This week in rinks around the NHL, pucks are dropping for the first time in months as the 2017-18 National Hockey League season gets underway. Last year the Pittsburgh Penguins held off the upstart Nashville Predators to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Will the Pens be able to achieve an elusive three-peat this season? Or will fast-skating, hard charging teams like the Predators or Maple Leafs knock them out and etch their name on the oldest trophy in professional sports?
As each team around the league breaks camp and plays their first real games this year, hope abounds. In October, every team can claim some chance of making the postseason tournament. Researchers at Unanimous AI convened a swarm of NHL fans this week to take a good look at the lay of the league heading into the start of the schedule. The swarm was asked to predict which teams had the best chance of making the playoffs in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
In the Eastern Conference, as the chart above shows, the swarm projects that the Pittsburgh Penguins will get a chance to three-peat. Although the swarm predicts that Washington will still be a tough team in the East as well, what’s interesting to the research team was the way the swarm moved the Maple Leafs up to within striking distance of those top two clubs. That came at the expense of teams such as the Rangers and Bruins, who the swarm predicts will struggle to get in. Meanwhile, the swarm’s predictions for the Western Conference showed that the group thinks that last year’s Cup Final was no fluke.
The swarm thinks the Preds will build off their appearance in the Finals and be the team to beat in the West. Some of the usual suspects also factor in, with Chicago and Anaheim featured prominently. Interestingly the swarm seems to think that Edmonton and Calgary – both young teams that are expected to be strong contenders – may encounter tougher sledding this season as the rest of the league adjusts to their up-tempo play style.
Finally, we couldn’t do a pre-season predictions swarm without asking our group to pick a Stanley Cup champion. As you can see in the replays above, the swarm expects Pittsburgh and Nashville to meet in a rematch next May. And which team gets to spend the summer dragging the Cup around? The NHL Swarm believes in the three-peat.