The 2016-2017 National Hockey League season is 1/4 of the way done, yet early projections may be inferred by the current standings.
Here are the Leaders in each division with a breakdown of why and why not they will win-
Why to Believe: The Canadiens started the season winning 9 of their first 10 games. If everyone can stay healthy, they look like the favorite to run away with their division. Nobody is within 5 pts of the Canadiens and the team boasts firepower, especially with Shea Weber. The 6’4 defensemen is proving that his trade this offseason was not a mistake by notching a league leading 8 goals by a defensemen. Hockey Reference gives them a whopping 91.5% chance of making the playoffs and a 6.7% chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Why to Worry: Carey Price’s Health. It is not a coincidence that the amazing start to the season was drastically pertaining to the health of their goaltender. Since the start, the Habs have shown an average 5-5 record. Additionally, in order to have a shot at the Stanley Cup, the Canadiens will most likely play the New York Rangers…a force to be reckoned with.
New York Rangers- 29 pts
Why to Believe: The Rangers appear as the most well-rounded team in the NHL at this moment; Hockey Reference gives them a 15.9% shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Michael Grabner is tied for the league lead in goals while also leading the NHL in plus/minus. The Rangers lead the league in goals. At this moment, nothing appears to be slowing the Rangers down.
Why to Worry: The defense has played well, but will need to be even better in order to compensate for when the scoring may face a lull. If the Rangers want to win this year, Henrik Lundqvist will additionally need to be on the top of his game.
Chicago Blackhawks- 28 pts
Why to Believe: It’s the Chicago Blackhawks. One cannot argue with success, and the Blackhawks win. They win games, divisions and Stanley Cups and it is a mistake to discount what Chicago can do. When playoff times come…watch out. By the way Marian Hossa is playing well, tied for 2nd in the league in goals. He is another asset to a lineup already including Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Why to Worry: The Central division is no “lock” for the Blackhawks. Their rival, the St. Louis Blues, are only 3 pts behind them in the standings and have won their last 4 games. Also, Corey Crawford has been less than stellar for the ‘Hawks this season. Lastly, as with any team, injuries may prevent success and limit the Blackhawks consistent contention for the Cup.
Edmonton Oilers- 23 pts
Why to Believe: As a surprise to many, the Oilers are an up and coming force in the Pacific division. The time of rough and tough is over, and the Oilers demonstrate a faster, skill-driven style of play. New captain and superstar Connor McDavid leads the league with 14 assists and 24 points. Teams are close to them in the standings, but the Pacific does not boast a dominant team, leaving Edmonton a road to success.
Why to Worry: Aside from McDavid, the Oiler offense is nothing spectacular. Cam Talbot is playing well this year, but the netminder does not have a sufficient proven track record of success. In any other division, the Oilers would not be in 1st place and they appear to be the weakest division leader; they only have a one point lead over Anaheim. Edmonton must elevate their game play to contend this year in the playoffs, if they get there.
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