With the dog days of summer beginning to wane, pumpkin spiced beers hitting the shelves at the local packie, and leaves on the tree out front starting to bronze up, the end of summer is certainly upon us. The good news for New Englanders? The woeful Red Sox are that much closer to being put out of their misery… while the re-charged Bruins will soon be ready to take the ice. While we wait for training camp to break and that first puck to drop, here are twelve bold predictions to keep your eye on throughout the season.
NHL Lockout- Things are getting pretty messy on all fronts here. Both sides would be out of their minds to miss any time, especially as the game has finally overcome the devastating effects of 2004-05. Watch for stalled negotiations coming down to the deadline. In a show of
force, players won’t report to camp on time. Donald Fehr holds out on handing Gary Bettman a towel as beads of sweat snake their way down his shriveled, weasely face. Bottom line, a deal get’s done, but we miss some action as players need time to “get in shape” at camp.
Bold Prediction – Deal comes down last minute, we lose 10 games off the schedule, not a big deal.
Side prediction? Any work stoppage costs Bettman his job at the end of the season. This would be the NHL’s third work stoppage since he took over in 1993. That’s more than the other three leagues combined (2011 NFL lockout doesn’t count because no games were lost). You don’t need an abacus to realize the math doesn’t add up here.
Bruins Regular Season Finish: Boston has the benefits of a weak division and a rewards system playing in it’s favor. The Bruins are clearly the strongest team in the Northeast, though you can expect Buffalo to play better after an off year. Ottawa probably has the best shot at winning the Eastern Canada Finals (good for 3rd in the Northeast, and just outside of the playoffs). Philly has a good shot at the East’s top seed while the newly re-tooled Rangers will take a disappointing 4th place, right behind the handsomely rewarded other division winners, despite having a higher points total. The Atlantic Division is clearly the East’s strongest and all but the Islanders should make it in. Washington and a surprising Carolina squad make it in 3rd and 8th respectively from the Southeast. Buffalo squeaks in at 6th. That leaves Boston to finish 2nd. While the B’s have the tools to take first, they are prone to breaking down for stretches and it will cost them. Also, the tight competition in the Atlantic will keep it’s top teams on their toes all year.
Bold Prediction: Boston finishes 2nd in the East with a Northeast Division win. Montreal misses the playoffs. We’ll see Pittsburgh in the first round.
Tyler Seguin: Segs will continue to blossom as a talented young player in this league. He showed flashes of brilliance last year with a willingness to learn on defense. Pairing him with Patrice Bergeron last season was Rembrandt quality move by Claude Julien. Expect an off-season of reflecting to further his on-ice vision. When injuries kick in, expect Seguin to center his own line by the second half of the season.
Bold Prediction: 32 Goals, 55 Assists. 3 alleged celebrity affairs. Same bad Dunkin’s commercial.
Brad Marchand: Different story for the Nose-Faced-Killah. Marshmont ducked the sophomore slump last year, but don’t expect him to be so lucky this time around. His small frame and agitating playing style can be a difficult one to maintain over the long-haul. Then again, things worked out pretty well for the original Ball-of-Hate, Pat Verbeek.
Bold Prediction: Marshy takes a step back, 18 Goals, 22 Assists, 1 Suspension. The real Brad Marchand shows up for the second round of the playoffs.
Fight Night: It seems nearly every year the team bonds over some good old-fashioned hay-makers and blood letting. Looking to gain some traction mid-season, watch for the B’s to bust out of a slump with the one-two combo of some well-timed punches and unmerciful goal scoring. Their perfect dance partner? The Buffalo Sabres. Coming off a disapointing season, Buffalo will be back in the mix this year… yet also looking for some direction as they doggy-paddle in the vast, Lake Erie-esque, middle-ground of the Eastern Conference. The Sabres also have unfinished business with the B’s from last year. It won’t all come out in October, but they’ll want to set the tone before a precious home-and-home in February.
Bold Prediction: Have the Red Cross trucks parked outside the Garden on December 1st. Watch for Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Brad Marchand, and Milan Lucic to get involved for their respective teams.
Montreal Brings Home the Gold: In amateur, Quebec League diving. The Canadiens don’t forecast to be good this year, and as such, predict to be at their lowest in terms of trying to steal a game through trickery. Since buying magic potions on Ebay is officially out, the Habs will do what they know best… Swan dive as though their Olympic hopes depended on it. And watch for their leader, P.K. Suban(bons) to reach for a glorious Triple Lindy.
Bold Prediction: He’ll convince everyone, even the East German judge. The Habs will score on the ensuing power-play. The B’s will lose late by one. Shawn Thornton puts a stop to it in the rematch.
Claude Julien Leads League in PIMs: Coaches division of course. With Dale Hunter out of the running, the door is wide open for the excuberant, and sometimes exasperated coach to do some real damage. You can only bark for so long before they put the muzzle on you.
Bold Prediction: 14 Penalty minutes for Julien. 2 for unsportsmanlike, 10 for a misconduct, and 2 for an unrelated incident.
Mark Recchi Returns: The old man has already spoken out on the CBA, clearly he’s still got his mind on the sport. While at 44 he won’t be making a return to the ice… this former locker room leader and ultimate professional has a head for the game. Expect him to put in some TV time this season as an analyst.
Bold Prediction: NESN brings in REX for some pre/post game color analysis.
Marc Savard’s Status: Savvy continues to hold out hope he can one day return to the Bruins. In all likely-hood, his playing days are finished. Still, there’s a reason (besides his 6 million dollar salary), that he hasn’t hung em up yet. His hunger for the game. Expect him to give it a go for one more year before stepping down as a player and possibly stepping up as a coach. Savard’s a smart guy who clearly has vision out on the ice. Just because he can’t play anymore, doesn’t mean he can’t contribute.
Bold Prediction: Savard makes a quiet debut as an assistant coach for Providence in 2013-14.
Jack Edwards Outdoes Himself: The B’s colorfully eccentric play-by-play man makes every game exciting to watch… and listen to. With a little extra time this summer, expect Edwards to come to opening day with some new tricks up his sleeve this season.
Bold Prediction: Edwards references Shakespeare, Ronald Reagan, the Salem Witch Trials, and Popeye… all in the same season. Not including playoffs.
Conference Finals: East – Boston v. Philly. A thrilling new thread to their growing rivalry. West – Vancouver v. L.A.. The Kings are built to let it ride, while the Canucks have too much talent to ignore.
Bold Prediction: Boston’s depth is the key to beating Philly, regular season acquisitions will tilt the scales. The Kings grit tops the ‘Nucks talent. Vancouver starts to become the new San Jose.
Bruins Stanley Cup Hopes: The Bruins are bringing back nearly their entire team from 2011. The only missing parties are the retired Mark Recchi and the ridiculous Tim Thomas. Still, as of now, the Bruins are only an Eastern Conference Finals team at best. They’ve got the know-how, the talent, and the depth, but they’re still missing something. Expect a mid-season trade, possibly for some added goals or defensive depth, if they want to make a true run for the Cup.
Bold Prediction: B’s need to add little more spice to sweeten this Stanley Cup sauce.
Don’t agree? List your beef in the comments section, lest Shawn Thornton come after you with a righteous glove wash.