The Circuit’s 2022-23 NHL 1st Quarter Polls
As the calendar turns to December, the NHL season turns to the 2nd quarter! It’s time to look back on the 1st 20(ish) games of the season and figure out who will win the Stanley Cup, and why it’s the Boston Bruins. Circuit Artwork The first month and a half of the NHL season has been full of storylines; from the Bruins threatening all-time scoring records, to Ovechkin chasing one of the most coveted records in all of sports. Let’s kick these quarter polls off by looking at some things I got right! (since there are so few) Getty Images A Boston Goalie Would Dominate… Sure, I had the wrong Boston goalie. But the sentiment counts! The Bruins have been historically dominant, and Linus Ullmark leads the NHL in wins, goals against and save%. Seems impressive. I hope Swayman can find his way, but this seems like Ullmark’s league now. And every other team is living in it. The Leafs Would Be Really Good… They had me worried there for a minute, getting off to far and away the most disappointing start in the league, but they have bounced back in a big way, winning 7 of their last 10 and skyrocketing to the top of the standings. Look for the Leafs to make a run this spring. Washington Would Go Under… I don’t feel good about this, because I love Ovechkin. But at some point, this team is going to be too old and need to move on. There’s still plenty of time to turn things around, but I don’t see it. The Caps are heading into *dare I say it* Lakers territory; a team that is too old and can;t compete, but have a living legend on the precipice of the sports most hallowed record. If you can’t be good, you have to be interesting, right? Now let’s dive into the *many* things I was wrong about Getty Images The Ducks Would Make the Leap… Mother quacker! I think this might have been the worst prediction I’ve had in my life. Even the Rockies (fuck the Rockies) were good for a month. Anaheim won on opening night against Seattle and for a moment I felt great. Then they played the rest of the season and great I felt no more. Maybe with another high draft pick, I can be wrong about them next season too! The Devils Would Not Make the Leap… At least one NHL rebuild has hit! The Devils have taken the NHL by storm, surging to the top of the Metro Division and looking like a team that will compete for the next 10 years. My apologies, Devils fans. The Oilers Were Great… Thankfully they have started playing slightly better of late, but it has not been an encouraging start for my Stanley Cup pick. Luckily, they still have the best player in the game. Now let’s hand out some awards for the 2022-23 NHL season! Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) Getty Images This is predicated on Edmonton picking up the pace here the rest of the way; if they continue to be in the middle of the standings, McDavid won’t win. But we’re still early enough now that the best player is the frontrunner, and that’s McDavid. He leads the league in points and second in goals, and continues to lead in spectacular plays. Unfortunately, he’ll be at the mercy of his team as to whether or not he can win the actual award. Vezina Trophy (Goalie of the Year): Linue Ullmark (Boston Bruins) Getty Images ^See my Things Right section. Ullmark is the runaway for this award. Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken) Getty Images Seattle had a slow start but have come on strong, and Beniers is bridging the gap between the now and the future. He’s been a bright spot for them, and the standout rookie of the season. James Norris Memorial Trophy (Best Defensive Player): Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) Getty Images There really isn’t a question here. Makar is the best defenseman in the league, and a big reason why Avs are the defending champions. Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year): Jim Montgomery (Boston Bruins) Getty Images Well it certainly isn’t Dallas Eakins, is it? The Bruins have been scalding this season, and right now he’s the coach of the year. But look out for Lindy Ruff; if the Devils keep winning, he will likely win the award. Finally, it’s time to make some revised playoff predictions! 1st Round: Eastern Conference Getty Images 1 Boston Bruins def WC Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0 2 Toronto Maple Leafs def 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 1 Carolina Hurricane def WC New York Islanders 4-1 3 New York Rangers def 2 New Jersey Devils 4-2 The Bruins and the Hurricane will get through fairly easily. The Leafs and Lightning will be a battle with Toronto ultimately prevailing. And the Devils are a great story, but won’t be quite ready to win a playoff series yet. The Rangers will catch fire and roll into the second round. Western Conference Getty Images 1 Las Vegas Golden Knights def WC Calgary Flames 4-0 2 Edmonton Oilers def 3 Seattle Kraken 4-2 1 Colorado Avalanche def WC Los Angeles Kings 4-3 2 Dallas Stars def 3 Minnesota Wild 4-1 Vegas and Dallas won’t have any issue here with their first round opponents. Edmonton will advance, but struggle more than they should (as they always do). And Colorado will kick off their title defense with a shaky series, but find a way to get past the Kings. Conference Semis: Eastern Conference Getty Images 1 Boston Bruins def 3 Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 3 New York Rangers def 1 Carolina Hurricane 4-2 Boston-Toronto will be the best series of the entire playoffs. A seven game, back-and-forth classic with the Bruins advancing. And the Rangers will continue their hot streak by knocking off the higher-seeded Hurricane. Western Conference Getty Images 2 Edmonton Oilers def 1 Las Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 1 Colorado Avalanche def 2 Dallas Stars 4-1 Colorado’s experience and mettle will prove too much for Dallas, and the star power of the Oilers will be enough to knock out the best team in the West (points wise). Conference Finals: Eastern Conference Getty Images 1 Boston Bruins def 3 New York Rangers 4-1 This is the year of the Bruin. The Rangers will finally go cold in this series against the best team in the league. Western Conference Getty Images 2 Edmonton Oilers def 1 Colorado Avalanche 4-2 And down go the champs! I’m sticking with my preseason pick out West by taking the Oilers over the Avs. Colorado is the better team, but eventually McDavid has to carry a team to the Finals, doesn’t he? Stanley Cup Finals: Getty Images 1 Boston Bruins def 2 Edmonton Oilers 4-2 Conn Smythe Winner: Linue Ullmark (Boston Bruins) As much as I love McDavid and think he has G.O.A.T. potential, he won’t be able to beat this Boston team all by himself. The Bruins will win their first Cup in over a decade, officially making the Patriots the saddest franchise in Boston (I never thought I would live to see the day). There you have it! Make sure to check back in the middle of January for the 2nd quarter polls to see what I got right, and more importantly, what I got wrong! And make sure to check out all of our other great sports content on the NBA, NFL and the World Cup!