by DANIEL MORRELL
As the bitter winter looms around the corner, the coolest (literally) professional sport, the NHL, is back for another exiting season.
The trilling Stanley Cup match between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks reignited the interest of many, giving the sport it’s highest television rating since 1974. The game also earned a 43.4/64 in Boston, the best for a hockey game since records began being kept for the market in 1991. That’s higher than any game in the Celtics’ last two NBA finals according to Yahoo Sports.
Ramapo senior Brad Rosen said, “It was the first time that I’ve watched hockey in years and will defiantly be watching more this season.”
So what exactly can we expect for the this upcoming season?
The Washington Capitals, the top team in the eastern conference for the last two years is out to prove that they can go all the way. After playoff falters the previous two seasons, the team added goalie Thomas Vokoun in hope that this is will the final piece needed to take the Stanley Cup home. However, the team’s real issues has been the lack of offense from everyone who isn’t Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals raw talent out-weights the rest of the conference, but no one has ever won a championship because they look good on paper.
The Philadelphia Flyers, who have also had their fair share of post season heartbreak, have improved in the goalie position as well. Ilya Bryzgalov is considered to be a first class protector of the net and resolves the Flyers rotating door of goalies. Despite the loss of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter this team is still one of the strongest in the conference, close behind Washington.
The Boston Bruins, fresh off their Stanley Cup victory of last season, are trying to become the first repeat Champions since the Detroit Red Wings of 1998. Goalie Tim Thomas is their key to success and the team will only go as far as he allows them to. It will be interesting to see if they can burst out of the gate or will have a slow start from their Stanley Cup hangover.
The Montreal Canadians, Tampa Bay Lightening, and Buffalo Sabers are all well skilled and competitive teams and will be the thick of the hunt for the eastern conference championship. Look for the the team that is able to get hot towards the end of the season to make the most significant run.
As for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby has been out from a severe concussion since last season and is still sitting today from concussion like symptoms. This does not fair well for the Pens since they’ve only gone has far as Crosby’s all-star play has taken them. Although the team doctor’s won’t let him play until he’s 100 percent, there is still doubt on how well he’ll be able to perform after so much time off.
Moving closers to home, the New York Rangers are the most promising local team this season. After a trip to the playoffs last year, look for them to repeat that success on the back of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. As for the Devils and Islanders, neither are looking to have exceptional years. Devil’s long time goalie, Martin Brodeur is a shell of his former self and the Islanders have a lot of young talent but the rest of the division is just too strong for them to make a big splash.
Oh, and let’s not forget the new Winnipeg Jets! Wait, I mean the old Atlanta Trashers. It’s doubtful that a move above the boarder will turn a mediocre team extraordinary, especially, considering that their still in the southern division, meaning they will be frequenting Florida, Carolina, and Washington but it’s good to see more hockey in Canada.
The Vancouver Canucks, off of their Stanley Cup heartbreak of last year will return more motivated than ever. They are an aging club and will have a win-now mentality, especially after being so close last season. Talent wise the San Jose Sharks are better, but the battle for the western conference championship will most likely come down to these two teams. Whoever makes it to the Cup is the team that gets hot towards the end of the season. Both teams aren’t getting any younger and this is one of the last years for their core groups to get the job done.
The 2010-11 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, will be back with vengeance looking to make a more impressive impact than making the playoffs by the skin of their teeth only to be knocked out in the first round, although to their credit it was a battle to the end.
The Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings will be in a close battle this year for the central division. The Predators had a formidable post season last year and looked strong against Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver. Detroit is still an extremely talented team with stars like Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Tomas Holmstrom. A lot of weight will be resting on their goalie, Manny Legace.
The L.A Kings are bound to make an impact this year after showing how profound their talent is the playoffs against San Jose last year. They might be able to out-duel the Ducks for second in the pacific division. Speaking of the Ducks, they’re aging but still a great team and will be there until the end.
Check out NHL.com for updates, stats, and everything else hockey!