Writing the Perfect Script for the 2013 NHL Season
Now that the NHL season is flying along, it's possible to look at the first 10 games and make projections.
When it comes to impact players and winning a championship, we can look at the rankings and standings and extrapolate what will happen the rest of the season.
It's a script of how we see the rest of the year playing out.
Obviously, the players and coaches will have the power to blow up this script and hit your intrepid reporter across the face with a dose of reality, but here's the ideal situation as to how the year and the postseason will conclude.
Sidney Crosby, Leading Scorer
Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres is off to a scintillating start and he is leading the NHL in goals (10) and points (21) through Feb. 7.
Vanek is playing with greater intensity than he has at any point in his career and he appears unstoppable. He has already had two five-point games this season.
However, even if Vanek can sustain a high level of production this season, he will not find his name at the top of the scoring list at the end of the year.
That honor will go to Sidney Crosby. The Penguins' superstar is already fourth in the league in scoring and he is just starting to find his stride.
By the end of the 48-game schedule, Crosby will have 25 goals and 45 assists. He'll lead the league in scoring and he will have shown that he has come all the way back following the concussion-related problems that marred the last two seasons. Crosby will win the second Art Ross Trophy of his career.
On the goal-scoring front, Steven Stamkos is not going to score 50 goals in 48 games. However, he'll end up leading the league by pounding home 38 goals in 48 games.
Patrick Kane, Most Valuable Player
Will the Chicago Blackhawks ever lose a game in regulation time?
Through the first 10 games of the season, they have yet to lose a game in 60 minutes and they have been nearly perfect with an 8-0-2 record.
The Blackhawks can always count on Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa for a consistent effort, but they have been frustrated from time to time with Patrick Kane's production. He was not happy with himself after a 66-point season (source: ChicagoTribune.com), and he has started the season with eight goals and 10 assists to lead the Hawks.
In addition to the impressive numbers, Kane has simply been in the right place at the right time. He is much more aggressive than he was last year and he is creating stellar opportunities for himself and his teammates.
By the end of the season, the Hawks will certainly taste regulation defeat a few times. However, they will also end up with more points than any team in the regular season and Kane will lead the way.
He will earn the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player.
Victor Hedman, Best Defenseman
When it comes to all-around play by a defenseman, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning is a definitive star.
He does not have the offensive capabilities of Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and he doesn't cut quite the figure of Boston's humongous Zdeno Chara, but when it comes to dominating a game, Hedman is a superstar.
The 6'6", 229-pound Hedman is hitting his prime. Hedman, 22, is already in his fourth season in the NHL and he is tied for the league lead among defenseman (with teammate Sami Salo) with a plus-10 rating.
Hedman is a strong body checker, has a great stick for breaking up plays, he can carry the puck, pass it and he has an impressive shot. He will win his first Norris Trophy.
Hedman has the kind of frame to dominate from start to finish and he should only get better. He has a good chance to lead the league in plus-minus and head coach Guy Boucher knows that every time Hedman is on the ice, good things are likely for Tampa Bay.
Nail Yakupov, Top Rookie
This is a sensational year for rookies in the NHL.
Young players like Alex Galchenyuk of Montreal, Dougie Hamilton of Boston, Vladimir Tarasenko of St. Louis, Cory Conacher of Tampa Bay and Jonathan Huberdeau of Florida all look like future stars.
However, it appears that the Edmonton Oilers have even more dynamic play coming from rookies than any other team. Defenseman Justin Schultz is a future star, while No. 1 pick Nail Yakupov has shown the ability to score game-changing goals.
Schultz has three goals and three assists and has shown he knows how to read the play and when to attack.
Yakupov already has five goals and three assists. He has remarkable hand-eye coordination that has allowed him to bat pucks out of the air and turn them into key goals.(Check out the celebration afterwards.)
His skating speed gives him the opportunity to get open and make creative plays. He'll take the Calder Trophy.
Carey Price, Best Goalie
The Montreal Canadiens have gotten off to a stellar start and appear to be much improved over last year.
If they are going to contend for a playoff spot this year, head coach Michel Therrien must continue to get disciplined play from his team and near-perfect goaltending from Carey Price.
Through the early part of the season, Price has a 1.74 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. That's second to Ottawa's Craig Anderson, who is off to a sensational start with a 1.49 GAA and a .950 save percentage.
No disrespect to Anderson, but he is not going to be able to sustain that kind of performance. Price may be able to keep his goals against average under 2.00 as he plays consistently for the Canadiens.
It would not be a surprise to see Price win the first Vezina Trophy of his career.
Stanley Cup Winner, Boston Bruins
When it comes time to lift the Stanley Cup in early summer, the Boston Bruins will win the championship for the second time in three years.
The Bruins don't have the greatest individual talent in the NHL. You will not see any of their players among the league's leading scorers. Through their first nine games, David Krejci is leading the team with nine points. That's tied for 42nd in the NHL.
What the Bruins have is toughness, depth, balance and a desire to show that last year's first-round defeat to the Washington Capitals was an aberration.
The Bruins are rock solid on defense with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and rookie Dougie Hamilton leading the way. Seidenberg may be the most underrated player in the league.
Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton give the Bruins versatility on the offensive end.
Tuukka Rask is proving that he is capable of brilliance in the net.
The Feb. 7 trade of suspended goalie Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders gives savvy general manager Peter Chiarelli the room under the salary cap to make a player acquisition that would put this team over the top.
Head coach Claude Julien is a master at melding the talents of his players.
There will be significant challenges from the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the East and possibly Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Bruins will raise the Stanley Cup after the season's final game.