People who make their hockey sports picks should keep in mind that there’s a new NHL playoff format. As it stands now, each conference will have two divisions (instead of three) and the top three teams in each division automatically qualify. Beyond that, there’s a pair of wild card teams that can get in regardless of division.
On that note, here’s our predictions for how the 2013-14 playoff seedings will look:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
-People who make their NHL picks know that the Pens are sure thing in the regular season. It’s the playoffs where they – and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury – become frail.
2. Detroit Red Wings
-The Red Wings are underrated. They nearly knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs and then added Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss to the roster. They’ll be a team to be reckoned with.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
-I expect a bounce-back year from this team. Between goaltenders Ray Emery and Steve Mason, they’ll do enough in net. The Flyers scoring will once again be elite.
4. Boston Bruins
-No reason to see the Bruins drop out of the playoffs. Good team that got better by adding Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson.
-The Leafs are a young team on the rise. David Clarkson and Dave Bolland help shore them up down the middle. Between James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, they’ll have quality netminding.
6. Montreal Canadiens
-The Habs were a young team that figures to improve. With steady play from Carey Price, they’ll be back in the playoffs but not as high of a seed this time.
7. New York Islanders
-Another young team that should be better based on experience. John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo are all a year older and should be better.
-Tough team to gauge but with Alex Ovechkin still around, they’ll be in playoff contention. They’d be a more popular sleeper had they found a way to keep Mike Ribeiro.
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1. Chicago Blackhawks
-The Blackhawks’ roster wasn’t pillaged like it was the last time they won the Stanley Cup. They re-signed Corey Crawford and Bryan Bickell, and should again be one of the top teams in the NHL.
2. St. Louis Blues
-It would be nice if the Blues found some scoring but having one of the best goaltending trios and a stellar blue line will make them a Cup contender.
3. Los Angeles Kings
-After a year off, the Kings will be back. Offense might still be a bit of an issue but Jonathan Quick and one of the league’s best defensive corps will carry them.
4. Anaheim Ducks
-Ducks traded away Bobby Ryan but should still be just as good. The move might actually provide much-needed scoring depth. As long as Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller play like they did last season, this team will be good.
5. Vancouver Canucks
-The Canucks could be a sleeper. New head coach John Tortorella will light a fire under this underachieving team of veterans. Maybe that’s the spark they needed.
6. San Jose Sharks
-Sharks won’t be a Cup contender but they’ll have another steady regular season along with an early playoff exit.
7. Minnesota Wild
-Adding Matt Cooke and having Jason Pominville for a full season will give them a big boost. They’ll be back in the playoffs.
8. Winnipeg Jets
-This is the year they finally squeak in. They play in a very weak division and that’ll help their cause.Stay ahead of the offseason NHL odds at our comprehensive odds page~