Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Oddly specific 2021 predictions for every NHL team

We’re hours away from the start of the 2021 season, which means it’s last call on predictions. Everyone is doing them. Our hockey staff got to together on these, Dom’s model-based team-by-team breakdowns are here, and various beat writers have put together detailed lists for their teams. And that’s just at The Athletic. Every outlet everywhere is doing their own version.

But everyone else is smart enough to keep it at least plausibly vague. I am not smart. So let’s break out one of my favorite annual traditions: The way-too-specific predictions for each team.

Here’s a prediction about these predictions: Almost all of them will be wrong. Some will be embarrassingly wrong. If you’re a few days late in getting caught up, some of these might already be wrong by the time you read this. But that’s half the fun. Anyone can predict the easy stuff, and besides, we all did that yesterday.

Will any of these actually come true? Maybe! Like anyone who gets the bat off their shoulder enough times, I usually swing-and-miss and barely make contact on a few others, but every once in a while, I catch one just right and put it in the upper deck. And when that happens, I try really hard not to look too surprised.

You know the drill by now. One prediction per team, in no particular order. Let’s get oddly specific.

Minnesota Wild – The Wild had the worst start in the league last year, going 0-4-0 while giving up 21 goals and not recording their second win until their eighth game. They’ll flip the script this year and come out of the gate hot, racking up a dozen points in their first eight games. (Please be impressed with this prediction, and don’t bother looking up who their first eight games are against.)

Florida Panthers – Here’s a fun fact about Sergei Bobrovsky: He’s had two seasons in his career where his save percentage was .900 or worse. One was last year. The other was in 2011-12, and he followed that up by winning the Vezina in a shortened season. So am I predicting a repeat? No way, because in 2012 he was 23 years old and had just switched teams. But I do think he rebounds from last year’s disaster, so let’s say he finishes this year with a more respectable .910.

Calgary Flames – Jacob Markstrom has a shutout in his first start against his former Canucks teammates. Don’t doubt me, I’ve summoned Markstrom shutouts before.

Vancouver Canucks – Speaking of Markstrom shutouts, his 49-save performance against the Hawks on the Sedin banner-raising night stood as the year’s league-high for most shots faced without allowing a goal. This year, the hockey gods turn the tables, as it’s the Canucks who record the most shots in a game in which they’re shut out.

Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes were the only team in the league to make it all the way through last season without suffering a regulation loss in a game they lead after one period, going 19-0-1. So it goes without saying that they’ll snap that streak in the very first game of the season, when they lose to … wait, they’re playing the Red Wings? Good lord. Ah what the hell, let’s do this, the Wings come back to beat the Hurricanes in regulation after trailing through one.

Philadelphia Flyers – Carter Hart has already accomplished a lot in his brief NHL career, but here are two things he’s never done: Recorded a point, or recorded a PIM. Look, kid, you’re not going to follow in the footsteps of Ron Hextall like that. This year, I’m saying he does both — and at least once, he does them in the same week.

Colorado Avalanche – The Avs had the fewest shootouts in the league last year at two, and hockey gods bless them for it. But they’ll make up for lost time when they’re part of the longest shootout in the league at some point this season.

Detroit Red Wings – New starter Thomas Greiss has had a solid 11-year career and won a Jennings with the Islanders, but he’s never seen his name appear on a single award ballot. I’m not convinced he’ll get any love from Vezina voters this year, since those are the GMs and they tend to just sort by wins and well, Red Wings. But I’m going to go even further. In the spirit of the immortal Al Rollins, who was named league MVP in 1954 despite going a woeful 12-47-7 for a truly terrible Chicago team, I think Greiss plays well enough to earn at least one sympathy vote for the Hart Trophy.

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