And pick the Pens again.
To see why, you should have watched the season opener between the Pens and Canucks on Thursday. Marc-Andre Fleury was great, Malkin scored the clinching shootout goal and defenceman Kris Letang once again showed he is one of the best-kept secrets in the game. But perhaps the most optimistic sign was seeing Crosby sitting in the press box. While he still has yet to be cleared for physical contact, the fact that he is travelling with the Pens is a hopeful indication that he might be back in the not-so-distance future.
He had better be.
Or 12 months from now, you’ll be reading the same excuses in this space that you did earlier in this piece.
In the meantime, now that we’ve established that the Pens WILL beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup final, here are some other predictions for the coming season.
The envelope, please ...
HART TROPHY (MVP): Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
The Caps’ talent is elite, the goaltending has been augmented with the acquisition of Tomas Vokoun and the stars are aligned to make a Cup run. If Great Eight ever wants to be considered on the same level as Sid the Kid, it’s time to lead this team. Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis and the Sedin twins will push Ovechkin for the award.
NORRIS TROPHY (Top defenceman): Shea Weber, Predators
He’s mean, he’s strong, he’s fast ... The only thing he’s not is on national TV on a consistent basis. Expect the Kings’ Drew Doughty to give Weber a run for his money.
ART ROSS TROPHY (Most points): Daniel Sedin, Canucks
Good thing playoff performances don’t count, a time when he and brother Henrik too often disappear.
MAURICE RICHARD TROPHY (Most Goals): Steven Stamkos, Lightning
All those nights practising his shot at a clinic in a Vaughan strip mall have certainly paid off.
JACK ADAMS AWARD: (Top Coach): Lindy Ruff, Sabres
After years of toiling for frugal owners who provided just an average talent base, Ruff must feel like he’s in heaven after moneybags superfan Terry Pegula bought the team and shelled out big bucks for the likes Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino, Watch for the Kings’ Terry Murray to be in contention here too.
CALDER TROPHY (Top rookie): Gabriel Landeskog, Avs
He’ll get plenty of opportunity to strut his stuff with the talent-thin Avalanche. Most scouts considered him to be the most NHL-ready pick in the draft, both on the ice and in terms of maturity.
VEZINA TROPHY (Top goalie): Ryan Miller, Sabres
With twin towers Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr in front of him, Miller no longer will have to be concerned with rebounds being cleared or about opposing forwards hacking at him. It will be interesting to see how Ilya Bryzgalov fares in Philly.
SELKE TROPHY (Top defensive forward): Mike Richards, Kings
Note to the Sedin twins: Now that Richards is in the West, expect to see the former Flyers captain in your face at least six times per year. Hope you like sandpaper.
ON THE RISE
— Los Angeles Kings
While all the talk centred on the Rangers landing Brad Richards, Mike Richards may have been the best pickup of the summer. A core of Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty, Dustin Penner, Justin Williams and Jonathan Quick is a pretty formidable lot.
— Taylor Hall, Oilers
He was just coming into his own when his season ended with a high ankle sprain suffered during a fight with the Blue Jackets’ Derek Dorsett. Incredible natural talent.
— Buffalo Sabres
Their goalie is Ryan Miller. Their top three defencemen are Robyn Regehr, Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff. What more proof do you need?
ON THE HOTSEAT
— Bruce Boudreau, Capitals
Consistent playoff shortcomings have not gone over well with owner Ted Leonsis.
— Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers
GM Paul Holmgren gutted his team in order to fit the former Coyotes goalie under the salary cap. In a city that once booed Santa Claus, Bryzgalov had better perform or the locals might chase him back to the desert.
— Roberto Luongo, Canucks
His nickname on the left coast changed from “Bobby Lou” to “Bobby Loser” after his flop in the final. If he gets off to a bad start, watch out.
TOP NEWSMAKERS OF THE 2011-12 SEASON
Can we make one request of the NHLPA head? Please don’t wait until the last minute to get into serious CBA discussions, since the current deal runs out at the end of the season. You too, Mr. Bettman. On second thought, forget about it. It’s probably too much to ask.
The sport is poorer with each game that Crosby misses. Here’s hoping he’s back soon.
By the time you read this, another suspension may have been handed out. We’ll say this for Shanny: whether you agree with his decisions or not, he’s made it clear how high he has set the bar.
Is there a more polarizing figure in hockey? Has there ever been?
You don’t have to be a Jets fan to cheer for their successful return to the deserving community of Winnipeg. Ok, Mr. Bettman, can we turn our attention to Quebec City now?
ZIZE’S WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
The pick here to win the Cup. Hurry back Sid.
2. Washington Capitals
Is there a goalie controversy between Neuvirth and Vokoun?
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Tough opening-night loss to Stars.
4. San Jose Sharks
Addition of D Brett Burns shrewd move by GM Doug Wilson.
5. Los Angeles Kings
Mike Richards needed just one game with L.A. to prove he’s a stud.
6. Vancouver Canucks
A shaky start by Luongo might land him the tar-and-feather treatment,
7. Boston Bruins
Gotta show some love to the defending champs.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
A lot of pressure on Dwayne Roloson’s creaky 40-something knees.
9. Buffalo Sabres
D pair of Regehr, Myers, might be the beefiest in NHL history.
10. Detroit Red Wings
Rafalski’s retirement means Ian White must step up.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Bryzgalov signing certainly looked good after opening-night win over Boston.
12. New York Rangers
Tough overtime loss to Kings in their curtain-raiser in Europe.
13. Anaheim Ducks
Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry might be the best line in hockey.
14. Calgary Flames
Cap and age issues surround this team.
15. Montreal Canadiens
If Markov injury is long term, expect Habs to fall in rankings.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs
As Reimer goes, so go the Leafs.
17. Dallas Stars
Can they overcome the loss of Richards.
18. Winnipeg Jets
If their play is as intense as their fans, they’ll soar up these rankings.
19. Carolina Hurricanes
Will Cam Ward wear down again by the end of the season due to overwork?
20. Columbus Blue Jackets
Time for supporting cast to step up to help Nash-Carter duo.
21. St. Louis Blues
Building around former Avs Stewart, Shattenkirk.
22. Nashville Predators
How long can they keep losing players every summer and still stay competitive?
23. Phoenix Coyotes
Bryzgalov’s departure could be huge.
24. Minnesota Wild
Why can’t Dany Heatley stick with one team?
25. Florida Panthers
Shelled out tons of cash during the summer, but did they do it wisely?
26. Colorado Avalanche
Semyon Varlamov had BETTER be the answer.
27. Edmonton Oilers
Best cache of teenage talent in the league.
28. New York Islanders
DiPietro? Montoya? Nabokov? Pick a goalie, any goalie
29. New Jersey Devils
DeBoer a fine coach but this team lacks depth.
30. Ottawa Senators
Ranking based solely on inexperience. Huge upside down the road here.