Monday, October 1, 2018

31 oddly specific predictions for the 2018-19 season

Predicting​ what’s going to​ happen​ in​ the​ NHL​ is​ all but​ impossible in an​ age of parity​ that​ borders on coin-flipping.​​ You can choose to play it safe and stick with stating the obvious – Connor McDavid will score a lot, the Lightning will win a lot, the Senators not so much – but nobody is giving you any credit for that. Plus you’ll still probably find a way to be wrong.

As futile as the whole thing might be, we all keep trying. It’s pretty much mandatory. And when we inevitably miss, our kind readers are right there to remind us all about it.

But I’ve always figured that if you’re going to be wrong, at least be really wrong. So whenever I do preseason predictions, I like to make them as specific as possible. Anyone can point to a team and say they’ll make or miss the playoffs. Let’s try to pick the exact date for their 17th win.

I’ve been doing this in some form or other for years, and you may be wondering how many have actually turned out to be right. To be honest, not many. But every now and then the blind squirrel finds a nut – check out the double-pronged beauty on the Montreal Canadiens two years ago – and that’s where the fun comes in.

So with a new season just a few days away, let’s dial up another round of Oddly Specific Predictions for every team in the league. As always, no warranty of accuracy is expressed or implied.

Ottawa Senators – Erik Karlsson’s return with the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 1 stands as the hottest ticket of the season in Ottawa. But it’s Thomas Chabot who scores the winner that night, leading to a barrage of torch-passing narratives.

Buffalo Sabres – I picked Casey Mittelstadt as my Calder winner earlier in the preseason. He’s, uh, not exactly giving off that vibe based on training camp, but what the hell, let’s say he recovers to win a close race over Elias Pettersson. Hopefully the league doesn’t decide this one with a novelty raffle wheel.

Arizona Coyotes – After torpedoing their 2017-18 season before it even got off the ground with an 11-game losing streak, the Coyotes flip the script by starting off this year 4-0-0.

Calgary Flames – He’s running out of time at 36-years-old, so let’s make this the year that Mike Smith becomes the first goalie in NHL history to score a second, regular-season shoot-and-score goal.

Dallas Stars – Every year, I like to take a team that seems on the verge of a big move in either direction and pick them to annoy everyone by finishing with the same record as last year. The 92-point Stars fit the bill this season.

Chicago Blackhawks – If the Hawks are as bad as many seem to think they could be, it’s going to be a tough season in Chicago, and they’ll need someone to take out their frustrations on. Luckily, the schedule-maker serves up an old rival in the Blues four times in the season’s first six weeks. Let’s circle that fourth meeting, in Chicago on November 14, and say that something ugly happens. Maybe not a massacre, mind you, but something.

Colorado Avalanche – The Avalanche tied for the fewest shootouts in the league last year, with just three. This year, they have that many by the end of October.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Which of the big guns leads the team in scoring, Auston Matthews or John Tavares? Neither, as Mitch Marner sneaks past both to claim the crown (and eventually a huge new contract).

Washington Capitals – After rolling to three straight Metro Division titles, this edition of the Capitals fall all the way to third. Absolutely nobody in Washington cares.

Detroit Red Wings – Ken Holland tries really, really hard to make it through the season without replacing Jeff Blashill with Dan Bylsma. He fails, and the change is made in January.

Florida Panthers – They’re the easiest team in the league to predict, since everyone already has them locked into fourth place in the Atlantic. So it goes without saying that they won’t wind up there; instead, they sneak past one of the division’s Big Three and into third place.

Columbus Blue Jackets – They decide that going through the season with two star players about to hit UFA status just isn’t workable. So they make it three, pulling off a mid-season trade for Matt Duchene. Here’s hoping that works out better for them than for the last team that tried it.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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