Sports Illustrated’s NHL Preview predicts Penguins over Blackhawks in Stanley Cup Finals; Tim Thomas appears on Northeast regional cover

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas appears on a regional cover of this week’s Oct. 10, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated — on newsstands tomorrow — that will be available in New England and Canada. It marks the Bruins’ 12th cover but their first since May 9, 1977 , when Gerry Cheevers and Brad Park appeared on it.

NHL PREVIEW: PENGUINS OVER BLACKHAWKS IN STANLEY CUP FINALS

The timetable of Sidney Crosby’s return is still up in the air, but Pittsburgh’s proven ability to win in a variety of ways — with either their offense or their defense — is a big reason why SI predicts the Penguins to defeat the Blackhawks in this year’s Stanley Cup finals. Predictions for the regular season are as follows (page 68).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Pittsburgh Penguins* 9. Carolina Hurricanes 1. Chicago Blackhawks* 9. Columbus Blue Jackets
2. Philadelphia Flyers 10. New Jersey Devils 2. Vancouver Canucks* 10. Minnesota Wild
3. Washington Capitals* 11. Toronto Maple Leafs 3. San Jose Sharks* 11. Colorado Avalanche
4. Boston Bruins* 12. New York Islanders 4. Los Angeles Kings 12. Calgary Flames
5. Tampa Bay Lightning 13. Florida Panthers 5. Detroit Red Wings 13. Phoenix Coyotes
6. Montreal Canadiens 14. Ottawa Senators 6. Nashville Predators 14. Edmonton Oilers
7. Buffalo Sabres 15. Winnipeg Jets 7. St. Louis Blues 15. Dallas Stars
8. New York Rangers 8. Anaheim Ducks

*Division winner; top eight teams in each conference make playoffs

On the Tablets: Fans can share their predictions for the 2011-12 NHL season on Twitter with the hashtag #SINHLPreview.

NHL PREVIEW: IT’S A WHOLE NEW GAME – MICHAEL FARBER

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s new senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, tells senior writer Michael Farber: “All we’re doing about concussions and making the game safer was well underway before Sidney got hurt.” Yet the lingering aftereffects of the head injury to the league’s most important player certainly sped up the process. Here’s what two of Crosby’s peers had to say (page 60).

  • Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: “Maybe you can’t yet compare him to Tiger Woods, but what’s our game without its best player? When he’s dealing with a concussion, it definitely centers a lot more of attention on an issue we don’t want in the game.”
  • Rangers center Brad Richards: “The game needs him back for sure. What he was doing before Christmas was unbelievable. The way game planning and video and coaching are now, that was the best hockey I’d seen anyone play.”

Says Crosby: “I’m talking about taking out maybe 50 or 75 hits a year that could really save some guys’ careers and maybe the way they live — without changing the game. Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have zero tolerance for head hits. Kids playing hockey today are not even going to know what hockey was like when there were head hits. This is going to change in the NHL at some point. I just think it needs to be sooner rather than later.”


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