2019-2020 Western Conference Predictions

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A tale of two divisions: the loaded, hungry and physical Central, featuring the Cinderella Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues will be a force to reckon with and will compete with the likes of the Atlantic to show who’s best. On the other, a grayer, murkier and not as predictable Pacific which will feature at least two pretty good teams and plenty of questions after. Can the Calgary Flames get it together and drive to the top again? Will Dave Tippett tip the scales for the Oilers? Is this the year Arizona breaks out and makes the playoffs? Will the Kings be the comeback team in 2019-2020? It’s time to analyze which eight teams in this conference have the best shot.

Central Division: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators

A possible new era has arrived to begin a new decade; the St. Louis Blues will probably not be at the bottom of the division or the NHL by the time January 3rd hits, but could possibly be slugging through to number one, since no one really had an answer for the duo of Craig Berube’s coaching and Jordan Binnington in net. They even re-tooled and tweaked the roster and might be better than when they won the Cup.

Behind the current champions, the sleeping giants of Colorado could finally break out and do some serious damage in the conference, as was written on this site a few months back. Dallas seems to have made smart adjustments to their roster and added in players who could get them a fifth or sixth seed. As for Nashville, they still have enough gas in the tank to get them into one of the lower seeds, but they’ll have to gut it out against Chicago and Winnipeg.

Pacific Division: Las Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers

The Vegas Golden Knights were close to making the second round, and then had a terrible call go against them. They came out and pummeled the Sharks their first two games, and could go on a tear against any team they face. Although St. Louis won the championship, this is the team to beat in order to have a level playing field in the West. Even with the injury to Nate Schmidt, this team is still stacked.

San Jose, minus their epic playoff series win last season against Vegas will probably play second fiddle to them for most of the season, but they shouldn’t focus on that yet until April. For now, they need to get their roster going and make getting to the playoffs the goal. They have to play better defense and gel more as a unit, but they seem solid enough to get in.

Arizona has to break out at some point, right? They’re more of a defensive minded unit and led by both exceptional goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. The addition of Phil Kessel will help the offense put more pucks in the net, they just need to get to a strong start the first three months of the season.

Then there’s the dark-horse and wild-card pick of the Edmonton Oilers, who picked the right coach in Dave Tippett to make the team play better on-ice and be better off-ice. Edmonton may not be a top three team in the division, but they’ll be the team that will require opponents to put 100% in to beat them.

2019-2020 Eastern Conference Predictions

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It’s been quite an offseason as both divisions in this conference have found ways to re-tool and rebuild on the fly. With Alex Ovechkin announcing a possible retirement in 2021 and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ roster makeover, the 2019-2020 eastern conference could have some new faces who stand out during the playoffs. Although the Boston Bruins didn’t win in the cup finals this past spring, they should be good enough to get back into the playoffs, barring injuries. It’s time to predict the eight teams that have the best chances of making the playoffs in this conference.

Atlantic Division: Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs

Unless injuries take their toll and everything falls apart, the Lightning, Bruins and Leafs stand out as the heavy playoff favorites in this division. Detroit, Ottawa and Buffalo just don’t have enough firepower to make it, and could possibly be the worst teams in the league…again. Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto all are blessed with depth and stars who know how to pass, score and win in the regular season. As for Montreal and Florida, it’s heads or tails; heads being solidly getting in or tails barely missing out. Florida added a top tier goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky along with new coach Joel Quenneville. These top two additions give Florida an edge to possibly snatch the sixth seed (at least).

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The Panthers went all out for a Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky this offseason

Metropolitan Division: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers

The first two teams listed have made the playoffs, consistently ranking as a top seed. Though there’s skepticism on how the Caps and Pens will fare in the playoffs this upcoming season, they seem poised to return strong and could take the top two spots in the Metropolitan. The rest of the division though is filled with questions. Could the Islanders and Hurricanes replicate the magic they had last season? Both rosters have a lot of questions which could take them a while to figure out. Are the New York Rangers ready to make the next step and return to the playoffs? The addition of hot handed scorer Artemi Panarin sure helps, but will Alexandar Georgiev prove he’s ready for the big stage? How will the Columbus Blue Jackets re-group since most of their roster was poached in free agency?

The two teams that seem to have answered most of their questions seem to be the latter picks, the Devils and the Flyers. The media has questioned and ridiculed the Flyers for…<fill in any reason here> It seems “nothing” they do can be right. Ironic, considering their new coach Alain Vigneault has been to a Stanley Cup Finals with a roster who’s best player was a goaltender. Carter Hart could continue to blossom into a top netminder if he takes the next step this season, and depth has to be something that continues at the same pace if not better. If this team can stay healthy, playoffs and even top three in the division is a possibility.

As for New Jersey, the addition of P.K. Subban this past offseason and drafting Jack Hughes at number one overall makes the Devils a serious playoff contender, even if they’re the seventh or eighth seed. Taylor Hall and company should be back to healthy again (a good amount of the roster was injured last year in a competitive division) and Cory Schneider should be able to get more playing time as the starter. There are a lot of tempting looks this team can give, and there’s more that can be answered here than with a team like the Islanders or the Rangers. While they probably won’t be the top team in the Metropolitan, there’s a good chance they could force the hands of the teams that are serious about going into the postseason.

What We’ve Learned About the 2019-2020 NFL Season Four Weeks In

The first four weeks of this season have been exciting to watch. From the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals tying in Week One to Tampa Bay having a historic scoring Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the 2019 season has lived up to expectations a quarter of the way in. It’s been proven before that the first four weeks don’t always show the total picture of who will do what, but there are significant flashes of what can stay true while the season progresses. Here’s some things that could possibly hold true before Week Five.

  • Those laughingstock teams that have had an awful decade or so will get the last laugh. The predictions of the Cleveland Browns being on top of the division, while contested, drove the conclusion that the team would be much better than in years past. While they’re 2-2, they’ve played some quality teams and could still show us they’re the real deal. In the meantime, teams that have been laughed off for being choke perfectionists seem to be gaining respect in the league. Both the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions have played hard and have one loss total after September (with the Lions adding a tie). The Raiders have the tiebreaker over the Chargers to stay in second place for now, and the San Francisco 49ers are at the top of the NFC West, with two 3-1 teams behind them. If all four teams can keep this up, they’ll be tough to face heading into December.
  • There’s a fresh, clean slate for all the teams in the AFC South heading into October. Who would’ve thought after Andrew Luck retiring, the Texans cashing out, and then Nick Foles being knocked out for the season that none of it would matter since every team would be 2-2? The Texans are still the favorite to win the division, but the other three teams have shown they are capable of taking that away. Tennessee has two quality wins on the road in Cleveland and Atlanta, Jacksonville may have a keeper in Gardner Minshew II, and the Indianapolis Colts, (minus their performance at home against the Raiders) were the closest to a 3-1 record. Whoever wins this division could possibly be the luckiest, and will have to win at least 3 games against their other rivals.
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Although the Lions committed a massive blunder by letting the Chiefs return this fumble for a touchdown, they showed resilience and almost won the game.
  • New England is the favorite to get to the Super Bowl…again, and it will stay that way until a team can fully knock them off their pedestal. Take the NFC out and there doesn’t seem to be a team that can dethrone the Patriots within their conference. The Bills, while coming close, probably won’t be a scare within the AFC East. The Ravens and Browns can’t figure things out just yet, and the best chance team Kansas City can’t stop them when it matters. Unless the Patriots get bit by the injury bug, it’s theirs to lose.
  • Despite all the hype with passing the ball, running-backs have been the biggest key factor so far. Need more proof? Ezekiel Elliott averaged less than 2 yards per carry for Dallas in a two point loss to the Saints this past Sunday night. The Browns and the Jaguars rode to victory on massive games from Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette. Kerryon Johnson has helped turn the Detroit Lions into a two-way threat while taking pressure off Matthew Stafford, and the rest of the NFC North has established theirs (insert Dalvin Cook here). Last but not least, Melvin Gordon has returned after the Chargers stumbled for three straight weeks. In fact, the worst teams right now have struggled to run the ball. While Washington has had some injuries with their RB core, Miami, the Jets, Denver and Arizona have had poor performances running the ball.
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Dalvin Cook scorched the Falcons in Week 1, and has been a reason why Minnesota looked like a complete team heading into Week 4.