Woodward: 2014-15 NHL Predictions

by Benjamin Woodward | Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014

nhl-predictions2014-15 Season Predictions

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

1 – Boston Bruins (107 points) – It’s been a rather tumultuous off-season in Boston. After following up a dominating Presidents’ Trophy campaign with a disappointing second-round flame out, the Black and Gold will be looking to capture a second consecutive division title. However, things won’t be as easy for the Bruins this time around, as they have faced a severe cap crunch this summer and have yet to find a replacement for departed first-line winger Jarome Iginla. There are still plenty of questions that need to be answered in Boston’s forward group after an underwhelming postseason performance. But, as the East’s strongest defensive team, the Bruins narrowly hold on for another division title.

2 – Tampa Bay Lightning (106 points) – Despite the near season-long absence of superstar Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning emerged as a serious threat in the Eastern Conference last season, reaching the playoffs just one year after finishing in the league’s bottom-three. This year, after a well-executed series of off-season acquisitions, the Bolts are poised to make the jump into the upper-echelon of the league. With the infusion of two new blueliners and uber-talented prospect Jonathan Drouin into coach Jon Cooper’s lineup, expect the Lightning to be in the hunt for the Atlantic Division crown all season long.

3 – Montreal Canadiens (100 points) – After upsetting the top-seeded Bruins in round two last spring, the Canadiens saw their postseason hopes evaporate upon Carey Price’s Game 1 injury in the Eastern Conference Final. In 2014, the Habs will return with a healthy goaltender and one of the league’s quickest and most skilled forward groups. Montreal has an outside shot of taking this division and once again are included as a dark-horse pick to represent the East in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Metropolitan Division

1 – Pittsburgh Penguins (98 points) — The Penguins stumbled down the stretch last season and it really wasn’t much of a surprise to see them bow out against New York in the second round. In the wake of another postseason disappointment, the Pens hit the reset button on their franchise, bringing in a new coach and general manager. Pittsburgh is definitely back on the right track to success, but it could be a year or two before the Pens are back in Cup contention.

2 – New York Rangers (96 points) – Coming off their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994, expectations will be sky-high for the Rangers in 2014. However, last year’s team overachieved significantly and the Blueshirts will spend a good portion of this season regretting the trade of former captain Ryan Callahan when 37-year-old Martin St. Louis’ offensive production begins to decline. However, with superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan McDonagh anchoring the back-end, the Rangers still have enough strength on defense to contend for a division title.

3 – Philadelphia Flyers (95 points) – In perhaps the most wide-open of all the divisions, Philly will emerge from the Metropolitan. While there are still questions on defense, the Flyers have the deepest group of capable scorers in this entire division. With three strong lines and a completely healthy season from star center Claude Giroux, Philadelphia could return to the top of the Metropolitan.

East Wild Cards

1 – New York Islanders (93 points) – The Islanders already boast one of the league’s most talented groups of young forwards. Consider that, the return of otherworldly-talented pivot John Tavares and the signing of steady veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halakk, the Islanders may have found the recipe for a postseason return.

2 – Columbus Blue Jackets (90 points) – Columbus doesn’t have the type of scoring depth that it’ll take to win a round, but with another stellar year from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets should qualify for the playoffs once again.

Western Conference

Central Division

1 – Chicago Blackhawks (115 points) – The ‘Hawks boast the league’s premiere forward duo in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have arguably the deepest roster in all of hockey. Chicago wins a tightly contested Central Division race.

2 – Minnesota Wild (107 points) – It was a tumultuous year between the pipes for the Wild in 2013-14. With injuries taking their toll on both Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota was forced to turn to rookie Darcy Kuemper. The first-year netminder performed excellently down the stretch, leading the Wild into the postseason. With a full year to grow into his role as the team’s starting goaltender, Kuempfer and the Wild could be a serious threat in this division.

3 – St. Louis Blues (106 points) – The addition of Paul Stastny will certainly pay huge dividends for the Blues both now and into the future. His presence on the team’s top-line should do wonders for a Blues’ squad that’s always been phenomenal defensively but has struggled to put the puck in the net. On the back-end, expect another year of exponential development for defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who should find himself back in the Norris Trophy discussion once again.

Pacific Division

1 – Anaheim Ducks (110 points) – The Ducks re-entered the conversation out West last season with a breakout campaign, finishing atop the Pacific Division with a whopping total of 116 points. Despite a dominant top-line, the Ducks just didn’t have enough secondary scoring to get past the rival Kings and into the Conference Final. After adding dynamic two-way pivot Ryan Kesler to the lineup this summer, Bruce Boudreau’s team is now much better equipped to tangle with the West’s elite.

2 – Los Angeles Kings (103 points) – For the second time in three seasons, the LA Kings went on one of the most impressive postseason runs in recent memory. It’s remarkable when you consider the Kings had to survive THREE straight Game Seven’s in order to advance to the Final. This team simply has championship resilience. The dreaded “cup hangover” may cost them a few regular season wins, but Los Angeles will be right back in the Stanley Cup hunt by the time the playoffs roll around.

3 – Vancouver Canucks (90 points) – Perhaps the biggest surprise pick of them all, Vancouver will sneak into the postseason this year with a revamped roster and a promising first-year coach. In the league’s most dreadful division, newly-acquired goaltender Ryan Miller’s play may be enough to help the Canucks steal a couple of games and make a push for the third playoff spot.

West Wild Cards

1 – Dallas Stars (100 points) – On the heels of a breakout campaign in 2013-14, the Dallas Stars went bold this summer, acquiring a pair of highly-skilled players to deploy on their second forward line; former Senators’ captain Jason Spezza and one of his favorite linemates, Ales Hemsky. With a power-duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn already in place on the top line, the Stars now boast one of the NHL’s best top-six forward groups.

2 – Colorado Avalanche (94 points) – Last year was an anomaly for the Colorado Avalanche. With an extraordinarily sub-par defense corps, the Colorado relied upon goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s stellar play to bail them out of quite a few holes. This year, it’s a step back for Colorado, but budding mega-star Nathan MacKinnon manages to get his team into the final playoff spot.

Biggest surpriseDallas Stars – Factoring in all of their additions on offense, the Stars could be one of the funnest teams to watch this season.

Biggest disappointmentColorado Avalanche – After catching lightning in a bottle with Semyon Varlamov’s unbelievable 2013 season, the Avalanche are going to face a hard fall back to reality this year. Star pivot Nathan MacKinnon may just be good enough to pull this team back into the playoff picture, but don’t expect anywhere close to a repeat of their 112 points last season.

First coach firedTodd McClellan (San Jose) Sometimes the obvious choice is the best one. McClellan should have received his pink slip after his Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead against the Kings last postseason. He’s on a short leash this year.

Stanley Cup Final matchup Chicago over Montreal in six games

Conn Smythe Trophy winner:  Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)

Award Winners

Hart TrophyJohn Tavares (New York Islanders)

Vezina Trophy Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)

Norris Trophy Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)

Calder TrophyJonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning)

What are your predictions puckheads?

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Benjamin Woodward
About the Author

Lead Writer Benjamin Woodward is a native Bostonian and lifelong hockey fanatic. After three years of covering the Boston Bruins for various media outlets, including Hockey Independent, SB Nation and the New England Hockey Journal, Benjamin has chosen to tackle a new challenge here in Tampa Bay. He enjoys golfing and football and is a die-hard University of Michigan supporter.

Displaying 7 Comments
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  1. Mathieu says:

    I’m Surprised San Jose isn’t there. For all of their playoffs woes, they do have great regular seasons. Also I think Pittsburgh will come have a decent year ( I say over 105pts). I’d swap New Jersey and Columbus, and then put Columbus where Flyers are. Flyers will miss the post season and they can blame it on their Defense/Goalies. Steve Mason/Ray Emery with guys like Luke Schenn, MDZ, Grossman, ect defending, They will have to be great offensively and I don’t see that happening.

    • Benjamin Woodward Benjamin Woodward says:

      I would agree on San Jose, they typically are always strong in the regular year… However, I think after the events of last postseason, this may be the year it really unravels for them. Especially in a division where they’re going to be looking up at both LA and Anaheim all season.

  2. ITMAN says:

    Lots of points for the Bolts. I agree with you that the Bruins should be better than them…on paper.Flyers won’t make the playoffs IMO. Well thought out predictions.

  3. Big Kahuna says:

    Here’s hoping the Bolts have the Bruins number this year. Damn Bruins are built for the playoffs though. Stamkos wins the Hart…my homer pick.

    • Benjamin Woodward Benjamin Woodward says:

      I’d give the Bruins the slight edge at the moment because of their more established goaltender and deeper defense group. It will be close though, as the Lightning are much faster and more skilled up front.

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