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NHL Predictions: Dec. 23

Magnus JohnsonCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2009

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 27: (L-R) Chris Kunitz #14, Tyler Kennedy #48 and Jordan Stall #11 of the  Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate a goal against Cristobal Huet #38 of the Chicago Blackhawks on February 27, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Penguins defeated the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This NHL season has been full of great entertainment. The Red Wings are slowly fighting their way back to the top while the Blackhawks and Sharks sit atop the West. The Penguins have been flying high all year, only to be de-crowned recently by the surging Devils. Who will be throned NHL champions and hoist the cup at the end of the season?

West

1. Chicago Blackhawks: With young stars Toews and Kane leading the way and help from new star Marion Hossa, the Blackhawks will take the West and prepare for the playoffs from a new perspective—the favorite. 

2. San Jose Sharks: Dany Heatley is proving to be an amazing pickup, and with Joe Thornton being a leader, the Sharks are right up with the Hawks, and will be to the very end. 

3. Phoenix Coyotes: Finally, this drought-ridden franchise will get some life into it and Shane Doan will be able to show off his talents in a playoff atmosphere. 

4. Detroit Red Wings: A slow start can't keep the Red Wings from making the playoffs yet again. Don't let their fourth seed fool you, the Wings will be ready to make some noise come playoff time. 

5. Colorado Avalanche: No one in Mile High City can complain about a five seed after last year's disaster, but the Avs better come prepared for a meeting with Datsyuk and the Wings. 

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6. Los Angeles Kings: No one knows where they're getting it, but, be it their goaltending or forwards, the Kings are showing some life and explosiveness, and could finally be playing in June again. 

7. Calgary Flames: Iginla and the Flames may slowly be cooling down year by year, but their goaltending will save them late and propel them to the playoffs. 

8. Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks will need a late run to make it, but I think they'll get it and will make their presence known come playoff time. 

9. Vancouver Canucks

10. Dallas Stars

11. Nashville Predators

12. St. Louis Blues

13. Columbus Blue Jackets

14. Minnesota Wild

15. Edmonton Oilers

East

1. Buffalo Sabres: After taking a multiple-year break from playing in June, the Sabres will be back in it this year, and not to be looked over, either (just look at their seed). 

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: The defending champs haven't been very dominant of late, but Crosby and Malkin won't let their Pens fall, and will have a safe seat in the playoffs at the end of the year. 

3. New Jersey Devils: While their goaltender breaks records and establishes a sure place in the Hall of Fame, he and the rest of the team will work on assuring a place in the playoffs. 

4. Ottawa Senators: Although they were forced to get rid of an unhappy Heatley, Michalek and Cheechoo have replaced him well and the Sens are on a role. 

5. Washington Capitals: After establishing a franchise's dominance, Ovie wants more and won't stop for anyone, especially his arch rival, Sid the Kid. 

6. Boston Bruins: The Bruins are hungry, and no matter who they face on their road to the playoffs, Chara will lead them through it and get them a one-way ticket to NJ.

7. Montreal Canadiens: An under-the-radar team with a good mix of young energy and veteran intelligence—a recipe for success late in the season. 

8. Tampa Bay Lightning: They havn't been noticed by most anyone, but they know who they are and they know what they want, the same cup everyone else wants. 

9. New York Rangers

10. Atlanta Thrashers

11. Philadelphia Flyers

12. Florida Panthers

13. New York Islanders

14. Carolina Hurricanes

15. Toronto Maple Leafs

Playoffs, Round One

West

Chicago over Anaheim, 4-3

San Jose over Calgary, 4-3

Phoenix over Los Angeles, 4-1

Detroit over Colorado, 4-2

East

Tampa Bay over Buffalo, 4-3

Pittsburgh over Montreal, 4-3

New Jersey over Boston, 4-2

Washington over Ottawa, 4-3

Playoffs, Round Two

West

Detroit over Chicago, 4-3

San Jose over Phoenix, 4-1

East

Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh, 4-3

Washington over New Jersey, 4-3

Playoffs,  Conference Championships

West

Detroit over San Jose, 4-2

East

Washington over Tampa Bay, 4-1

Stanley Cup Finals

Washington Capitals over Detroit Red Wings, 4-2

Finals MVP: Alexander Ovechkin

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