NHL Predictions 2013: Standings Projections for Lockout-Shortened Season

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJanuary 6, 2013

NHL Predictions 2013: Standings Projections for Lockout-Shortened Season

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    The NHL lockout is tentatively over.

    After the longest offseason in recent memory, it's once again time to talk about pucks instead of bucks, body checks instead of paychecks and goals instead of grandstanding.

    To refresh everybody's memories, here's a look at our projected standings for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 NHL season, division by division.

    Feel free to comment and put in your own picks, but please explain why you feel the way you do.

    Enjoy as we finally get back to hockey.

Atlantic Division

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    1. New York Rangers—The Rangers came close last year and added another sniper in Rick Nash to a team that reached the conference finals a year ago.

    2. Pittsburgh Penguins—A healthy Sidney Crosby should be a boost to a Pens team that had a strong regular season but looked horrible in the playoffs. If the "D" regains its past form, this team could contend.

    3. Philadelphia Flyers—Injuries have hurt the defensive corps, and Ilya Bryzgalov needs to be more consistent, but this team is dangerous and can score with anybody.

    4. New Jersey Devils—There are depth questions up front to be answered, and the older goaltending duo of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg has to hold up over a compressed schedule, but the Devils can still give any team trouble if some of their younger players step up.

    5. New York Islanders—This team is still rebuilding, but a new arena in 2015 gives it more hope. A young defensive corps and the need for many young forwards to have career years makes contending this season tough, but when this young group does reach its prime, the potential is there for the Islanders to fight for a playoff berth.

Northeast Division

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    1. Boston Bruins—The Bruins are deep and loaded throughout their roster. They should contend if Tuukka Rask is ready to be their starting goalie and performs consistently.

    2. Buffalo Sabres—Buffalo tried to become grittier by adding Steve Ott and John Scott. If they are a bit tougher to play against and Cody Hodgson, Ville Leino, Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff can have bounce-back years, the Sabres should be in line to reach the playoffs.

    3. Ottawa Senators—The Sens surprised people by reaching the postseason last season, and their youth may be an advantage in a shortened season. Young players like Kyle Turris and Jakob Silfverberg need to step up and produce for the Senators to exceed last year's results, but this team is on the way up.

    4. Montreal Canadiens—The Habs have a franchise goalie in Carey Price and a new feeling with Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin running the organization. If they get secondary scoring, a healthy year from Andrei Markov and more maturity from P.K. Subban, the Habs may go from worst in the conference to a playoff team, but they are probably a year away.

    5. Toronto Maple Leafs—This team can score, but it lacks defensive defensemen, and goaltending remains a huge question mark. If the Leafs acquire Roberto Luongo as rumored, they could become instant playoff contenders, but with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in net, there are more questions than answers.

Southeast Division

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    1. Washington Capitals—New coach Adam Oates won't have much time to implement his new system, but there is plenty of talent left here, and if they can get their act together by playoff time, this team can be dangerous. Mike Ribeiro should be a good addition on the second line.

    2. Carolina Hurricanes—Adding Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin to the lineup should provide plenty of firepower, especially if Jeff Skinner recovers from the sophomore jinx. Cam Ward already gives Carolina playoff-caliber goaltending, so this team should reach the postseason.

    3. Tampa Bay Lightning—The Bolts moved to improve their defense by adding Matt Carle and Sami Salo. They are hopeful that Anders Lindback is the answer in net. If he is, they could contend. If he isn't, it could be another tough season in Tampa despite the excellence of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

    4. Florida Panthers—A lot of players exceeded expectations last season, and Florida won a division title and reached the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. The biggest question may be in goal, where Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen are not known for their consistency. Secondary scoring is also an issue. This team could go either way, but a step back is likely after taking three steps forward last year.

    5. Winnipeg Jets—The Jets are young and building from within. They are probably a year or two away from true playoff contention. They need to improve their road performance and have goalie Ondrej Pavelec step up to the next level if they want to take the next step themselves.

Central Division

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    1. Chicago Blackhawks—The Blackhawks have depth up front both in scoring forwards and checking forwards. Their defense is well rounded and deep. Chicago should be a Stanley Cup contender if Corey Crawford bounces back to his 2010-2011 form.

    2. St. Louis Blues—The Blues were second in the conference last year and should continue to shine under coach Ken Hitchcock. While the defense should remain strong, don't expect the duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott to have quite as strong a year as they did ago. The Blues should be better offensively, however, and should be contenders again. The shortened season may help the Blues from wearing down under Hitchcock's intense style of play.

    3. Nashville Predators—The Predators lost Ryan Suter but still have Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne along with a solid of unspectacular group of hard-working forwards. It's hard to believe the Predators were eighth in the league in goals scored despite the lack of a sniper. It's tough to count this team out even if they won't be quite as strong as they were a year ago.

    4. Detroit Red Wings—Detroit has a lot to recover from. The retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the trade of Brad Stuart leave holes in the defense corps. The Wings should still be in contention for a playoff spot, but their days of NHL dominance may be coming to an end unless some younger players step in and perform at a high level. Detroit keeps its players in the AHL longer than most to allow that to happen. Now we'll see if it works.

    5. Columbus Blue Jackets—The Blue Jackets are rebuilding without Rick Nash. Sergei Bobrovsky is the new goalie in town, and a more balanced attack should be a reality. If this team shows real progress by season's end, it will have been a good season, but the playoffs are a long shot, especially in this tough division.

Northwest Division

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    1. Vancouver Canucks—The Canucks have won back-to-back Presidents' Trophies and should continue to contend for the franchise's first Stanley Cup this season. The key will be how Cory Schneider performs in goal and what the club gets in return for trading Roberto Luongo.

    2. Minnesota Wild—The Wild added Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but that doesn't make them Stanley Cup contenders just yet. They should reach the playoffs, which is a big step forward for this team. There should be plenty of offense on this team, but 34-year-old goalie Niklas Backstrom needs to have another very good season to get this team over the hump.

    3. Colorado Avalanche—There is a lot of young talent on this team, especially up front. More consistency is needed from goalie Semyon Varlamov and the team's defense overall. The addition of P.A. Parenteau should help, but the Avs are probably a year away from the playoffs.

    4. Calgary Flames—The Flames need to win now before aging stars Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla are past their primes. Newcomers Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka should boost the offense, and Dennis Wideman should help add punch from the blue line.

    5. Edmonton Oilers—Goaltending remains an issue for the Oilers, who are betting a lot on Devan Dubnyk. College free agent Justin Schultz looks good in the AHL, but the blue line still needs work. This team's fortunes will improve as its young stars mature.

Pacific Division

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    1. Los Angeles Kings—Will the Kings play like they did in the playoffs or struggle like they did during the regular season? They have the depth and talent to repeat, and the lockout will probably reduce the chances of a Stanley Cup hangover.

    2. San Jose Sharks—The Sharks come up short in the playoffs despite having a load of talent, but now that talent is getting older. This may be the last chance for Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle to win a cup. Leadership may be the missing ingredient, and a slow start may lead to changes.

    3. Phoenix Coyotes—The Coyotes may have a new owner and seem to have settled their arena issues. They also have a very good goalie and a deep defensive corps. They should be able to reach the postseason even if they don't repeat as division champs.

    4. Dallas Stars—The Stars are rebuilding around Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson while bringing in veterans like Jaromir Jagr and Ryan Whitney to help the team win in the meantime. Kari Lehtonen needs to have a strong season, and the blue line needs an upgrade for this team to truly contend.

    5. Anaheim Ducks—The Ducks need their top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan to have bounce-back years and one last productive season from Teemu Selanne. Young defensemen like Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa need to step up in a hurry for the Ducks to have a shot at the playoffs.

Playoff Predictions

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    Eastern Conference

    Conference Quarterfinals

    Rangers over Sabres

    Bruins over Lightning

    Capitals over Hurricanes

    Penguins over Flyers

    Conference Semifinals

    Rangers over Penguins

    Bruins over Capitals


    Conference Final

    Rangers over Bruins


    Western Conference

    Conference Quarterfinals

    Canucks over Red Wings

    Kings over Predators

    Blackhawks over Wild

    Blues over Sharks


    Conference Semifinals

    Canucks over Blues

    Blackhawks over Kings


    Conference Final

    Canucks over Blackhawks


    Stanley Cup Final

    Canucks over Rangers in seven