Here are three predictions for the NHL in 2022.
Red Wings will fall out of playoff picture
When I look at the NHL standings, one team sticks out. The Detroit Red Wings sit fourth in the Atlantic Division behind Tampa Bay, Toronto and Florida. They’re three points ahead of Boston, but the Bruins have five games in hand. It’s hard to imagine the Red Wings will be in playoff position much longer. Detroit is the only team in a playoff spot that has a negative goal differential — but it’s much worse than that, as the Red Wings’ minus-16 goal differential ranks 24th in the league. The team has been propped up by its 11-3-2 record at home, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Most of Detroit’s opponents have been non-playoff teams and teams hindered by injury and illness.
The Red Wings once had a lot of handicappers fooled, including me. But this is a bad hockey team. Detroit has potential, and puck luck can take a team far, but despite the efforts of future stars like Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, the Red Wings look poised to fall back to Earth. They’ve scored only about 46 percent of the goals, and that’s about what we should expect, according to Evolving Hockey’s expected goals. Detroit grades out as a bottom-10 team in just about every meaningful category, and I’ll be trying to fade the Red Wings on a game-to-game basis.
Penguins will challenge for Metropolitan Division title
The Penguins are just four points back of the Hurricanes, who occupy first place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh could be hampered for a little while as the roster has been hit hard by the virus, but in the big picture, this team should soon be in great shape. The Penguins will soon get Evgeni Malkin into the lineup for the first time all season, and players like Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker should be ready to return in the coming weeks. Goaltender Tristan Jarry has been outstanding, and backup Casey DeSmith seems to be finding his game. Early in the season I took a chance on the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup at 30-1 or better, and I think now is probably the last chance to take a position on them to win the division. The Penguins are currently plus-450 to win the Metro at BetMGM in New Jersey.
Victor Hedman will be nominated for the Norris Trophy for the sixth consecutive season
%%offer%%The James Norris Memorial Trophy goes to the defenseman who shows “the greatest all-round ability in the position.” The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season. Victor Hedman has been nominated for five straight seasons, and he will be nominated again in 2021-22. Hedman is just three points back of the lead for points by a defenseman with 45, and his play is a big reason the Lightning are leading the Atlantic Division. Because of players like Hedman, Steven Stamkos and Andrei Vasilevskiy, they have been able to overcome salary-cap constraints and injuries to Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Bet MGM in New Jersey lists Hedman at plus-800 to win the Norris Trophy.