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(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Landin’s Lane: Three Bold Predictions For The Upcoming NHL Season

When the puck drops between the Nashville Predators and the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, marks the beginning of a new season and a glimmer of hope for yearning fans around the NHL that they’ll be the last ones standing, rejoicing with Lord Stanley’s cup come summer. With plenty of fun and surprises on the way, here are three of them for the upcoming NHL season. 

Buffalo Sabres Make the Playoffs

Buffalo Sabre fans have laid in torment since the infamous 1999 Stanley Cup Final, as it still haunts the fan base like a lingering ghost on the streets of Buffalo.  Considering the recent history of a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 12 seasons and two years ago tied the longest losing streak in NHL history at 18 games, one wouldn’t be eager to pencil Buffalo into the final 16.  After coming a point shy of the field last year though, progress is certainly showing. Buffalo is led on the ice by Tage Thompson, who had a career-high in every statistical category last year and will look to lead a talented core of players who have the potential to excel to new heights this year. One of those up-and-comers is Rasmus Dahlin, who inked an 8-year $88 million extension with the franchise this past summer, whose game-breaking abilities as a playmaker should put him in contention for the Norris Trophy (defensive player of the year) this season. Add in the savvy signing of veteran defenseman Erik Johnson to provide valuable experience for a young and upcoming team, and there should be no reason why fans of the Sabres will hang up their jerseys come playoff time. 

Cale Makar Sets Record for Most Points by a Defenseman

Fresh off winning the Hobey Baker and appearing in the NCAA national title game in 2019, Makar has been making waves in the NHL since his debut for the Avalanche claiming the Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year), Norris Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP of the playoffs) and Stanley Cup. Even with all of these accomplishments, Makar is only 24 years old and just entering the prime of his career. Anything seems possible for this young phenom. Bobby Orr holds the record for the most points by a defenseman at 139 points. Makar had 66 points in an injury-plagued season last year, and without the injuries, was on pace to score 90. With a summer of rest after being knocked out of the first round by the Seattle Kraken, another season of experience primes Makar to shift into another gear and write himself into the history books as Colorado looks to rekindle its Stanley Cup magic. 

The Penguins Reach the Eastern Conference Finals in Sidney Crosby’s Farewell Season

It won’t be for the faint of the heart for the Penguins to make it into the Eastern Conference Finals, let alone out of the Metropolitan division where the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers run the show. Give credit where credit is due, as General manager Kyle Dubas has retooled a Penguins team that missed the playoffs last year, ending the longest postseason streak of the four major North American sports at 17 years. With the addition of revitalized defenseman Erik Karlsson (33), to go along with the three stalwarts of Sidney Crosby (36), Evgeni Malkin (37), and Kris Letang (36). As their ages show, father time is around the corner, and could be the Penguin's last dance. With their core intact and playoff experience dating back to when they won the Stanley Cup in 2008, this team knows how to win a variety of games. All signs point to Crosby showing a great desire to retire in Pittsburgh, and at this point in his career, seemingly nothing left to prove. However, his team does. Spurred on by Crosby’s likely retirement, the Penguins will make a deep run into the Eastern Conference Finals. 

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