Hockey season has finally arrived, and fans from all over the nation have the right to be excited. Some of the strongest teams have been getting even stronger, and many previously overlooked teams are beginning to rise in status. The majority of the NHL is looking solid this year, but there are a few that stand out: the ones that are likely to steal the trophy and the ones that are looking to come up and surprise us all.
The Western Conference has recently proven its strength, taking the Stanley Cup four of the last five years. Within the Pacific Division, the three California teams are looking good. The defending champions, the Los Angeles Kings, have a solid chance of dominating again this season. They’ve got the dynamic duo of Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin on defense and can count on Marian Gaborik to rack up some points. Goaltender Jonathan Quick has also been solid in the net, giving them an impressive team all around. The Anaheim Ducks are extremely competitive offensively, boasting extremely strong players like playmaker Ryan Getzlaf and his high-scoring right winger Corey Perry, as well as new addition Ryan Kesler. The San Jose Sharks are solid contenders, as well; they haven’t made many changes to last year’s roster, which may prove to work in
The majority of the Central Division is also looking especially strong. In particular, the Chicago Blackhawks have every reason to expect big success in the postseason, just as they have for the past few years. The team is an absolute powerhouse with skilled forwards like Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, to name a few. Factor in that they’ve added center Brad Richards to the roster, and it’s safe to say the Blackhawks are more than ready to take on any team in the league. However, fellow Central Division teams including the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars boast young, talented lineups with their own fair share of big names. The St. Louis Blues in particular are looking better than ever; defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is one of the best in the league and the team is solid all around with skilled players in every position.
The Eastern Conference brings a lot of heavy competition this year as well. The Bruins may end up ruling the Atlantic Division; Boston has seen tremendous success of late thanks to last year’s Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask, as well as captain Zdeno Chara and two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have definitely maintained their reputation as one of the best teams in the league. A major up-and-comer this year is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team boasts many young and talented players led by center captain Steven Stamkos, a likely contender to win the 2015 Hart Memorial Trophy, and Head Coach Jon Cooper, this year’s favorite for the Jack Adams Award. The Lightning climbed through the ranks last season when Cooper was first hired, and it looks like they’re only going up from here. Tampa Bay has a solid chance of making the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go past the first round this year.
The star-studded Metropolitan Conference includes many teams with a few shining stars. Last year’s Stanley Cup runners-up, the New York Rangers, may have another shot at making it pretty far if superstar goaltender Henrik Lundqvist performs like he has been. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have a chance, even if it is by riding on the backs of their outstanding forwards, center Evgeni Malkin and superstar captain Sidney Crosby. The Washington Capitals can also look to rely on a couple of players, including three-time Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin and goaltender Braden Holtby.
When it comes down to it, the game of hockey has a lot to do with attitude and determination. The LA Kings entered last year’s playoffs with three immediate losses, then came back and eventually emerged with the Cup. Chicago has won twice in the past five years and came incredibly close last season, and their fan base is larger and more spirited than ever. The Bruins also have a long legacy of being talented and successful and this year is just as promising as any other. Yet, with many teams developing young talent and moving up in the ranks, perhaps the current status quo will be challenged; the possibility of an underdog victory definitely shouldn’t be counted out. Regardless of the outcome,
this year is going to bring out the best in die-hard fans and is bound to produce some