Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tom Jones' guide to the 2013-14 NHL season

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Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

In the mix: The Bruins went to the Stanley Cup final last season but then parted ways with two stars: forwards Nathan Horton (free agent) and Tyler Seguin (traded to the Stars). But they remain loaded, especially after adding power forward Jarome Iginla (free agent). The Red Wings make the jump to the East and add veteran forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss to an already experienced team. The Senators were banged up last season, so the return of their stars, as well as picking up perennial 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan in a trade with Anaheim, should have them in the hunt.

In the middle: Let's see if the young-and-rising Maple Leafs can recover from their heartbreaking playoff loss to Boston. The Canadiens seem to go whichever way goalie Carey Price goes. They might be good enough to make the postseason but not good enough to do damage there.

In the rear: I wish I had higher hopes for the Lightning, and there's lots to like with any team that has Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. But goaltending, defense and Ryan Malone's health remain up in the air. The Panthers have added veteran goalie Tim Thomas, but he's a couple of years removed from performing miracles in Boston, and the Panthers need miracles because they don't score. The Sabres have two decent players, goalie Ryan Miller and forward Thomas Vanek, and it will be interesting if they trade both before the season is over.

Metropolitan Division

In the mix: The Penguins needed to either fire coach Dan Bylsma or get rid of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. They kept both, which makes me think they are doomed to repeat recent history of playing sensationally in the regular season and getting knocked out in the playoffs by an inferior team. The Rangers might be more relaxed now that they're playing for coach Alain Vigneault instead of madman John Tortorella. Any team that has goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a chance to win it all, although Lundqvist's reputation might be better than his resume. I like the way the Capitals played under coach Adam Oates at the end of last season, and Alex Ovechkin bounced back to show he remains on many nights the most complete player in the world. But the Caps aren't deep on defense, though Braden Holtby is a solid goalie.

In the middle: The Islanders and Blue Jackets are up-and-comers. The Islanders, with star forward John Tavares, made the playoffs last season, and the Blue Jackets, with skilled forwards Marion Gaborik and Nathan Horton, might finally crack the playoffs, especially with 2013 Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The Flyers will turn to Ray Emery in goal, and they have firepower up front, but something is missing with this team.

In the rear: The Devils still have ageless Marty Brodeur in goal but will have a tough time overcoming the loss of forwards Ilya Kovalchuk (playing in Russia) and David Clarkson (left in free agency for the Leafs). Carolina hasn't made the postseason in four years, and other than forward Jeff Skinner, there isn't much there.

Western Conference

Central Division

In the mix: The Blackhawks won the Cup last season. They have All-Star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, a great defense and good goaltending. They have an outstanding shot at being the first repeat Cup winner since the 1997-98 Red Wings. Under coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blues play suffocating defense. It isn't fun to watch, but it wins games.

In the middle: With forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, the Wild is good enough to win its share of regular-season games. Just don't look for a lot of postseason victories. Same in Nashville. The Predators chose defenseman Seth Jones fourth overall in this year's draft. A nice pick, an interesting pick. But didn't they need a scorer? The Jets move back to where they belong, in the West, and have some nice young pieces. But they need to percolate a little more.

In the rear: A couple of new coaches will try to jump-start a couple of once-proud franchise that have fallen on hard times. Lindy Ruff takes over the Stars, who gambled by acquiring young star forward Tyler Seguin from the Bruins. Former Avalanche great Patrick Roy is now behind the bench of his old team, which is a very young team. It sure could use a Patrick Roy in goal.

Pacific Division

In the mix: The Kings have a big-time goalie in Jonathan Quick, balanced scoring up front and a deep defense. They have another Cup run in store. The Sharks are ultimate underachievers, and unless they figure out how to score more (they were among the worst in the league in five-on-five play last year), look for another early playoff exit. Vancouver adds coach John Tortorella, who might bring a much-needed jolt to this stagnant team, but I have a feeling he will have run-ins with forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The Ducks' amazing start last season (22-3-4) would have gotten more attention if not for Chicago's 24-game unbeaten streak to start the season. But Anaheim was stunned in the first round of the playoffs. It has added a nice piece in forward Dustin Penner.

In the middle: The Oilers are young but improving, loaded with first-round draft picks, including three No. 1 overalls (forwards Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakopov). They can skate and score, but they need to play better defense. The Coyotes are boring but can play button-down defense.

In the rear: With Jarome Iginla gone and the surprising retirement of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames are in full rebuilding mode.

Predictions

Hart Trophy (MVP): Sidney Crosby, Penguins

Norris Trophy (top defenseman): P.K. Subban, Canadiens

Vezina Trophy (top goalie): Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers

Calder Trophy (top rookie): Seth Jones, Predators

Jack Adams (top coach): Mike Babcock, Red Wings

Playoff teams (East): Bruins, Red Wings, Penguins, Rangers, Capitals, Senators, Leafs, Blue Jackets

Playoff teams (West): Blackhawks, Kings, Sharks, Canucks, Blues, Wild, Ducks, Predators.

Stanley Cup: Bruins over Kings

     
Comments
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Published: 11/18/17
Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

TAMPA — It’s still way early, but if the Lightning’s record start continues, there will be a lot of hardware up for grabs. And we’re not just talking about the Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov has league MVP written all over him. Andrei Vasilevskiy coul...
Published: 11/18/17

Red-hot Lightning leading NHL in more than wins

Nikita Kucherov, top left, celebrates with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring against Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer. [AP photo]The Lightning (15-2-2) enters tonight’s game against the visiting Islanders (10-6-2) leading the leagu...
Published: 11/18/17
Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

TAMPA — A local TV crew set up shop in front of Brayden Point’s locker stall the other day, waiting for the Lightning forward to be ready.Then, captain Steven Stamkos walked into the room for his scrum. It didn’t take long for the TV crew to change c...
Published: 11/17/17
Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

TAMPA — The Lightning welcomed Ben Bishop back with a classy, fitting video tribute in Thursday’s first period. The sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena gave Bishop, the greatest goalie in franchise history, a standing ovation. It was an emotional...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

TAMPA — C Braydon Point’s shorthanded goal tipped the game in the Lightning’s favor and the three penalties it killed during the second period kept it that way in Thursday’s 6-1 victory against the Stars.Dallas entered the game with an NHL-best 30.2 ...
Published: 11/16/17