In the Avalanche’s second outing of the year, goaltending Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves to shut-out the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

I’ve been in the camp of people who didn’t expect Semyon Varlamov to end up being remotely worth what the Avalanche gave away to get him during the off-season. I thought the Avs were signing themselves up for a second consecutive season of cellar-dwelling hockey.

But after today’s game, a thought hit me: what if he actually develops into a premiere NHL goaltender? The Avs have enough offensive talent on that roster that their team could actually be decent.

Then I checked another score.

Back from last year’s tumultuous bout with invisibility.

The New Jersey Devils got a win today courtesy a pair of goals from their star Zach Parise (who was absent all of last year) and one from another big name in Ilya Kovalchuk (who was absent all of last year).

If Brodeur can have one more quality season, Zajac comes back and helps, Tedenby develops…a thought hit me: maybe that team could actually be decent.

A sample size of two games teaches us next to nothing, but honestly, there have been times since October 6th where I’ve thought “hey, the Wild could be good this year,” and “hey, the Leafs could be good this year,” and “hey, the Isles could be good this year.”

There’s nary an NHL team I’d write off after a couple games of the season.

I don’t remember seeing parity like this in any league ever before. Has the NHL ever been close to this competitive from top to bottom before? It certainly wasn’t when I grew up.

So, a contest:

Readers of Backhand Shelf have until Wednesday night at midnight (EST) to list in the comment section the teams who DIDN’T make playoffs last year that WILL make it this year. One entry per person, obviously.

Full disclosure: I also work in social media for Easton, so I should be able to dig up some pretty slick prizes for our winners. If it’s just one person who nails it, I promise a fancy one-piece stick. It’s like winning the lottery – the more winners, the thinner the prize, so don’t be afraid to get adventurous.

As you’ve seen from my previous prediction posts, I have three teams: St. Louis (nice), Florida (sure), and Winnipeg (wait, what?). You can pick as many or as few teams as you like.

Best of luck to all of you!

Comments (85)

  1. New Jersey Devils
    St. Louis Blues

    That’s it.

  2. Florida, New Jersey, Minnesota — and the bubble race in both conferences will be even tighter this year. Think the West will come down to tiebreakers.

  3. In the East:
    New Jersey Devils

    In the West:
    Minnesota Wild
    St. Louis Blues

  4. Teams that will make it
    West:
    St. Louis
    Columbus

    East:
    New Jersey

    Out would be:
    Coyotes
    Rangers
    Anaheim

  5. Toronto Maple Leafs
    St. Louis Blues

  6. Carolina
    Colorado
    Calgary

  7. New Jersey Devils

    And the New York Islanders sneak in at the 8 seed over the Rangers. (I may be a little biased)

    Side note: Not cool leaving Butchie out of the wedding festivities ;)

  8. Toronto Maple Leafs
    Carolina Hurricanes
    St. Louis Blues

  9. Carolina – Thanks Jeff Skinner
    Columbus – Thanks Jeff Carter

    At the expense of Montreal and Phoenix. Which is okay, because it means more Paul Bissonette on TSN guest panels.

  10. St Louis Blues are in easily.

    Devils with Zpar as Captain get’s it done with Kchoke

    Hurricanes, because the East is weak..

  11. Carolina
    New Jersey
    St. Louis

  12. St. Lou & New Jerz

    **FYI, I need a new helmet and wouldn’t be opposed to trying an Easton out ;-)

  13. Islanders, St. Louis. Boom.

  14. I’ll go with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the East and the Edmonton Oilers in the West.

  15. Blues, Devils and Panthers

  16. Toronto Maple Leafs
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    St. Louis Blues

  17. Colorado Avalanche
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    New Jersey Devils
    Carolina Hurricanes

  18. the toronto maple leafs will make the playoffs and colorado avalanche will also make it and that, i think is it………GR

  19. Toronto and Minnesota

  20. East: New Jersey Devils

    West: St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild

  21. NY Rangers make it. Torts is serious about it this year, more so then last few. Sending Avery down helps show that the focus is going to be playing good smart hockey and winning. Hank keeps them in every game and allows the rest of the boys the ability to focus on putting the puck in the other net. The fans are tired of the large bloated payroll which ends, lately, with pictures of what golf course their players are on at the start of the post-season.

  22. I’ll pick New Jersey, St. Louis and Columbus.

  23. New Jersey. I expect my easton stealth RS, as everyone else is picking more than one team.

    Also, it’s “Tedenby.” Who was on the 4th line today. Granted, he had plenty of jump, which is good. Josefson’s development may be more important with the Zajac injury and the need for a center who can pass the puck to Kovy. And, after the 2nd game, my vote for Larsson for Calder is sealed and mailed.

    If, and this is a big if, DeBoer can hold the room better than MacLean last year, we’ll make the playoffs with ease. NJ has the reputation of being a hard team to coach, and we’ll see if DeBoer can buck that reputation pretty soon here. The team’s response to the dismal game against Philly is a good sign.

    • I can’t read. As it turns out, you can pick more than 1 team, just no more than 1 entry per person. In that case, I’m going to go with the Stars out west.

  24. I’ll go with :
    Blues, Avalanche, Rangers

  25. East
    ——-
    none

    West
    ——-
    St. Louis

  26. I’ll take New Jersey, St. Louis, and the Islanders.

  27. Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes
    In place of Phoenix Coyotes and Montreal Canadians

  28. I’ll say Winnipeg, Colorado, and Minnesota.
    Niiiiiiceeee.

  29. Man! Pretty minimal representation of my Florida pick…. but nice work otherwise.

    MikeK, if you win solo, the RS isn’t out of the question!

  30. st.louis. thats it

  31. Blues, Wild, Islanders, Leafs

    Mark Streit should get some love this year. The guy is excellent.

    Canucks win it all, and burn the city anyways.

  32. East-Devils

    West-Wild

    I prefer bauer sticks but hey, I’d settle for a stealth

    • Justin-why don’t you give one good prize to only the first correct response?

      • Well damn, that’s a pretty nice idea. Tell you what – I’ll give a great first prize (one-piece stick) to the first winner, and everyone else can still get something, just lesser.

  33. Calgary and Toronto

  34. Winnipeg and New Jersey

  35. Carolina and……. Edmonton!

  36. Maple Leafs & Devils.
    Blues & Oilers.

  37. Oh, and Long Island as well!

  38. Oilers in the west

  39. Islanders, Devils, Blues

  40. East

    Panthers
    Devils

    West

    Wild
    Stars

  41. New Jersey, Carolina, Columbus and Colorado.

  42. Eastern Conference:
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    New Jersey Devils

    Western Conference:
    Dallas Stars
    St. Louis Blues

  43. My picks are New Jersey and Minnesota

  44. New Jersey
    St. Louis

  45. Florida
    St. Louis
    Toronto

  46. I’ll go with Toronto and Carolina and Minnesota will make it in this year

  47. Toronto Maple Leafs….

  48. New Jersey
    Toronto
    Dallas
    Edmonton
    Carolina

  49. Colorado
    St. Louis
    New Jersey

  50. Isles, St. Louis and Edmonton

  51. New Jersey
    Toronto
    Calgary

    That’s it.

  52. Toronto Maple Leafs

  53. St. Louis
    Maple Leafs

  54. Isles and Jersey in the East
    I’m thinking Dallas, Minni and STL in the west. I’m gonna regret saying stl because they find a new way to shit the bed every year, but I like what Berglund and a healthy Oshie bring to that squad, so for now, I’m in for stl.

  55. East: Devils

    West: Flames

  56. Wild, Blues, Devils

  57. Toronto, Florida and Jersey in the east.
    Calgary in the west.

  58. New Jersey,
    Carolina
    Calgary

  59. East: Devils
    West: Blue Jackets

  60. St. Louis Blues

    Florida Panthers
    Toronto Maple leafs

  61. Islanders in the East, Habs out. Nobody in the west

  62. New Jersey, Toronto and St. Louis.

  63. East team – Jersey

    West – St Louis and Minnesota

  64. West:
    Dallas
    St. Louis

    East:
    New Jersey

  65. NY Rangers
    Carolina
    Columbus

  66. East: NJ and Toronto

    West: St Louis and Minnasota

  67. Islanders in. Colorado in. Hurricanes In.

  68. In: Devils, Blues
    Out: Canadiens, Coyotes

  69. Winnipeg
    NJ
    Edmonton

  70. No change. Same teams to make it last year make it this year.

  71. St. Louis
    Carolina
    I think the Devs might make it too but I also think it depends on Marty’s health and I’m not optimistic, so I’ll omit them from this list (just wanted to explain my reasoning).

  72. East: Toronto, NJ

    West: Minnesota, St. Louis

  73. St. Louis, New Jersey, New York Islanders

  74. EAST- NYI and NYR “IN”, WEST- St. Louis and Minny in. Thats 4 teams, the more the bigger coconuts JB. LOL

    Some peeps are picking teams who made it last yr, that calls for AUTO DISQUALIFICATION, it thats the rule i can guarantee 10 LOL.

  75. Islanders(pleasepleaseplease) and Devils in the East
    Edmonton in the West if only for the pure excitement I hate to admit their roster will bring with that kind of run.

  76. Carolina and St. Louis.

  77. Edmonton, new jersey, & carolina

  78. I’m way more than a little biased here, but I think the Devils will make the playoffs this year. I saw monday’s game vs. Carolina, and I was shocked. Could this be the same team that started 0-8 last year? They out skated and overall out performed the hapless Hurricanes. if this is the way they play the rest of the year, their goal of the Stanley Cup really could be in view.

  79. Toronto
    New Jersey
    St Louis

  80. New Jersey, Toronto, St. Louis, Minnesota.

  81. Devils, Blues, Hurricanes

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