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THN.com Blog: Real deal or early-season posers?

Marian Gaborik has six goals and 10 points in seven games this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Marian Gaborik has six goals and 10 points in seven games this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Like that eighth beer on a night out on the town, pre-season predictions seem like a great idea at the time, but in the light of day the choice(s) becomes fraught with regret over the absence of logic.

Of course, both endeavors are done for entertainment value alone, but that doesn’t stop the “what was I thinking?!?” reflections.

A number of the teams the THN collective prognosticated to badly miss the playoffs are off to hot starts, but which can sustain early momentum and which are destined to eventually drop off?

NEW YORK RANGERS
THN Prediction: 13th in Eastern Conference
I spoke to Mark Messier a couple weeks back and ‘The Moose’ had this to say of our 13th-place pick: “I would find it hard to pick a team with a goalie like (Henrik) Lundqvist 12th or 13th.”

It’s a damn good point.

The super-Swede netminder, thrice a finalist for the Vezina, has been excellent this season, posting a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in six outings. But it hasn’t been ‘Hank’ alone propelling the Blueshirts to a 6-1-0 start; Marian Gaborik is putting up MVP numbers, Chris Drury and Wade Redden look reborn, and youngsters Artem Anisimov, Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto have injected some much-needed enthusiasm into the Blueshirts lineup.

On second thought: A strong division will make the row tough to hoe, but as long as Gaborik avoids a mid-body meltdown, the Broadway Boys will easily make the playoffs.

COLORADO AVALANCHE
THN Prediction: 14th in Western Conference
Avs fans are finding out what people in south Florida have known for a couple of years: Craig Anderson is a helluva goalie. And he’s the main reason for the Avs’ 4-1-1 record.

Colorado already has a pair of statement wins this campaign, topping last season’s conference champs San Jose and Boston.

Though he’s yet to find the net for his first NHL marker, 18-year-old rookie Matt Duchene has highly impressed and looks good to one day assume Joe Sakic’s face-of-the-franchise role. First-year bench boss Joe Sacco is an early favorite for the Jack Adams Award.

On second thought: Not even a Vezina-like run from Anderson will keep the Avalanche in the hunt for the long haul. This team simply doesn’t have the depth up front (they’re too top-heavy) and there are question marks galore in the ‘D’ corps. The future will look even brighter in Denver after another high lottery pick is added to the fold.

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LOS ANGELES KINGS
THN Predictions: 12th in Western Conference
For each of the past three seasons, it’s been a story of “just one more season” for the young Kings, who could never get all their fresh-faced talent to come together.

Early on, at least, the shine remains on L.A., with a 4-2-0 record, good enough for top spot in the Pacific. Ryan Smyth was a masterful pickup by GM Dean Lombardi and Anze Kopitar doesn’t look like a man who’s ready to relax after signing a seven-year extension last season.

But the Kings’ top dog of the future may be there best player already; Drew Doughty is controlling games from the back end, proving he was curiously under-voted for last year’s Calder.

On second thought: Other than the Sharks, the Kings’ wins have come against teams that hardly make up a Murderers’ Row (Wild, Blues and Islanders). Though they sport the league’s best collection of young talent, I’m still not sold they’re ready to crack the West’s ultra-competitive Elite Eight. Just one more season.

SLOW DOWN
With all the talk lately of the NHL’s television product, here’s a simple, but important improvement the league can institute right away: Give the broadcaster ample time to show a replay of the previous shootout attempt before allowing the next shooter to go.

Far too often a replay is cut short because the next skater has jumped out of the blocks, with the officials’ permission.

The shootout is often the most exciting aspect of a game, what’s the hurry to get it finished? Let viewers savor the moment.

Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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