On Tuesday October first, a brand new NHL season will start. ON TIME THIS YEAR!!! In anticipation of a normally scheduled season, the league has been playing its pre-season games, and there have already been fireworks. During the Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres game on September 22, a fight broke out when Buffalo sent out their enforcer, a player whose only real hockey talent is to fight, John Scott , after the Leafs scored a goal and some jawing ensued.
The Leafs didn’t put in anyone capable of fighting Scott, who is the biggest player in the league, so he went after the man unfortunate enough to
line up against him, Phil Kessel. As the puck dropped, Scott’s gloves did too. He went after Kessel, and Kessel skated away from him while beating at Scott’s ankles with his stick. The rest of the Leafs line went after Scott, but not before David Clarkson, a well-known fighter and free agent acquisition for the Leafs jumped off the bench and skated for Scott. By the time he got there, Scott was already subdued. The penalty for coming off the bench to fight in the NHL is a 10 game suspension. Clarkson, who didn’t actually get a chance to do anything, will now face the suspension in a wasted effort. This will hurt the Leafs going forward. For a preseason game, the brawl really got out of hand. Everyone on the ice ended up squaring off against someone; even the goalies picked a fight with each other before all things were said and done. Both teams will be regretting the fight when the season opens, as this was merely a preseason game that has almost no meaning.
As for Clark’s suspension, the Leafs will lose him for the first 10 games of the season. This could end up hurting the Leafs badly, and may actually cost them a playoff spot, as I already had them on the bubble. Before going too far into predictions, I should explain a few changes in the league this year. One change is the new league format. This season will feature two conferences as usual, but the conferences have been further broken down into two divisions each. The Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions in the Eastern Conference and the Pacific and Central divisions in the Western Conference will have three playoff spots each. The two best remaining teams in each conference will make the playoffs as Wild Card teams, who will face the number one seed in each conference. Another change the NHL has made that was voted in by the NHL Players’ Association is an edited icing rule. The new rule allows the linesman to blow the whistle for icing if he feels the puck will cross the goal line and the defending player is not behind. Before, the league had always used the touch-icing call.
My playoff predictions, based on the new system go a little like this. In the Western Conference the Chicago Blackhawks will face off against the St. Louis Blues, with the Hawks winning the series 4-2. In the east, the Boston Bruins will take on the Pittsburg Penguins with the Penguins taking the Eastern Conference Championship in 5 games, 4-1. Lord Stanley’s Cup will once again find it’s home in Chicago after the Hawks beat the Penguins in 6 games 4-2. It is a bold prediction yes, and the season just began, but based on last season’s stats and the acquisitions this offseason, the Blackhawks will probably be the team to beat. After an exciting preseason, get ready for some of the same exhilarating hockey action this 2013-2014 season.