As April draws closer, Stanley Cup playoff fever gets in the air, and 16 teams will compete to hoist hockey's ultimate prize. The winner will be the toast of the league for the summer and be honored in parades and various hometown celebrations.
But 15 other teams will be left to wonder what could've been. When that happens, it's only natural to look for someone or something to blame.
Here is who or what each current playoff team will put in an unfortunate spotlight if it ends up on the losing side of the postseason.
The Rangers are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference and hold the league's best overall record. However, they are not without flaws, and their power play could end up hurting them this postseason.
Their man advantage is currently 29th in the league with a 14.2 percent success rate. In last year's postseason, they were 15th at just five percent and one power-play goal scored.
Ryan Callahan leads New York with 11 power-play goals this season, but the team will have to find ways to convert when it has an extra player to avoid another first-round exit.
Ference has been inconsistent in the playoffs throughout his career. After putting up one point and a minus-nine in 13 games during the 2010 playoffs, he had 10 points and a plus-10 rating last season as the Bruins broke a 39-year Stanley Cup drought.
He saw more ice time in last year's playoffs (20:36) over the regular season (17:58).
Although Ference can be a physical defenseman capable of putting up 20 points in the regular season, he doesn't match that consistency in the postseason. If the Bruins fail to repeat as champions, his production could be a reason why.
The Panthers look to be going back to the postseason for the first time since 2000. However, their penalty kill could keep them from making a deep playoff run.
Last season, when the Panthers did not make the playoffs, their penalty kill was sixth in the league at 84.6 percent. But this season, it is 25th at 79.4 percent even though Florida is in third in the Eastern Conference thanks to leading the Southeast Division.
Four different players have scored short-handed goals for Florida, but it won't be enough when only two other playoff teams (the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks) have worse penalty kills.
Pittsburgh has been one of the most dangerous teams all season, and Evgeni Malkin is a huge reason for that. He is having a comeback season after dealing with injuries for much of 2010 and 2011, as he is first in the NHL with 99 points and second with 46 goals.
He has a history of producing in the playoffs, putting up 73 points in 62 playoff games. In 2009, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy after putting up 36 points in 24 games as the Pens won their third Stanley Cup.
However, all scorers go through slumps, and if Malkin hits a wall in the playoffs, the Penguins will look to him as part of the problem.
The Flyers defense has had question marks ever since Chris Pronger was shut down for the season due to a concussion. However, when the playoffs come, Ilya Bryzgalov will be the one Flyer everyone will be watching.
Bryzgalov has struggled for much of his first season in Philadelphia, but he has picked up his game as of late. He holds a 32-15-7 record with a .910 save percentage and 2.46 GAA. He is seventh in the NHL in wins and fourth with six shutouts.
But Bryzgalov has never won a playoff series. In the postseason, he is 12-13 with a .917 save percentage and 2.55 GAA. Last season, while with the Phoenix Coyotes, he went 0-4 with a .879 save percentage and 4.36 GAA.
If Bryzgalov can get past his playoff troubles, he will earn a good place among the Flyers faithful. However, if he falters again, most of the blame will be thrown his way.
Brodeur has not won a playoff series since 2007, when the Devils went to the Eastern Conference semifinals. As a result, he has not posted a winning record in the postseason since 2006, when he went 5-4 with a .923 save percentage and 2.25 GAA.
In 2010, the last time the Devils were in the postseason, he was 1-4 with a subpar .881 save percentage and 3.01 GAA.
Brodeur is in the last year of his contract and will need a big performance in the playoffs before he either retires or signs a new deal. Can he further cement his legacy in New Jersey, or will he go out on a low note?
Kuba will be under pressure to perform in the playoffs this season. He has not played close to a full season since playing 71 games in 2008-09, keeping him from hitting the 30-point mark until this year.
As a result of his injuries, he has not yet had the chance to play in the playoffs with Ottawa. In 24 playoff games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild, he has 13 points. In 2007, he had five points in six games as Tampa Bay lost in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Kuba is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and how he does in the postseason could determine if Ottawa wants him back.
The Sabres are currently in a battle with the Washington Capitals for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Should they hold on to that spot, they will have to go far to keep their coach, Lindy Ruff, off the hot seat.
Ruff has coached the Sabres since 1997-98, making him the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. He has taken Buffalo to the playoffs 13 times, putting it in the conference finals three times (1998, 2006 and 2007) and the Stanley Cup Final once (1999). However, the Sabres have been eliminated in the conference quarterfinals in the last two years.
The current core of Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller has played together for several years. But the success has yet to come.
Buffalo has some highly-talented players, but if this core does not win a Cup, Ruff will be to blame. Maybe it's time for a change in upstate New York.
Halak got the league to take notice of him during the 2010 playoffs while he was with the Montreal Canadiens. As the Habs made a Cinderella run to the Eastern Conference finals, Halak went 9-9 and posted a 2.55 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
Despite this, though, he was traded to St. Louis in the offseason.
Halak has continued to perform well with the Blues. He was slow out of the gate this season, but he has come around to put up a 25-11-6 record with six shutouts (fourth in the NHL). He is sixth in the league with a .927 save percentage and second with a 1.90 GAA.
As the Blues look to make their mark in the playoffs, Halak will need to channel some of that magic from 2010. If he gets the playing time and can't step up to the plate, he will be one to blame, as Blues fans know he is capable of handling the postseason heat.
Luongo was a big scapegoat when the Canucks lost in last year's Stanley Cup Final. If they come up short again, he will be to blame again, as he has shown inconsistency throughout Vancouver's recent playoff runs.
In 2011, he was pulled twice in the Final against the Boston Bruins and also faltered in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks. He finished the postseason with a 15-10 record with a .914 save percentage and 2.56 GAA.
Before last season, the Canucks had not gotten past the second round with Luongo in goal. He will be expected to take his experience from last year's trip to the Final and show that he can win with everything on the line.
The Stars are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. However, their power play could hold them back from making an impact in the Western Conference.
In 2008, their man advantage was 13th in the regular season with an 18 percent success rate, and that increased to 20 percent in the playoffs (ranked eighth).
Last season, when Dallas did not qualify for the postseason, its power play was 14th at 18 percent. But this season, it has fallen off to 14.4 percent, which is 29th in the NHL. This gives the Stars the worst power play among playoff teams.
It's hard to find any flaws with the Red Wings, who have made the playoffs for the 21st straight year. But we have to choose something, so let's go with their special teams units, which are both in the bottom half of the NHL.
Last season, the power play was ranked fifth with a 22.3 percent success rate. In the playoffs, it was 10th out of 16 teams, working at 18.6 percent. Their penalty kill was 17th at 82.3 percent, and in the postseason that dropped to 76.1 percent. However, their ranking improved to 13th.
To date this year, their power play is 20th at 16.5 percent, and the penalty kill is 22nd at 80.5 percent.
The Wings' inconsistency in special teams success could bring down an otherwise strong squad in the postseason. They will have to capitalize on goaltending from Jimmy Howard and even-strength play to make it far.
One of Nashville's newest players could be a scapegoat if the Predators do not put things together for a deep playoff run.
Gaustad, who was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, has never performed in the postseason. In 2006, when the Sabres were in the Eastern Conference finals, he had just four points in 18 games.
Last year, he had two points and a minus-six in seven games. Seeing as Gaustad had 31 points in the regular season, this was quite a drop-off.
He has four points in nine games since coming to Nashville, and he has the chance at a fresh playoff start as the Predators are contenders once again.
The Blackhawks' power play has dropped off significantly from 2010-11, when it was fourth in the NHL with a 23.1 percent success rate. It was also in the top half of postseason teams, ranking eighth at 20 percent.
But this season, the unit is 25th in the NHL with a 15.3 percent success rate. The Hawks have scored 39 power-play goals, down from 64 last year.
Marian Hossa leads Chicago with nine power-play goals, but the Hawks will have to find some success on the power play if they want to improve on last year's Western Conference quarterfinals exit.
The Kings are in seventh in the Western Conference after spending much of the season bouncing in and out of the playoff picture. They are looking to get to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2001 and have lost in the quarterfinals the last two years.
If the Kings do not accomplish this, their core of veteran players will be to blame.
Los Angeles boasts five players (four who will definitely play in the playoffs) who have been in the Cup Final or won the trophy. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were finalists with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, while Justin Williams won the prize with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. Rob Scuderi won in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he was also on the Penguins team that lost to the Red Wings in the 2008 Final.
If these players help the younger guys contribute, the Kings will be poised for success. But if they don't, they will be blamed for not coming up big even though they have in the past.
McLellan is the second coach on this list whose job could be in trouble if his team does not perform in the postseason.
He has been the Sharks coach since the 2008-09 season and won three straight Pacific Division titles, as well as one Presidents' Trophy. In his first year as coach, the Sharks went 53-18-11 for 117 points. This season, they are currently eighth in the West with a record of 39-28-10 for 88 points.
Despite the regular-season success, though, the Sharks have never stepped up in the postseason. They lost in the first round in 2009 and have come up short of the Final for the last two years.
If San Jose does not get over the hump this year, McLellan might be packing his office in the summer, and maybe sooner if it loses the last spot between the time of this writing and the end of the regular season.