NHL 2010/2011 Season Preview and Predictions

With the NHL season officially kicking off this Thursday October 7th 2010, I will be taking a look at who I think will win the Eastern and Western Conferences and my Stanley Cup predictions. I will first start off with the Eastern Conference. Last season the Washington Capitals were the best team in the league. They led the Eastern Conference with 121 points. The Capitals finished with a record of 54 wins, 15 losses and 13 overtime losses. They were the highest scoring team in the league with 318 goals. They also had the best home record with 30 wins, 5 losses and 6 overtime losses. A lot of their players had amazing seasons. Alexander Ovechkin is coming off another solid season in which he had 109 points in only 72 games. He ended up winning the Ted Lindsay Award which is awarded to the most outstanding player in the NHL, as voted by fellow members of the National League Players' Association. He is the three time winner of the award going back to 2008. He finished third in the league in goals only one behind Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby. Centering Ovechkin was Nicklas Backstrom, who had his best season as a pro in only his third season in the league. He recorded 101 points with 33 goals and 68 assists with a +37 rating. The Caps also have Alexander Semin who finished the season with career high 84 points with 40 goals, 44 assists and +36 rating. This team is very talented up front, and they have one of the league's best offensive defenceman in Mike Green. In Green's fifth season in the league last season he recorded a career high 76 points. The rest of the Caps defense is really young and it showed as they didn't play well in the playoffs in the 1st round against Montreal when they got knocked out. Overall they lost Jose Theodore in the offseason, Joe Corvo, Shaone Morrisonn, Erik Belanger, Milan Jucina, Scott Walker and Brendan Morrison. They signed back Boyd Gordon, Jeff Schultz, Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleishmann. This team has a very young core and they just need time to build and keep getting better. I think they will win the Eastern Conference and they will win the Presidents Trophy as the top team in the league again. Going on to the Western Conference, last season the Sharks were the best team finishing with 113 points, just one point ahead of the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks.  However, a lot of rival teams in the Western Conference made some significant moves. This year I think the Vancouver Canucks will finish 1st in the Western Conference. If you take a look at their roster they really don't have any weaknesses. The Canucks had a really solid offseason by adding Dam Hamhuis in free agency and acquiring Keith Ballard from Florida. They also improved their third line depth by signing Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres. Malhotra was a solid 3rd line center for the Sharks last season and is always one of the best face off guys in the league. The Canucks have a very deep core of defense with Hamhuis, Ehrhoff, Edler, Ballard, Bieksa and Rome who might just fill in until Sami Salo returns from injury. The Canucks also have one of the best goalies in the league with Luongo. I think it was best for him to give up the captaincy, so now he can focus on just playing goal.  The Canucks are amazing top to bottom. They have some solid offense up front with Sedin twins. Henrik won the Hart Memorial Trophy last year, which is given to the player that is judged to be the most valuable player to their team. Daniel Sedin had 85 points in 63 games which is amazing point production. If Daniel can stay healthy this season 95 points isn't out of the picture. They also have some solid talent in Burrows, Kessler, Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond. As long as the Canucks can stay healthy I see them finishing 1st in the Western Conference. If injuries do hit this team, then I still see them finishing in the top 3. My Stanley Cup predictions: I think the Canucks have all of the pieces they need now to compete and they can even use Bieksa as trade bait once Salo comes back to improve their offense even more. Luongo will have an amazing season and the Canucks will finally beat the Blackhawks and make it to the finals. In the Eastern Conference I think the Capitals have what it takes to make it the Stanley Cup finals.  The Caps defense will be key in the playoffs and their young core of defenseman will need to step it up big time. It is for this reason that I predict that the 2010/2011 Stanley Cup champions will be the Vancouver Canucks.