Murph’s 2017-18 NHL Season Predictions: Stars Derail Pens Quest For A Three-Peat

NHL Central Division
Seems like yesterday I was moving into a new place and as I unpacked, I watched the Pittsburgh Penguins go back-to-back as Stanley Cup Champions, beating the upstart Nashville Predators in six games. And now here we are, on the verge of another NHL season. After being the first team in the salary cap era to hoist Lord Stanley two straight times, can they be first since the 1981-82 New York Islanders during their dynasty run of four straight Cups? If I’m right (and I rarely am!) they’ll come close. Here’s how:

 

NHL Season Predictions

The Division Winners:

Atlantic – Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos is back; Nikita Kucherov is the young superstar nobody recognizes but will after this season; Victor Hedman will win the Norris and Andrei Vasilevskiy will win the Vezina. The Lightning are back!

Metropolitan – Columbus Blue Jackets: John Torterella finally got the respect he deserves – despite his hot-tempered shortcomings – and the cannon at Nationwide Arena reached new decibels last season (especially against the Canadiens on November 4, 2016). They’ll be rocking almost as loud as the Horseshoe this season, as the BJ’s take the division title and win their first playoff round in team history.

Central – Dallas Stars: It’s a Psycho redux Ken Hitchcock style in the Big D, as the coach who led this franchise to their lone Stanley Cup in 1999 is back for what may very well be his last chance to win another. The Stars are all in with some great offseason additions like Alex Radulov and Ben Bishop. With a core of skill already in place in pillars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, this team is poised to go far as long as their improved but still questionable defense holds up. This scribe thinks it will as you’ll see below.

Pacific – Anaheim Ducks: Here’s the scary thing about the Ducks: After a subpar year by their standards: They have a pissed off veteran core led by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. These are two dudes you don’t want pissed off if you’re facing them on the ice. But what’s even scarier about this current flock in Anaheim is their blue line, which isn’t only the best this season, but could be for many years to come. Think about this! They exposed Shea Theodore in the expansion draft. Theodore could be a No.1 d-man on a quarter of the teams in the NHL! Throw in Josh Gibson between the pipes and you got not only a division winner but a Cup contender.

Playoff Teams:

Atlantic Division – Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens: Leafs and Habs battle for second with the upstart Leafs grabbing the slot.

Metropolitan Division – Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers: After a sluggish first half thanks to two straight Cup hangovers, the Penguins get back to normal but don’t catch the fast out of the gate Blue Jackets. Meanwhile, ‘The King’ Henrik Lundqvist isn’t done on Broadway just yet.

East Wild Cards – Carolina Hurricanes (1st WC) and Boston Bruins (2nd WC): The Canes’ playoff drought ends as they have a new (Scott) Darling between the pipes and their young D corps realizes their potential sooner than expected. The Bruins amass more points but so does a plethora of other teams and they land in eighth seed again.

Central Division – Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators: Already told you the Stars will be shining in Dallas, but the Jets will finally take off with their young talent and win a playoff round. The Preds recover from a slow start and injuries and compete for the Cup again as well.

Pacific Division – Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames: Boudreau has the flock flying together again; Oilers take it one step further and the Peter Pan of hockey, Jaromir Jagr’s magic wears off on the young Flames.

West Wild Cards – Minnesota Wild (1st WC) and San Jose Sharks (2nd WC): The Wild are literally a wild card team this year in the sense that so many things must fall into place for them. If they all do, they could challenge for their division and the cup, but they never seem to do lately in the State Of Hockey. Lots of people already writing the obituary for the Joe Thornton era in San Jose again. The dynamic duo of Thornton-Patrick Marleau may be no longer and Jumbo Joe may retire next summer but while that era is all but gone, their is some underrated youth with experience on the Sharks and they can still be hunters and not hunted in the West.

Conference Champions:

West – Dallas Stars over Anaheim Ducks: Lots of colleagues have the Oilers taking the next step and playing for the conference title, even winning it and winning the Stanley Cup. Not just yet. The Stars continue their success after a division title and somehow crack that deep Ducks blue line to advance to the Stanley Cup for the first time since their new/old coach had them there in 2000.

East – Pittsburgh Penguins over Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning also carry their regular season success through to the conference final, but unfortunately they face Sidney Crosby and the Pens who are hellbent on a three-peat.

Stanley Cup Champion:

Dallas Stars: The Stars spoil Sid and the Penguins’ bid at a three-peat and send Ken Hitchcock into the sunset as a champion as he decides to retire on top with his second ring. Ben Bishop is finally the answer between the pipes and wins the Conn Smythe he almost had in 2015 and Tyler Seguin wins his second cup but this time as a more mature player and well-rounded player.

Hart Trophy:

Nikita Kucherov

Vezina Trophy:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Norris Trophy:

Victor Hedman

Calder Trophy:

Charlie McAvoy

Rocket Richard Trophy:

Patrick Laine

Lady Byng Trophy:

Johnny Gaudreau

Jack Adams Award: 

Ken Hitchcock

 

Read More:

In honor of my Stanley Cup pick and the late Tom Petty, here’s a brilliant Petty show in Dallas! RIP Tom and thanks for the music!

 

Photo Credit: By Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA (IMG_6077) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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