The NHL season has just kicked off and the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to repeat as champions. Many teams look to have what it takes to compete with the Blackhawks and contend for the title.
Many people seem to assume that the Blackhawks are going to repeat as champions in the Western Conference. The start that Chicago got off to last in the lockout-shortened season is the best start in the history of the NHL.
However, the Western Conference looks to be tougher this year, and it is hard to see them repeating, even just as Western Conference champs.
The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks appear to be poised to make a run at the Blackhawks. Both teams have tremendous firepower and great goaltending behind it all.
Even though the team is old and aging, the Detroit Red Wings have proven that they can never be counted out, and if they get into the playoffs they will be a whole new animal.
In the long run, the third California team seems to be the team with the best shot of taking out Chicago. The Los Angeles Kings have kept their core intact, and possibly even solidified it.
The only thing the Kings did that may not have been a good idea this offseason was trade backup goaltender, Jonathan Bernier. Bernier proved last season that he is one of the best backups in the league, and at times played better than Jonathan Quick. The Eastern Conference picture seems to be a little bit more clear. It really appears to be a two-team race between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins.
Boston was the team that challenged the Blackhawks last year in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins enter this season with one of the best goaltenders in the league, Tukka Rask, having another year of experience under his belt.
The defense is solid right in front of him, led by the 6-foot-9-inch Zdeno Chara. The offense is not too dangerous, but will do enough to push the best defensive team in the league back to the finals.
The Penguins are almost the exact opposite as the Bruins. They have tremendous firepower and may be the deepest offensive team in the league.
Sidney Crosby will be healthy to start the season, and he is the best player in the league when he is healthy.
However, when it comes to playoff time and these two teams have to play each other, great defense beats great offense almost every time in postseason hockey.
That leaves the Kings and Bruins playing for the Stanley Cup. These are arguable the two best defensive teams in the game, but the Kings seem far superior offensively and should take the series in a hard-fought battle.