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Our 2014-15 NHL Hockey Season Preview

It's time to drop the puck on another NHL hockey season! Last year, the Los Angeles Kings took home their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, defeating the New York Rangers in the Finals. Arguably, the real Cup final was when the Kings got by the Chicago Blackhawks in 7 games in the Western Conference Finals.

We take a look at the teams expected to take a serious run at winning the Stanley Cup this year, as well as some darkhorse teams that we believe can make big improvements this season, as well as perhaps do some damage in the playoffs.

TOP STANLEY CUP CONTENDERS

Chicago Blackhawks:
with two recent Cups on their resume and the elite leadership of players such as Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks are an obvious Stanley Cup favorite. However, the team is up against the NHL salary cap and with big new contract kicking in next year for Kane and Toews, the Chicago window to win another Cup may be this season.

Los Angeles Kings:
could they repeat as NHL Champions again this season? Most certainly. It's difficult to win repeat titles in today's NHL but the LA Kings have the talent, depth and goaltending to do it. The Kings return almost their entire starting lineup from last season, and have added top rookie Pearson to the roster. The Western Conference is much deeper, more grinding to survive in the playoffs but the Kings have shown they can do it.

Boston Bruins:
the Bruins also have roster depth, and playoff and Cup experience having recently hoisting the trophy themselves. They finished last year with the most points in the Eastern Conference and they will challenge to do that again this season, making them a clear Cup contender. Hard to find any weaknesses on the Boston Bruins, led by Tuukka Rask in goal and 4 lines in front of him that can score. The B's are once again a legit Cup contender.

St. Louis Blues:
over the past 3 seasons, the Blues have shown themselves to be one of the most talented teams, led by maybe the league's top defensive corps top to bottom. They are likely to once again rack up a lot of regular season points and perhaps challenge the Blackhawks for the top spot in their division. However, the past 3 seasons have also seen the St. Louis Blues bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Has this experience and the addition of top forward Stastny enough to put them over the top this year? The talent is there - time to prove it in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Maybe their nice new 2014 jerseys will help?

Anaheim Ducks:
with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf both finishing near the top of the NHL scoring race last season, these linemates will again leads the Anaheim Ducks to a lot of points, a playoff spot and perhaps Cup success. They boast a deep roster across the board - are they now ready to make that next leap?

Pittsburgh Penguins:
another recent Stanley Cup Champion that has the talent to again challenge to win it. Any team with Sidney Crosby and Malkin on it is pretty much a Cup contender based on that alone. However, recent seasons have seen the Pens eliminated early due to poor goaltending and lack of depth. The Penguins have also lost some key players from last year to free agency. Still, the league's best player Crosby will keep the Pittsburgh Penguins as a contender for the Cup, and another likely Metro Division title.

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DARKHORSE STANLEY CUP CONTENDERS

Tampa Bay Lightning:
led by hockey's top sniper and best goal scorer Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a nice leap to the playoffs last year and are maybe poised to make a further leap this season. Ben Bishop was solid in net last year and can be expected to the same this year, and the Lightning will also add top rookie of the year candidate Jonathan Drouin to the 2014/15 roster. Excellent GM Steve Yzerman is building a winner in Florida, the Bolts could make a nice leap to serious Stanley Cup contender this season.

Dallas Stars:
here's a real sleeper for the 2015 Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars made great leaps last season into the playoffs, led by top point getters Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. In the offseason, the Stars added Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza to build a very potent offence. The question for the Stars will be can they keep enough pucks out of their own net? It's also a lot harder to get out of the very deep and talented Western Conference playoffs but maybe this team could give it a try next spring.

New York Islanders:
want a realllllly deep darkhorse contender? Then look no further than the New York Islanders. A young team led by superstar John Tavares, the Isles are playing their final season in Nassau Coliseum before moving to Brooklyn next year and they might be poised for a big upward movement in the standings. The team believes it has addressed its long time goalie problems with Halak, and has bolstered the defence core with recent trades. Lots of young talent that if it all blooms together, the New York Islanders could have a memorable final year on Long Island. Nothing would make long suffering Isles fans happier.

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