With the upcoming season less than a month away, there are plenty of questions being asked. A commonly asked question is, “Will the power houses of last season stay on their thrones?” The Penguins, Senators, Predators and Ducks were the final 4 last season. Will they return there?
Penguins- The Stanley Cup Champions head into the season once again with 3 of the best players in the NHL. Crosby, Malkin and Kessel all had very impressive regular seasons with Crosby leading the team with 89 points. Despite a ton of injuries, the next man up always came to play. The 22 year old, Jake Guentzel had an impressive regular season racking up 33 points in 40 games. He scored 13 goals and 21 points in the playoffs and was one of the Pen’s best players. On the back end, Justin Schultz was very solid; excelling on the power play and in his own zone. They did have many players depart this offseason including goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Trevor Daley, and forwards Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen. With Matt Murray taking over the starting role, Marc Andre Fleury did not see as many games as usual, but he will be missed. They added goaltender Antti Niemi to fill the back-up goalie role. They also added forward Ryan Reaves and defensemen Matt Hunwick to add some depth. The back to back cup champions will be competing for another Cup with a stacked roster.
Senators- The Senators were the surprise team of last season, as they gave the Penguins all they could handle in an exhilarating 7 game series in the ECF. Led by defenseman Erik Karlsson, Ottawa had an incredible post season taking down the Bruins and the heavily favored Rangers. Mike Hoffman led the forwards with 61 points and was dominant on the power play. This team was the definition of solid; a reliable defensive crew, very good goalie and average forwards. Their playoff success was dependent on Craig Anderson in net and the forwards stepping up. Like the Pens, the Sens lost a few key pieces like defenseman Marc Methot and forwards Chris Neil, Tommy Wingels and Viktor Stalberg while adding veterans Johnny Oduya and Nate Thompson. Ultimately, I do not see the Sens doing much this season; a first round exit at most.
Predators- The Predators appeared in their first ever Stanley Cup last season, and in my mind were on the wrong end of some spotty officiating. After a subpar regular season, the Predators came to life in the post-season. Pekka Rinne came out of the gate red hot as he was the main reason the Preds swept the first seeded Blackhawks. The incredible play of their defense was a true difference maker as they stormed through the Western Conference. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and P.K Subban stepped up in the offensive end along with forward Filip Forsberg who was unreal. It seemed like every game someone new stepped up for the Preds. From Viktor Arvidsson to Calle Jarnkrok this team really clicked at the right time. They lost forwards James Neal, Colin Wilson, and Mike Fisher which will hurt, but adding Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino makes it hurt a little less. They also bolstered up the back end adding Alexei Emelin. The 31 year old will have a chance to compete for a cup this season as I believe the Preds may be looking for some revenge.
Ducks- The offensive powered Ducks fell to the Predators in the Western Conference Finals. It seems like no matter how impressive a regular season they have, the Ducks never can get it done in the playoffs. Captain Ryan Getzlaf led the team in the regular season and the playoffs in points. Cory Perry failed to reach 20 goals this season which was quite a shock, but played much better in the playoffs. They need him to be at full force if they want to excel next season. Rickard Rakell was the big goal scorer last season as he scored 33 goals in 71 games. With a pretty quiet offseason, their biggest addition was goaltender Ryan Miller, and their biggest loss was goaltender Jonathon Bernier. Miller is a much more reliable option to split time with John Gibson. Once again I see this team making a deep playoff run, but unfortunately losing again in the Conference finals.
Cover Photo via Globalnews.ca
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