Hodgepodge: Hodge Hockey Predictions
By Charlie Hodge.
Editor Barry Gerding gently reminded me that NHL exhibition games are now being played and therefore my annual (foolish) Hodge Podge Clip/Stick/ Laugh NHL Hockey Predictions would be appropriate this week.
“It gives people something to argue or laugh about,” he encouraged with a chuckle. It seems Barry is as keen a sucker for punishment as I am.
Clip/Stick/Laugh is a silly tradition I’ve ridiculously repeated for more than two decades. It’s simple to play. I make wacky predictions on the upcoming NHL season, readers clip out this page, stick it on their fridge, then throughout the hockey season glance at it and laugh at my complete lack of knowledge of the game. For some reason numerous folks find this amusing (including Barry, obviously). I find it slightly embarrassing but dumb habits are hard to break.
The 2019-20 season will be dictated by goaltenders more than any other season in my recent memory. With league parity at his best ever and literally one third of the league having enough skills to win it all, the fine line between glory and the golf course this year will come down to the men behind the masks.
Of course aside from skills, injuries will play a significant impact on the goalie factor since some teams are remarkably thin in backup net minders. A few weeks or even days without solid goaltending can make the difference between making the playoffs or not for several clubs. So with that foremost in my little brain – here are how the four divisions’ regular season standings will unfold.
Barring other injuries this will be the year for a couple clubs including Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars (once they get their act together) and… my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.
Regular season final results will see teams finish like this:
Metropolitan Division: Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers. Columbus Blue Jackets.
This is the division most vulnerable for goaltender meltdown. None of them have depth between the pipes and many are relying on relatively new or young goalies to carry too big of a load. Washington and Pittsburgh are in particular trouble if they lose their starting goalies. Rangers will have a unexpected strong start with rookies Kaapo Kako and Adam Fox shining.
Atlantic Division: Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Montréal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators.
Tampa and Boston are the only two teams with two solid goalies in the league. Boston is thin up front though and any injury to key personal such as Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand will be critical. Sergei Bobrovsky is a huge improvement in the Florida crease.
Pacific Division: Vegas Golden Knights, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks.
Once again goaltending is too thin and teams like Calgary and Edmonton will pay. The best team between the pipes is Anaheim who have nothing else. Age hurts San Jose, Edmonton will finally trade Nugent-Hopkins for a stud defenseman or goalie but it will be too late to salvage season.
Central Division: Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild.
Nashville and Dallas will have very solid seasons. Winnipeg may falter depending on net minding while St. Louis will not regain the winning edge they found in the playoffs.
Connor McDavid will win the scoring title edging out Nikita Kucherov.
With playoff matchups entirely dictated by final season standings and a wild card format it is impossible to figure out who will meet. I am predicting the final four teams in the West will be Dallas, Nashville, Colorado and Vegas while in the East look for Tampa Bay, Toronto, Carolina and Washington.
Once again I am going with my heart on the Stanley Cup champion and predicting Toronto to reach the final edging out Nashville for the cup. (Tampa could easily defeat Toronto and is the odds on favourite if the Leafs falter).
Okay, now post this on the fridge and have fun.
By the way – real sporting sorts post their own predictions next to this one.