We had a lot of fun last year doing an NHL preview with our friends at Relapse Records — so much fun, in fact, that we wanted to do it again this year!

Unfortunately, we got a little distracted with some other business, and so this year’s edition is a) somewhat less comprehensive than last year’s, and b) not really a preview at all, seeing as the NHL season actually began two weeks ago. Still… we got some fun people weighing in, including members of Misery Index, Fuck the Facts, 16, and Hero Destroyed. Read ’em all after the jump!

Washington Capitals
Jason Netherton (Misery Index)

Last year the Capitals ended the regular season in first place in the East for the second year in row only to have another early playoff exit (this time a second-round thrashing from Tampa Bay). The underachieving playoff performance led to calls (yet again) for change and to add veteran toughness, and the GMGM responded with the off-season additions of Roman Hamrlik (Montreal), Joel Ward (Nashville), Troy Brouwer (Chicago), as well as what might have been the grandest steal of them all, a one year, $1.5 Million signing of top goalie Tomas Vokoun (Florida). These additions boost an already stellar lineup into total domination territory, and many analysts pick the Caps to come in first again and even (knock knock) make the Stanley Cup finals this year. That said, coach Boudreau’s head is on the chopping block, and anything less than a finals appearance will most likely mean his exit. Look for team scoring champ Alex Ovechkin to storm back into the point race after a down year, and supporting crew Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green to also boost production. The Czech goalie tandem of Michel Neuvirth and Vokoun should provide overly solid net-minding, and if we are lucky we will get another ‘fight of the year’ out of John Erskine like this one from last year (below). Lets go Caps!

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM8chVfQNRQ">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM8chVfQNRQ</a>

L.A. Kings
Tony Baumeister -(16)-

Last year I predicted that the Kings would meet Vancouver in the Western Conference Finals.  Well, at least I got the Vancouver part right.

The Kings’ playoff series with the Sharks was not fun for me.  When Kopitar broke his ankle two weeks before the postseason started, I didn’t think we’d make it out of the first round.  Then watching San Jose need OT for three of their wins made it even worse.  Ok, I’m not gonna dwell on last year.  On to this season…

Major offseason moves went down this summer.  Most notably, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn were traded to Philly for Mike Richards.  Then, days later, Simon Gagne signed with the Kings (seemingly out of nowhere).  Smyth and Handzus are gone, but Doughty finally signed an 8-year deal after a silly holdout.  In goal, Jon Quick and Jonathan Bernier will be battling for the #1 netminder distinction (my money’s on Quick).

Basically, all the pieces are in place.  I can’t remember the last time the “experts” were predicting the Kings to win the West (or even the Pacific for that matter).  But it’s happening.  I’ve seen it.  True, “expert” predictions don’t mean shit – we all know that.  My point though, is that the Kings are no longer the dark horse.  They’re stacked, and everyone knows it.  If the top players stay healthy, there are no excuses.  Anything short of a Conference Finals appearance will be a major disappointment.

Whatever.  This is the L.A. Kings we’re talking about.  They’ll probably find a way to fuck it up.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Jeff Turko (Hero Destroyed)

Last season, I predicted the Pittsburgh Penguins would earn their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history. The stage was set for the 2010-11 season. A brand new arena, the Pens were featured in the HBO series “24/7”, and they participated in the Winter Classic outside at Heinz Field. That’s where the fun ended. The Pens lost their two best players to injury, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and while finishing the season going 12-4, they unceremoniously lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Fast forward to 2011-12 and there seems to be quite a bit of optimism surrounding the team again. The Pens, overall, seem to be fairly healthy to start the season. Malkin appears to have made a complete recovery from knee surgery that ended his 2010-11 season and he looked stellar in the preseason exhibition games. The big question mark this year will be Sid Crosby and his recovery from a concussion sustained last season. An example of how important Crosby is to the Penguins: even though he only played 41 games last season before going down with injury, he was still the team’s overall goal and points leader for the entire season.  His participation may well make or break the 2011-12 season.

I’m not going to make any bold predictions for this young season, but I think that another deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs is in order for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Montreal Canadiens
Mathieu Vilandre (Fuck The Facts)

It saddens me to write this preview knowing the Habs are in the shit. The last time it was this bad, the world was at war! (1941-1942 season). Veterans have yet to show up, Price is frail and injuries are plaguing the regular line-up. Hell, even P.K. Subban is not having a great start with an abnormal amount of turnovers. Fortunately, Max Pacioretty made a full recovery from the devastating hit he took from Chara last year and is playing great hockey. I’m afraid the Habs will struggle all year long with injuries and an unstable line-up. Travis Moen has 3 goals, enough said! Jacques Martin better get his shit together; people in Montreal aren’t really patient when it comes to hockey. We’ll have to wait and see what the new owners do (or not) about it. My French Canadian genes are definitely less exited than last year but I’ll keep praying to the hockey gods.

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