At the start of each NHL season, I try to find value in forecasted point totals.
ST. LOUIS BLUES OVER 57.5 POINTS - The Blues put up 109 points last season, with new head coach Ken Hitchcock finding a defensive conscience, as he is wont to do, so there's little reason to expect a drop-off to the point of a 98-point pace this season. If their rookie forwards, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, are legit, the Blues could challenge for the Presidents' Trophy.
BOSTON BRUINS OVER 57.5 POINTS - There's no Cup hangover this year and the Bruins have a goaltender, Tuukka Rask, that is more than capable of replacing Tim Thomas. With a lot of continuity on the roster otherwise, the Bruins should be capable of 60-plus points.
NEW YORK RANGERS OVER 60.5 POINTS - One of the favourites for the Cup this year following their off-season acquisition of Rick Nash and I'm buying in because the Blueshirts now have an offence that should sufficiently complement their strong defence and goaltending.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS OVER 61.5 POINTS - The top-ranked team in my preseason Power Rankings, the Penguins might have a question mark in goal, considering Marc-Andre Fleury's play in last year's playoffs, but the addition of Tomas Vokoun should help and, as long as Sidney Crosby stays upright, the Penguins will have a fearsome attack.
COLORADO AVALANCHE UNDER 52.5 POINTS - This reflects doubt over the status of restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly, the excellent two-way centre who plays tough minutes and is effective both offensively and defensively. If the Avs can't get him signed to a new deal, and he stays in the KHL, that's reason enough to think that the Avalanche won't be in the Western Conference playoff mix.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS UNDER 47.5 POINTS - It's an uphill fight for the Blue Jackets, who could exceed expectations simply with strong goaltending but, with Rick Nash moving on, their offence will require projection.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS OVER 53.5 POINTS - Even with the loss of Ryan Suter, the Predators can be a playoff contender. They've proven that they are capable of exceeding the sum of their parts and they still have enough of the pieces in place to keep on doing what they've been doing.
EDMONTON OILERS UNDER 53.5 POINTS - Putting the Oilers 16th in the preseason Power Rankings, I obviously think that they could compete for a playoff spot, but it's also fair to consider that improving from a 74-point season to a 92-point (pace) season is a sizeable jump. It could happen, if everything breaks right and the young talent all meshes together, but mix in a couple key injuries or goaltending problems and suddenly it will be tough to reach those expectations.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS OVER 58.5 POINTS - There's reason to have doubts about the Canucks, particularly considering the status of their second line with Ryan Kesler and David Booth out of the lineup, but they have the goaltending and defence to remain top contenders and the Sedins can still anchor the offence; at least enough to go for a 100-point pace, a total they have reached in each of the last four seasons.
* lines courtesy of www.bodog.net