The first quarter of the 2015-2016 NHL regular season is officially behind us. For better or worse, there have been plenty of surprises early on that has to have people second guessing who will make the postseason this spring.
At this point all of our preseason predictions can most likely be thrown out the window. Early Stanley Cup favorites look more like teams who could be playing golf early. While some teams have really stepped up their game and could make it further than anyone originally imagined.
It is probably best to hit the old restart button on the postseason predictions and I am going to start mine with the Western Conference.
1. Dallas Stars
Currently one of the best teams in the entire league, I do not expect the Stars to budge from the number one spot in the Central Division or the entire Western Conference. Honestly, I would not be surprised if they walk away with Presidents Trophy at the end of the season.
Dallas is for real and they have an extremely deep roster equipped to go the distance. Both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are competitors for the Art Ross Trophy and veteran Patrick Sharp will provide some much necessary postseason experience. The Stars also have two very capable goaltenders in Kari Lehtonen and Antii Niemi which will prove to be valuable down the stretch and into the playoffs.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have had an up and down start to their 2015-2016 regular season but Chicago fans have no need whatsoever to worry. The reigning Stanley Cup champions will be more than fine and start to win games when it matters most.
Patrick Kane is having himself a Hart Memorial Trophy caliber season and the Blackhawks have plenty of other talented players to support his efforts. Chicago may not repeat as Stanley Cup champions but they will have a season worthy of second place in the central and most likely the western conference.
3. St. Louis Blues
Third place in the central division is going to come down to a dog fight that could last up until the 82nd game of the regular season. I pick St. Louis to eventually lock up the spot but it could honestly go either way between three or four teams.
Once again, the Blues have the talent on their roster to be a dominant force in the west. Having a successful regular season will do very little to please this team though as they have historically struggled mightily once they reach the playoffs.
1. San Jose Sharks
The Pacific Division is far worse than the central and is arguably the worst division in the National Hockey League. The race could come down to the wire simply because none of these squads are very good. I do like how the Sharks have been playing so far this season and expect them to come out on top of the lowly pacific.
Although I have been impressed with their play, I have chosen the Sharks to take first place in the division more because I am not sold on the Kings and the Ducks have quite the uphill battle ahead of them.
2. Los Angeles Kings
As I mentioned, I am not sold on the Los Angeles Kings. If they were in any other division, I would not view them as a playoff team. However, the divisional competition is weak and the Kings will benefit from it. Los Angeles will finish ahead of the Ducks simply because Anaheim still needs to turn things around completely and enter the playoff picture.
3. Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks were my favorite to win it al before the season started in October. So far this season they could not make me look any more wrong. Currently on the outside looking in, I find it hard to believe that this team will not make the postseason. They just have way too much talent on this roster not to. As teams like Vancouver and Arizona start to come back to reality, the Ducks will make their push into the third spot in the Pacific.
Wild Card Teams
There is no doubt in my mind that both wild card teams will come from the Central Division. As I mentioned earlier, the third spot in the division could be up for grabs until the last day of the season but two of those remaining teams will make the postseason thanks to wild card spots. When it is all said and down, it is going to be the Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild. Although this will have fans from these cities cheering, the Winnipeg Jets’ faithful will be up in arms knowing their team did better than at least one team going to the playoffs from the Pacific Division.