 million this year and will be a UFA this summer. Weber makes $7.5 Million and will be an RFA. Still, I believe the Predators and GM David Poile will find a way to get it done, and well before the end of the regular season.
Nashville has seen too many stars walk out the door in years past, but not this time.