Sports Opinion & Analysis

Revenge of the Hockey Blogs!

In NHL on January 8, 2013 at 4:14 pm

by Chris Carosi

A shortened hockey season of 50 or so games, with some changing faces due to the new cap and contract rules (no more 17-year contracts!), means a concise, fast-paced season rocketing toward a fun-filled playoffs with healthier (albeit beleaguered) players and (hopefully) re-ignited fan bases.

This also means an interesting race to the playoffs. Contrary to some predictions, the league is decidedly not expanding the playoffs. And from the looks of the Vegas odds, things could have started in October. We’ve missed the Winter Classic (damn) and the All-Star Break (thank god), but with a lot of the top players staying in good shape, things should pick right back up. Here’s the top five according to Vegas at a glance:

5. Philadelphia Flyers (12/1 odds).

The Flyers play like they’re a man down all the time, and while that means more annoyingly pointless and violent play from a collection of long-hairs, it also means they can mix and match mid to elite level forwards that buy into their system and win games. Solid goaltending is still a strange and mysterious creature to Philly, with the bizarre Ilya Bryzgalov starting and the inconsistent Michael Leighton backing him up, but if they can just shore up that defense, they will certainly contend again and try to make a run. Oh yeah and Jaromir Jagr has gone to Dallas. Darn.

“Yes, I have already placed my bet on your team to win all of Stanley Cup.”

4. Los Angeles Kings (12/1 odds)

A lot of lucky people made some dough off this bet last year, as the Kings did precisely what they set out to do: take advantage of a weakened Western Conference and usurp the Cup from under the nose of both the East Coast-biased media and the vast majority of American sports fans. While the Kings’ run was spectacular in its dominance (going on 3-0 runs for all four playoff rounds for the first time in league history), the extra long off-season has that Stanley Cup high in extended hibernation. It looks like Anze Kopitar will be out for 3 weeks with a bum knee, which doesn’t help either. The Kings will be ready to go though. Their defense and goaltending are way too awesome to let anyone down. Get the sun tan lotion out and drop the puck.

I have a bachelor pad on Malibu Beach!

3. Vancouver Canucks (9/1 odds)

The Canucks: the San Diego Chargers of the NHL. The hype machine that works up a constant spray of self-approval and mindless Luongo chanting is very, very easy to hate by anyone, even casual fans. Of course, from a hockey perspective, the Canucks will be poised as ever to earn another President’s Trophy.

Bobby Lu’s contract has a clause that states he only plays well at home.

2. New York Rangers (17/2 odds)

The Rangers shore up their ridiculous line-up with more ridiculousness by signing All-World power forward Rick Nash in the off-season. The Rangers, in spite of firepower and great goaltending, could not outscore the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Longevity has always been a issue for this team, signing elite players while letting their solid draft picks go. For the sake of argument, this shortened season is just the kind of thing that works well for a team like the Rangers.

This is equivalent to a Dwight Howard to Lakers situation without all the personality.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (8/1 odds)

Not far from the Canuck hype machine is the Penguins, although they do have the hardware to back it up. With the two-headed monster of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin returning in full health, it’s obviously the safe bet to win. There are chinks though, as revealed in last year’s laughable playoffs series with the Flyers, where the Penguins defense was akin to a sieve made of swiss cheese. What’s worse is their best d-man, Kris Letang, is strongly considering keeping his KHL contract. The loss of Jordan Staal to play with his brother in Raleigh also doesn’t feel good. If they do score eleven goals a night, it might not matter.

Hmm, I guess that hair doesn’t seem to matter in Russia either.

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