Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
If there’s one thing I know about the 2015-16 NHL season, which is truly still in its infancy stage, is that we probably know absolutely nothing about the 2015-16 NHL season. Sure, there are some exceptions, but even those could change in the blink of an eye. For example, Connor McDavid was the sure-fire front runner to take home the Calder Trophy this year roughly 24 hours ago.
Now? His status for the rest of the season might be in doubt after he suffered a fractured clavicle that will require surgery and sideline him indefinitely, which is a brutal body blow to the Oilers, the NHL and fans of the game worldwide.
Anyway, the point is, things can change in an instant, which means logically, even more things can change in a whole bunch of instants that will happen between now and the end of the year. Deep stuff, I know.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, I’m going to serve up a bunch of predictions based on a small sample size that’s way too small in a season that’s way too long for all of us to look back on and laugh at later this year. So enjoy, and feel free to disagree – I’m sure I’ll disagree with most of these a few short months from now.
1. The Ducks Are Going To Turn It Around And Win The Western Conference
I’ve mentioned it in this space a few times before and after meditating on the topic for much of the opening month of the season, I’ve come to one logical conclusion: the Ducks will be ok. I know, it sounds crazy to say of a team that’s scored 14 goals in 12 games and has shown no evidence of being a remotely decent hockey team, but trust me, they’ll be ok. In fact, they’ll be more than ok and they’re going to beat the Blackhawks in seven games to go to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Right now, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kessler and Jakub Silfverberg, the Ducks’ four best forwards, have zero goals on 85 shot attempts. They’re literally defying the law of averages every time they shoot and don’t score at this point, and at some point that has to change. For their careers, Perry, Getzlaf and Kessler all have a shot percentage over 11 percent, meaning at some point the pucks are going to start going in for these guys. They just have to, right?
2. The Canadiens Are Going To Slow Down, Especially In The Goal Scoring Department
The Canadiens have been an above-average team for quite some time and more often than not it gets traced back to Carey Price, who has been the best goalie in the NHL for a few years now. So the fact that the Canadiens are winning isn’t a new story. The story here is the way that they’re doing it: with lots and lots of goals.
Don’t get me wrong, Price has been great in his own right, actually he’s been better than great, but we’ve come to expect that. That and the fact that because of Price the Habs are going to win a lot of 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 type of hockey games. But not these Habs.
They lead the league with 50 goals in 14 games and have been scoring four-plus goals per game regularly and average 3.64 goals per game. Don’t count on it continuing.
In the last two seasons the Canadiens have averaged 2.61 goals per game and 2.55 goals per game in 2014-15 and 2013-14, respectively. Maybe they end up closer to the 3.00 mark, but they won’t keep this pace up. It’s not their style, and it won’t last.
3. The Columbus Blue Jackets Will Make The Playoffs
I can feel it coming already. The Blue Jackets started the season with an eight-game losing streak and there’s little doubt in my mind that a seven to 10 game winning streak is coming for this team in the very near future. Why make such a boisterous claim you ask? Well, for a few reasons. Firstly, this team is far too talented up front not to turn around their awful start. Guys like Brandon Saad, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno are too good not to start playing well.
And even more importantly than their forward group, Sergei Bobrovsky has the stuff to be one of the best goaltenders in the league once again. He was in a funk but seems like he may have broken out of it with an impressive 41 save effort in their win against the San Jose Sharks. Plus, John Tortorella is many things, some good and some bad, but he’s also a damn good hockey coach. He’ll get this group going in the right direction and eventually into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
4. Dylan Larkin Will Win The Calder Trophy
As I said earlier, Connor McDavid’s injury is a disappointment for everyone and there are no winners in this story. However, somebody’s got to win the Calder Trophy, and since the guy who was probably a lock to win it is out, there’s got to be a next in line, and it’s the Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin.
Larkin has found himself on the Red Wings’ top line with superstar Henrik Zetterberg, and somehow he’s managed to make one of the game’s greats even greater while finding plenty of open ice and opportunities for himself. Not only does Larkin have nine points in his first 12 games, but Zetterberg is on a tear too with 14 points in just 11 games played.
Larkin’s primary competition comes from Jack Eichel and Max Domi, the latter of which leads all rookies in scoring behind McDavid. Domi has been great, but being on a better team surrounded by better veteran players will give Larkin the boost needed to snag the Calder come year’s end.
5. Both Jamie Benn And Tyler Seguin Will Score More Than 100 Points This Season
Both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have been absolutely unstoppable early this season and they show no signs of stopping. They had plenty of success last year with Seguin netting 77 points and Benn 87 but this year they’re really gelling. They both have 20 points through just 13 games and are terrorizing opponents left and right.
On top of the fact that both players are supremely skilled, they play on a team where their defensive corps and goaltending are a liability, which means the two young stars will have plenty of chances to play aggressively and score as often as possible. They’re going to be playing a lot of 5-4 games and it’ll only help Benn and Seguin reach the century mark this year. Look for them to do it, and be the first two teammates to do so since Alex Ovechkin and Nickolas Backstrom in the 2009-10 season. I wonder if they can share the Hart Trophy?
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.