2013-14 NHL breakdown by division
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter September 30, 2013 8:39PM
2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:18AM
Favorite: Los Angeles Kings. The Kings will go as far as goalie Jonathan Quick takes them. Quick also likely will be the U.S. goalie in the Olympics, which means he’ll have a heavy workload all season. But the Kings’ physical nature and Quick’s stellar ability should be enough to keep them in the hunt again.
Contender: Vancouver Canucks. With Roberto Luongo back as the clear No. 1 goalie now that Cory Schneider is with the Devils and with the fiery (if tiresome) John Tortorella behind the bench, the Canucks should make for one heck of a seasonlong soap opera. But Tortorella’s teams always play sound defense and block shots, which should help Luongo. Plus, it’s a contract year for the Sedin twins.
Dark horse: Anaheim Ducks. Losing Bobby Ryan (Senators) hurts, but young Jakob Silfverberg is poised to become another big-time scorer to join Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks have to find a way to keep two strong goalies — Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth — happy. The Ducks’ all-around talent keeps them ahead of an offensively gifted Sharks team, which is thin on the blue line.
Favorite: Pittsburgh Penguins. Even after losing Jarome Iginla and Matt Cooke, the talent level is ridiculously high. But goaltending is a massive question mark. Marc-Andre Fleury imploded in the playoffs last spring, and Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely after havin g a procedure to dissolve a blood clot. The Penguins’ hopes rest on Fleury’s shaky shoulders.
Contender: New York Rangers. After years of playing under John Tortorella, coach Alain Vigneault’s up-tempo style will be a breath of fresh air. But the Rangers don’t necessarily have the talent up front to play it with great success. With Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Rangers are always just one hot streak away from a championship run.
Dark horse: Washington Capitals. After y ears of dominating the weak Southeast Division — five titles in the last six seasons — the Capitals will have to play with the big boys now. With the retooled Flyers and resurgent Islanders and Blue Jackets each looking to take the next step, even third place won’t be guaranteed. But as he showed late last season, a motivated Alex Ovechkin can will this team a long way.
Favorite: Boston Bruins. Gone are Tyler Seguin (Stars), Nathan Horton (Jackets) and Jaromir Jagr (Devils); in are Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla. But there’s still loads of talent around, and as long as Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask are on the ice, the Bruins are going to be contending for another run at the Cup.
Contender: Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are poised to make an instant impact in the East. Teams will have their hands full against a remarkable top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. If the Red Wings eventually let youngsters such as Gustav Nyquist take the torch from players such as Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson . . .
Dark horse: Ottawa Senators. Alfredsson was the heart and soul of this franchise for years, but Bobby Ryan is a significant step up in terms of offense. With a healthy Erik Karlsson (a Norris winner), goalie Craig Anderson and coach Paul MacLean’s defensive-minded system in place, the Senators will be a tough matchup every night.
Favorite: Blackhawks. The defending champions are the clear class of the division and the league. With nearly every key player back from a team that started 21-0-3 and finished as Stanley Cup cha mpions last season, expectations never have been higher.
Contender: St. Louis Blues. After adding Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold late last season, the Blues got stronger during the offseason by adding Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow. If goalies Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak can stay healthy and harmonious, the Blues are a legitimate threat to dethrone the Hawks in the West.
Dark horse: Minnesota Wild. It’s a top-heavy team in terms of offensive talent, but if goalie Niklas Backstrom can stay healthy and Ryan Suter can log his usual 25 to 30 minutes a game, the Wild will be able to hang with most teams.