Just about 30 hours or so from the new piece of cloth going up to the rafters. And as I do every year, I’ll take a whack at predicting what goes on this season. I think the only thing I’ve ever gotten right was Hawks-Flyers in 2010 (so did McClure, and boy did the Flyers make it interesting before getting there). But we’ll do it anyway. I’ll invite the other three goofs on this blog to add their predictions to this post later today, but they have lives which I don’t. So no guarantees that I won’t be the only one hanging himself upon his own petard.
Let’s do it:
Hawks point total – The number 102-105 keeps ringing around my head. Of course, last year the Hawks were on a 131-point pace (Jesus Christ!), but no one expects that again. 102 in the old set up would have landed the Hawks probably a 4th or 5th seed. 105 near the top I would think. I just don’t see them ducking the injury and fatigue bugs all season as they pretty much did last year (only Sharp missed significant time). In this new division set up there are certainly easy points to rack up, and the Conference as a whole won’t be as tough as it once was with Vancouver and Anaheim sure to backslide at least a little. Only Edmonton looks like it has a chance to rise up, and even then only a little.
Would 105 win the division? Probably. Not sure 102 will. Pretty sure it won’t matter if the Hawks are mostly healthy in April.
Leading scorer – Samoans do the Humpty Hump. Kane doesn’t get 100, but gets over 90. Let’s say 38 goals and 54 assists? Let’s say that.
Leading goal-scorer – Toews has threatened 40 goals before, and his health is a concern as any big hit will see him miss a couple weeks. But this is the year he gets there. 42 is the total.
Bickell’s point-total – I know Bicks is going to draw the ire of a lot of people this year because that new paycheck demands he’s a dynamic power forward, but I just don’t think that’s what he is. That’s not to say he won’t be as solid as he’s always been, and that’s enough for me. I think 20-22 goals is about all you’re going to get. But a career-high in assists seems likely, so let’s toss in 32 of those for a 50 point season that I won’t complain about.
Saad’s Goal Total – 24, and most of those from the third line as he scorches the Barret Jackman’s and Cory Sarich’s of the word. That is until he and Bicks swap somewhere during the year and for a couple weeks a line of Saad-Toews-Kane threatens to tear a whole in the Earth.
Corey Crawford – Tough one. I think it’s probably going to look a bit like his rookie year, with stretches that go on just a little longer than you’d like where he’s fighting it a bit. .918 SV% but the GAA will still look pretty healthy with this defense, so we’ll peg that at 2.08.
Nick Leddy – I’m sniffing break out time. Leds was on his way to another 35+ point season last year had it been the full route, and he’s going to pass that this year. He’ll need the power play to help, but then again he should be given a lot of say on whether it does or not. Breaks 10 goals, and 35-38 helpers see him tickle the 50-point barrier.
Olympics – I want to say the Yanks bring it home, but neither North American team has managed it off of North American soil, and I really think it makes a difference. I know Russia is going to find a way to biff it at home in a most hilarious fashion. Which pretty much leaves you with Sweden as King Henrik backstops them to another goal. But their overall roster isn’t as strong as you might think, depending on what your opinion of the Sedins is. Can’t get a handle on it. Can we come back to this in December when we see the teams? Ok.
Games Brandon Pirri plays – Over 60. Just fairly sure when he gets here he’ll do just enough to stick, and Handzus will prove to have trouble getting around enough to need him.
More goals between Morin and Hayes – Morin. I’m not buying Hayes until I see it for real.
The Spring – While the second round series with St. Louis that is so obviously going to happen scares the fuck out of me because of how much it’ll mean to them, the Blues will run into the same problem the Kings did last year. They just won’t scratch out enough against this Hawks defense while the Hawks scratch out just enough on the other end. Of course, if the Hawks miraculously discover a PP between now and then, they’ll dispatch the Blues rather quickly.
From there, the only threat from the Pacific that would make me shudder is the Kings again. They’re a different proposition if both Richards and Kopitar are healthy this time, though after Sochi Quick may have to bat his tongue out of the way to stop pucks going through his five-hole. Willie Mitchell for Rob Scuderi is basically a push though, and they’ll require serious defensive growth from either or both of Voynov or Muzzin.
It’ll be a 7-game Conference Final, that’s really as far as I’ll go.