Thursday, October 06, 2011

2011-12 NHL Preview, Quick And Dirty


A preview column on website The Big Lead states: “The NHL season begins Thursday, not that anyone outside of Boston, Minnesota or Canada will notice until baseball winds down.”  I’m ashamed to admit it, but until this morning, I wasn’t absolutely sure the season begins tonight, either.  I thought it began on Saturday; that’s when the Minnesota Wild begin their season (or have their home opener, I’m not sure which) against Columbus.

Nationally, baseball does have the collective sports fans’ attention, especially since three of the four Division Series will go the full five games and be decided tonight and tomorrow night.  Locally, however, our concern is with the Minnesota Lynx, who gutted out a Game 2 win over the Atlanta Dream Wednesday night and now have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five WNBA Finals.  We have (cross your fingers) a championship squad that could be raising the trophy as early as Friday.  And since the Wild have a new coach and missed the playoffs the last three seasons, we can wait until WNBA season is over.

Hockey remains the Shemp of The Big Four Sports, but it has a unique opportunity this year.  The National Hockey League’s season always overlaps with that of the National Basketball Association.  But with the NBA owners and players expecting a lockout that could wipe out the whole year, the NHL will be the only game in town, especially after the Super Bowl.  How the league takes advantage of having the stage all to itself, however, is a problem only they can solve.  I love hockey, but its nuances will remain inscrutable to most casual fans that would prefer to see Kobe and LeBron.

Prognosticating the season is also an exercise in futility; just like in baseball, the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs have more than their share of surprises.  But here goes nothing:

·         Sidney Crosby will be back from his concussion but will play so tentatively that his Pittsburgh Penguins will be a non-factor.

·         Surprise teams: Nashville and Anaheim in the West, Tampa Bay and Carolina in the East.

·         Despite retooling, the San Jose Sharks will not reach the Stanley Cup Finals this year either despite racking up yet another impressive regular-season point total.  This time, the offense that they traded away to Minnesota (Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi) will cost them goals when they need them.

·         The Boston Bruins suffer the injury bug and will not repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

·         Who will replace them as Eastern Conference champions?  The Washington Capitals.  Alex Ovechkin will always be Ovie.  But it’s the addition of Tomas Vokoun that’ll be the difference.

·         However, they will lose to … the Vancouver Canucks, who return practically their entire team.  Roberto Luongo will exorcise his choke demons from last year’s Game 7 and stand on his head to get Vancouver its first Cup ever.

·         Anarchists will still wreak havoc on the streets of Vancouver, this time in celebration.

Posted by WilliamSou at 5:11 PM

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