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  • 22 May
    导出博客文章This story appears in ESPN The Magazines October 17 Great Debates Issue.
    Subscribe today!LOOKING FOR A Stanley Cup winner? Start with the regular season.
    For that we turn to Hockey Prospectus VUKOTA, a system that uses past
    performance to project a teams goal differential. Barry Melrose and I faced off
    on the predictions -- and give our Cup picks.EASTERN CONFERENCEAtlantic
    DivisionMATTHEW COLLER:?The Lightning would have seen a dip in their ranking if
    they had lost superstar Steven Stamkos; instead they bring back all the key
    players on a roster that was one win from the Stanley Cup finals. This is their
    time to finally break through. The Panthers should also improve their possession
    statistics and take some pressure off 2014 No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad. But VUKOTA
    throws one big curveball in the Atlantic: Ottawa. Most see the Senators at the
    back of the field, but the numbers hint that they could be a breakout team with
    the addition of center Derick Brassard and key young players such as Curtis
    Lazar and Cody Ceci starting to come into their prime.BARRY MELROSE:?I just
    think Tampa Bay is great. If Steven Stamkos stays healthy, youve also got Victor
    Hedman and Anton Stralman -- and the defense is great. The Lightning will score
    goals. And theyve got two strong goaltenders. This is the year theyll win
    it.Metropolitan DivisionMATTHEW COLLER: Alex Ovechkin still wants to raise the
    Cup, and Sidney Crosby just won his second title. The consensus on Columbus is
    that itll be at the bottom of the league, but the projections tell another
    story. If the Jackets get the Vezina Trophy version of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky,
    we could see them in the mix for a playoff spot. The Devils got much-deserved
    praise for making the best trade of the offseason -- dealing young defenseman
    Adam Larsson to the Oilers for LW Taylor Hall, the 2010 No.?1. But they didnt
    plug the hole left on D or improve the rest of the roster enough to seriously
    contend.BARRY MELROSE: Washington has a high talent level. In the regular
    season, the Caps have always been very, very strong. I dont see any reason for
    them to fall off. Their star players are still at that age where theyre in their
    prime.WESTERN CONFERENCECentral DivisionMATTHEW COLLER:?Winnipeg has a great
    chance to go from last in the Central to one of the best teams in the league.
    Not only will the goaltending be improved with Connor Hellebuyck getting a a
    chance to step up, but the Jets also have an outstanding group of rising players
    and prospects wholl make an impact, including No.?2 pick Patrik Laine, a right
    winger. Its possible the Predators would have been No. 1 with better
    goaltending. The projections leave little doubt: The Central is the most
    competitive division in the league, with only three points separating top from
    bottom.BARRY MELROSE: I like Winnipeg. Ive been raving about the Jets players.
    Mark Scheifele is awesome; this Patrik Laine kid is fantastic. Youve got Blake
    Wheeler. The defense is solid with Dustin Byfuglien. Connor Hellebuyck looks
    like hes a pretty good goaltender.Pacific DivisionMATTHEW COLLER:?The Sharks are
    still the best team, barring a major drop-off from veterans like Joe Pavelski
    and Joe Thornton. After them, its a toss-up. Anaheim looks vulnerable due to a
    combination of aging stars and questionable forward depth. Edmonton is a team on
    the rise but maybe a season away, as Connor McDavid could become the best player
    in the league. A coaching change should help Calgary maximize its young skill
    players talents. The Coyotes probably arent ready to run with the best teams in
    the division, but the numbers hint that they could be in the mix. As for
    Vancouver? The Canucks are in desperate need of a rebuild.BARRY MELROSE: Id put
    the Ducks ahead of Calgary. Corey Perry is fantastic. Sami Vatanen has been very
    good. Ryan Kesler is still a pretty good player. Are they getting older? Yeah.
    But I still think they are one of the top three teams in that
    division.*Projected wild card berth
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    ITHACA, N.Y. -- Sean OBrien scored 18 points and Colgate held on to beat Cornell
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