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10 bold predictions for the 2021 NHL season

January 13, 2021, 12:36 PM ET [3 Comments]
Kevin Allen
Blogger •HHOF Writer's column on the NHL • RSSArchiveCONTACT
1. Pittsburgh Penguins will be better than we think: It is trendy to predict this season will mark the start of the Penguins' decline. But the Pens still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, plus enough dependable scorers to be an above-average offensive team. Their defense might also be improved. If Tristan Jarry keeps his save percentage above .920, the Penguins will make the playoffs.
2. Penalty minutes will increase: When teams play each other eight times, and mostly in back-to-back situations, hostility will grow. When you talk to players from the Original Six era, they didn't like each other much during the season.
3. A surprise team or two will make the playoffs: Reducing the schedule from 82 to 56 games changes the game from a marathon to a sprint. Don't be shocked if a team like Buffalo or Anaheim, San Jose, New Jersey, Detroit, Ottawa, Arizona, Los Angeles, etc. climbs into third or fourth place. Even a flawed NHL team can put on a show for three months.
4. More early season trades will happen: Winnipeg could move Patrik Laine or Jack Roslovic. If the Penguins or Predators start slowly, Jim Rutherford or David Poile won't stand idle. The Vegas Golden Knights have been poking around the marketplace. Given the projected financial losses that teams are facing, GMs are going to be ultra-aggressive trying to qualify for the playoffs.
5. Ovechkin will score 40 goals in 56 games: if anyone can do it, it's Ovi. The man has been a Robo-scorer his entire career. He netted 48 goals in 69 games last season, and boasts148 goals over his past three season. When the NHL played a 48-game schedule in 2012-13, Ovechkin scored 32 goals.
6. Boston Bruins are going to take a half-step backwards: Defenseman Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug left through free agency. David Pastrnak will be sidelined until February. Their primary scorers are in their 30s. They are still contenders, but they may not win the Metropolitan.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets won't trade Pierre-Luc Dubois this season: The Blue Jackets want to make a competitive push this season. They need Dubois as their No. 1 to do that. Because he signed a two-year contract, the Blue Jackets can trade him after the season.
8. Joe Thornton will have 40 points this season: He had 31 points last season in Toronto, but I he is going to be surrounded by more talented players in Toronto. He can still pass the puck, and set-up a power play.
9. We will like these temporary divisions too much: This will be an entertaining season because it will be unique. Fans are going to say they would like to see this permanent. But that isn't going to happen. But this season, plus the arrival of the Seattle expansion franchise, will prompt us to consider a significant alignment.
10. It will be hard to determine who's the No. 1 goalie on some teams: If you listened to coaches in preseason, it seems clear they are going to use their No. 2 goalie more often. Plus we have some superb challengers, like on Long Island where Ilya Sorokin has the talent to seize the net or in Minnesota where Kaapo Kahkonen is a prize newcomer.

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