The Blueprint

NHL season begins Wednesday

The+Chicago+Blackhawks+prepare+for+the+2015+Winter+Classic+in+Washington%2C+DC.+Photo+from+WikiMedia+Commons
The Chicago Blackhawks prepare for the 2015 Winter Classic in Washington, DC. Photo from WikiMedia Commons

The Chicago Blackhawks prepare for the 2015 Winter Classic in Washington, DC. Photo from WikiMedia Commons

The Chicago Blackhawks prepare for the 2015 Winter Classic in Washington, DC. Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Patrick Felts

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The 2018-19 National Hockey League season is almost here, and this could be one of the most interesting seasons that hockey has seen in years. Here’s what to watch for on the ice this season.

1.) Can the Capitals repeat?

Last season, Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals broke their long standing habit of playoff failure, capturing the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in June. Coach Barry Trotz left the team for a new job with the New York Islanders over the offseason, so regression could be possible. Nevertheless, the Caps should be contenders due to retaining most of their championship roster.

2.) Chicago looks to avoid a repeat of last season

Throughout the 2010s, the Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the NHL’s premier teams. The Hawks have won 3 Stanley Cups this decade, the most of any team in that span, and have consistently been in contention for the Cup. That was until last season, when star goalie Corey Crawford missed most of the season with injuries. The Hawks had a forgettable 2017-18 campaign plagued with bad goaltending in Crawford’s absence. With a healthy Crawford back in the fold, Chicago looks to compete for the playoffs once again.

3.) Can Tavares break the curse in Toronto?

The Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the league’s original franchises, and have a rich history of championships. Over the last 51 years, however, the Leafs haven’t had the same success. The last time they even made a Stanley Cup Final appearance, there were only six teams. In free agency this year, Toronto landed the big fish in superstar forward and Ontario native John Tavares. The former New York Islander looks to bring his elite goal scoring talent to an already potent Toronto offense headlined by the 21 year old phenom Auston Matthews. This could be the year when the Leafs finally break through.

4.) San Jose is aiming for a Cup with Karlsson

The San Jose Sharks made one of the bigger moves of the offseason when they traded for the league’s top defenseman, Erik Karlsson, from the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson should bring a tenacious line of defense alongside Brent Burns in San Jose this season.  With Joe Thornton running the offense, the Sharks are hoping to finish the season raising Lord Stanley’s Cup.

5.) Will the Blues return to relevance?

The St. Louis Blues entered last season as one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup; the team ended up missing the playoffs altogether. It wasn’t because the Blues weren’t good enough, but because the team was absolutely plagued with injuries to star players including Alex Pietrangelo, Vlad Tarasenko, and Alex Steen. The team made some significant upgrades this offseason, adding both Ryan O’Reilly and St. Louis native Pat Maroon. If the team stays relatively healthy, they should compete for their first ever championship in their 51 year history.

My Predictions:

EAST-

Metropolitan Division:

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Columbus Blue Jackets
  3. Pittsburgh Penguins

Atlantic Division:

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Boston Bruins

Wild Cards:

  1. New Jersey Devils
  2. Florida Panthers

WEST-

Central Division:

  1. Nashville Predators
  2. St. Louis Blues
  3. Winnipeg Jets

Pacific Division

  1. San Jose Sharks
  2. Vegas Golden Knights
  3. Edmonton Oilers

Wild Cards:

  1. Chicago Blackhawks
  2. Colorado Avalanche

Championship Prediction:

The Toronto Maple Leafs will defeat the San Jose Sharks, 4 games to 2 games for the Stanley Cup