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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

NHL Season Preview 2011/2012 - The Stanley Cup goes to...

National Hockey League
Season Preview 2011/2012
By W D Nicolson, October 5, 2011

The Boston Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a 7 game Stanley Cup Final back in June 2011 and now just a few months later, they will try to defend the title they took 39 years to win.

The Bruins may not have been a firm favourite as the post-season opened in April, but they would emerge from an 0-2 hole against the Montreal Canadiens in the Quarter Finals to win Game 7 4-3 in Overtime, then sweept the Philadelphia Flyers in emphatic fashion in the Semi Finals, before winning Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals 1-0 on the back of goaltender Tim Thomas and therefore the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3.

They then beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals after falling behind 3-2 in the series entering Game 5 in Boston. The Bruins won Game 6 5-2 and then the deciding Game 7 4-0 to clinch the Stanley Cup.

Check out the Fantasy Hockey Draft Review for the Sydney Kangaroos.

Here is how CBC wrapped up the 2011 Playoffs... and below a fan made tribute to Boston's victory.


The new 2011/2012 season opens Thursday October 6th and despite being the defending champions - the Boston Bruins will not open the season as favourites.

That honour goes to the Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals at $8.00 - The Caps have underwhelmed almost everybody in their past four trips to the Playoffs, yet remain the bookies' top pick for the silverware in 2012. They have made another change in goal with Tomas Vokoun but their title chances come down to how the Big Four of Ovechkin, Mike Green and the playoff shy Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin perform once the real season begins.
Next in line are the Canucks at $9.00 - Vancouver won the Presidents' Trophy as the best regular season team but were beaten by Boston in the Finals. They have the dominant duo up front of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, a solid blueline and a great goaltender in Roberto Luongo - so they will be in the race.
Then the Pittsburgh Penguins at $11.00 - The Pebs get superstar Evgeni Malkin and (probably) uberstar Sidney Crosby back after both missed the second half of the season last year (the Penguins still made the Playoffs) and will be planning on returning to the summit of the hockey world once again. They won the Cup in 2008/2009 and lost to Detroit in 2007/2008 with the core of Crosby, Malkin and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury - so (health permitting) they can do it all again.
The Philadelphia Flyers are also at $11.00 - they underwent the most drastic roster change of any team by blowing up their forward core to solidify their goaltending - Ilya Bryzgalov better be worth Mike Richards and Jeff Carter's departure. Oh and they signed Jaromir Jagr... but he's now 39, not 29.
And rounding out the Top 5 are the Bruins at $12.00 - there are two notable changes in Bostin with the retirement of veteran Mark Recchi and the latest likely career ending concussion to Marc Savard. But Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara are still around and the Bruins are very high on backup goalie Tuukka Rask. Oh and they won the Stanley Cup in June.
From outside the Top 5 here are 5 more teams that could certainly contend for the Stanley Cup.
The San Jose Sharks at $13.00 - promised to contend for a Cup for what seems like a decade... and in fact it has been, they've missed the playoffs just once (in 2002/2003) since 1997-1998 and have yet to advance past the Conference Finals. Still Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau with new boys Brent Burns and Martin Havlat should give it another big shake.
The Detroit Red Wings at $15.00 - perennial contenders who actually win it from time to time (so they are not the Sharks) enter the final season of Nicklas Lidstrom's career and still have stars in Pave Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. But the window may be closing on this current group... heck they haven't been to the Cup Finals the past two seasons!
The Los Angeles Kings at $17.00 - Made a massive addition to their talented squad by getting former Flyers' captain Mike Richards in an off-season trade. His drive (and intent to stick it to the Flyers for trading him) could get them past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000/2001 and who knows maybe another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals (Wayne Gretzky led the Kings to the promised land in 1992-1993)? Adding Richards to Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown looks like a very good mix.
The New Jersey Devils at $23.00 - They are here simply because Martin Brodeur might have one last great season left in him. That didn't look the case last year when he was awful to begin with and the team badly missed Zach Parise - but both say they are fine entering the season and Ilya Kovalchuk can't scrape around for 60 points in 81 games again surely? Travis Zajac's injury keeps him out until the new years and that is a concern but don't bet against Brodeur and Parise really lifting this team off the canvas.
The Anaheim Ducks at $26.00 - They won the cup back in 2006/2007 as a young team with the likes of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne driving them and now that young core of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry looks set to get the Ducks back into contention. The health of goaltender Jonas Hiller (post-concussion syndrome) is vital, while Selanne is back for one last crack alongside veteran Saku Koivu and another scoring threat in winger Bobby Ryan. One key question is can last year's 68 point defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky can replicate those numbers?

Who is your pick for the Stanley Cup and who is a dark-horse we have missed? Comment below.

REGULAR SEASON PREDICTIONS:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

  1.  PENGUINS *
  2.  CAPITALS *
  3.  BRUINS *
  4.  DEVILS
  5.  FLYERS
  6.  LIGHTNING
  7.  CANADIENS
  8.  ISLANDERS
  9.  RANGERS
  10.  SABRES
  11.  HURRICANES
  12.  MAPLE LEAFS
  13.  JETS
  14.  PANTHERS
  15.  SENATORS
Conference Semi Finals: 
Penguins over Flyers
Capitals over Bruins
Conference Finals:
Penguins over Capitals
 The Pittsburgh Penguins will be Eastern Conference Champions
WESTERN CONFERENCE

  1.  DUCKS *
  2.  CANUCKS *
  3.  BLACKHAWKS *
  4.  KINGS
  5.  SHARKS
  6.  PREDATORS
  7.  RED WINGS
  8.  BLUE JACKETS
  9.  WILD
  10.  BLUES
  11.  FLAMES
  12.  AVALANCHE
  13.  STARS
  14.  OILERS
  15.  COYOTES
Conference Semi Finals: 
Ducks over Red Wings
Kings over Predators
Conference Finals:
Kings over Ducks
The Los Angeles Kings will be Western Conference Champions
STANLEY CUP FINALS
Penguins over Kingsin 6 Games
Sidney Crosby wins Conn Smythe Trophy

NHL AWARD PREDICTIONS
Hart Memorial Trophy - League MVP
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
Vezina Tropy - Best Goalie
Martin Brodeur, Devils
Norris Memorial Trophy - Best Defenseman
Drew Doughty, Kings
Calder Memorial Trophy - Best Rookie
Adam Larrson, Devils or Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy - Fairest Player
Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings
Frank J. Selke Trophy - Best Defensive Forward
Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
Jack Adams Award - Best Coach
Peter DeBoer, Devils
Ted Linsday (Lester B. Pearson) Award - Most Outstanding Judged by Players
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
Art Ross Trophy - Most Points
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins - with 118 Points
Maurice Richard Trophy - Most Goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals - with 53 Goals
Wayne Gretzky Trophy - Most Assists (unofficial award)
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins - with 73 Assists
William M. Jennings Trophy - Fewest Goals Against Team
Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, Bruins
Presidents' Trophy - Best Regular Season Record
Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL VIDEOS... some YouTube gold from the professional sports league that doesn't pull posted hockey content and in fact embraces it.
A great compilation of how the Bruins got to the Stanley Cup Finals...

Another fan tribute to the victory (first 30 seconds are great until the song kicks in)

Ok one more... the music starts off well but goes south. Still a good review of the Bruins' playoff campaign right to the end.

Enjoy your NHL this season... a Fantasy Hockey Draft recap is here.

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