10 Bold Predictions for the 2nd Half of the NHL Season
The NHL season is halfway done, believe it or not.
The shortened season has reached tremendous heights, and the fans' support has rewarded them with an extremely interesting 2013 season.
The season has had just about everything: highlight real goals and saves, surprise teams, head-coach firings, disappointing teams and so much more that no one could have predicted.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the remainder of the 2013 season.
10. Jarome Iginla Gets Traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins
Ah yes, the deadly combination of Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla in the 2010 Olympics.
Imagine No. 12 on a line with Sid the Kid and Chris Kunitz. That combination would give opposing defenses nightmares.
With a rebuild inevitable, the Flames will be looking to move Iginla at the trade deadline to kick-start a massive overhaul.
The Penguins are the perfect fit, as they need a right winger for Crosby's line. With a boatload of promising prospects, especially defensemen in the farm system, the Penguins should be willing to part with a couple.
A first-round pick and two top-notch prospects should be enough to get the deal done. It's a perfect fit, on paper anyway.
9. At Least 3 More NHL Head Coaches Will Be Fired
Lindy Ruff has already been let go, and there are plenty of struggling teams out there.
The Calgary Flames remain putrid, which is a bad sign for Bob Hartley, and the Colorado Avalanche are perhaps a slump away from forcing Joe Sacco out the door.
If the Islanders and Panthers remain at the bottom of the Eastern conference standings, then maybe it's time to let go of Jack Capuano and Kevin Dineen, respectively.
Then there is the tier of of underachievers, which mainly consists of the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks.
Although these three teams are still very much alive in the playoff race, they are not playing up to the standards that their talented rosters reflect.
If the Caps, Flyers and Sharks continue to be inconsistent leading up to the end of the season, then don't be surprised if we have new men behind the bench.
My prediction? The Lightning, Panthers and Sharks will have other bench bosses. Todd McLellan, it's time to rediscover the magic of 2011.
8. Chicago Blackhawks Will Finish 2nd Half with More Losses Than Wins
The Chicago Blackhawks started out an incredible 21-0-3 to start the season, something that no one could have seen coming.
Then March 8th came, where the Blackhawks played horrible in a 6-2 loss to the Avalanche, followed up by a 6-5 loss to the lowly Edmonton Oilers at the United Center.
The Blackhawks, in my opinion, peaked too high too and too early, and it's only going downhill from here.
Though they should have no problem wrapping up the competitive Central Division, I have my doubts they will sustain such a hot streak for 22 more games.
I expect them to play mediocre down the stretch, going around 9-10-3 the rest of the way.
7. April 3rd Will Be a Bust for Hockey Fans
I noted earlier that I believe Jarome Iginla will be traded to the Penguins, and I think that will happen before the trade deadline.
Therefore, I don't expect any notable transactions to occur on the day of the trade deadline.
- Corey Perry will likely be retained by the Ducks, as the asking price is likely going to be hefty, and he gives them a better shot at making a championship run.
- The Canucks won't find any takers for Roberto Luongo this late in the season.
-Stephen Weiss is out for the season with a wrist injury.
-The Penguins won't want to move Kris Letang, their top defenseman, as they look for a return to the Cup Final.
-The Capitals will need Mike Ribeiro to make the playoffs; ditto for Mike Smith and the Coyotes.
-The Red Wings will need Valtteri Filppula's offense to nail down a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference.
-Daniel Alfredsson seems reluctant to leave the only team he's played for in hopes of helping the Sens make the playoffs.
When you put the pieces together, it makes little sense for any of the big-name players in the rumor mill to switch teams. Thus, we NHL fans should expect few, if any major roster changes.
6. Sidney Crosby Wins the Art Ross by a Mile
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has a ridiculous 45 points in 26 games so far. The next closest is Steven Stamkos with 37.
Crosby has returned from a career-threatening concussion and has taken the league by storm.
You're not surprised now, are you?
Don't expect to see him slow down—he's that good—and the support of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz (maybe Jarome Iginla?) and Kris Letang will make sure of that.
I expect Crosby to finish this incredible pace by capping off the season with 90 points (you read that correctly).
Stamkos will finish second with 75.
We missed ya, Sid the Kid.
5. Montreal Canadiens Will Win the Presidents' Trophy
Yes, the Montreal Canadiens are first in the Eastern Conference with 38 points. Despite a horrible 15th-place finish in the East last season, the Habs are doing a great job redeeming themselves and the fans.
GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Terrien deserve most, if not all the credit for turning a team around that is barely any different from last year's squad.
The Habs offense is second in the East, behind Pittsburgh, but their defense and goaltending is much more superior, and that should help them maintain the top spot in the East.
Montreal is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, and it will give them the top spot in the league standings on the night of April 27th.
4. The Stanley Cup Champion Will Be a Team That Has Never Hoisted It
Among the teams that have recently captured their first Stanley Cup are the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, Anaheim in 2007, Carolina in 2006 and Tampa Bay in 2004.
Columbus, Buffalo, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Ottawa, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg are the only teams that haven't won the Stanley Cup.
Although anything can happen in sports, I have my doubts that Columbus, Buffalo, Florida, or Winnipeg will break that trend.
Ottawa has too many injuries, and although they are looking like a contender in the future, don't expect them to be one this season.
That leaves us with the Wild, Predators, Coyotes, Blues, Sharks, Canucks and Capitals.
I believe the Wild and Sharks have the potential to make a run, but both teams are inconsistent and don't have enough depth on offense to match that of other Cup contenders.
The Predators are among the best defensive teams in hockey, thanks to Shea Weber and an elite goaltender in Pekka Rinne, and should not be taken lightly by any team.
The Coyotes were three games short of the Cup Final last year, and the Blues are one of the most complete teams in hockey, so you can mark them down as contenders.
The Canucks have won back-to-back Presidents' Trophies and were one game short of winning the Cup in 2011, so don't count them out.
While the Capitals are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference, folks need to be reminded that this team started out very slowly in 2012 and knocked off the defending Cup champion Boston Bruins in last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals and were one game short of eliminating the top team in the East, New York Rangers.
The Capitals will embrace the role as underdogs once again. The experience and youth are there, and they have the potential to turn their season around and make a run at the Cup.
There are plenty of teams without a Cup that can win their first this year, and we'll get to the Cup winner later.
3. 2013 Award Winners
Hart Memorial Trophy - Sidney Crosby
Art Ross Trophy - Sidney Crosby
Rocket Richard Trophy - Steven Stamkos
Vezina Trophy - Carey Price
Calder Memorial Trophy - Cory Conacher
Frank J. Selke - Jonathan Toews
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy - Teemu Selanne
King Clancy Trophy - Brian Campbell
William M. Jennings Trophy - Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier
Jack Adams Award - Michel Therrien
Ted Lindsay Award - Sidney Crosby
Bill Masterton - Nicklas Backstrom
James Norris - Zdeno Chara
2. Final Standings
1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Washington Capitals
4. Boston Bruins
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. New York Rangers
7. Ottawa Senators
8. Philadelphia Flyers
9. New Jersey Devils
10. Carolina Hurricanes
11. Winnipeg Jets
12. New York Islanders
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
14. Buffalo Sabres
15. Florida Panthers
1. Anaheim Ducks
2. Chicago Blackhawks
3. Vancouver Canucks
4. Los Angeles Kings
5. St. Louis Blues
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Phoenix Coyotes
8. Nashville Predators
9. San Jose Sharks
10. Minnesota Wild
11. Dallas Stars
12. Colorado Avalanche
13. Edmonton Oilers
14. Calgary Flames
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
1. Playoff Predictions
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
No. 1 Montreal defeats No. 8 Philadelphia 4-2
No. 2 Pittsburgh defeats No. 7 Ottawa 4-0
No. 3 Washington defeats No. 6 New York Rangers 4-1
No. 4 Boston defeats No. 5 Toronto 4-2
Eastern Conference Semifinals:
No. 4 Boston defeats No. 1 Montreal 4-2
No. 3 Washington defeats No. 2 Pittsburgh 4-3
Eastern Conference Finals:
No. 3 Washington defeats No. 4 Boston 4-1
Western Conference Quarterfinals:
No. 8. Nashville defeats No. 1 Anaheim 4-2
No. 2. Chicago defeats No. 7 Phoenix 4-1
No. 3 Vancouver defeats No. 6 Detroit 4-3
No. 5 St. Louis defeats No. 4 Los Angeles 4-2
Western Conference Semifinals:
No. 8 Nashville defeats No. 2 Chicago 4-1
No. 5 St Louis defeats No. 3 Vancouver 4-1
Western Conference Finals:
No. 5 St. Louis defeats No. 8 Nashville 4-3
Stanley Cup Final:
No. 5. St. Louis defeats No. 3 Washington 4-2
Call me crazy, but the NHL playoffs are hard to predict. My gut is telling me to go for an unexpected Cup Final. The St. Louis Blues will win their first ever Stanley Cup after completing a run similar to that of last year's Los Angeles Kings. Alex Pietrangelo will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
Follow me on twitter: @AlexHoegler27