4 NHL Teams That Are in a Perfect Position Heading Toward the Playoffs
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With less than a week to go in the 2011-12 NHL regular season, the playoff picture is starting to clear up and four teams are in perfect position entering the playoffs.
While both conferences may have multiple contenders, each has two teams that rise above the rest of the competition.
In the Eastern Conference, the top-seeded New York Rangers and the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins are destined to meet in the conference finals.
If Sunday was any indication of what an NHL version of the New York-Boston rivalry could become, then NHL fans are in for a treat.
Out west, the Vancouver Canucks have managed to rebound from last year’s loss to the Bruins to reclaim their spot on top of the Western Conference. Joining them as the other favorite in the west are the steady Detroit Red Wings.
Two teams loaded with European talent, lead by North American goaltending will be left to fight for a chance at the cup.
New York Rangers Emerge as the Class of the Eastern Conference
John Tortorella has turned the a Rangers into Stanley Cup contenders
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Since becoming the head coach in the middle of the 2008-09 season, John Tortorella has turned the Rangers into a hard-nosed hockey team that is built for the playoffs.
Driven by the excellent goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist and 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik, the Rangers have all but locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
In the offseason, the Rangers signed veteran Brad Richards, reuniting him with Tortorella and transforming the Rangers from contenders last season to the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
It's Tortorella’s fourth season as head coach with the Blueshirts. In his fourth season as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, they won it all.
If history repeats itself, this could be the year the Rangers win the Stanley Cup.
With Another Northeast Division Title the Bruins Are in Position to Repeat
Tim Thomas has regained form just in time for the playoffs.
After fighting off the Stanley Cup hangover in October, the Boston Bruins caught fire and went undefeated in November to turn things around.
With the continued development of Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, the Bruins' offense has scored the second most goals in the NHL.
In addition to their improved offense, the Bruins have maintained their defensive mindset and tenacious attitude that won them the cup last year.
While he may not be having the Vezina-type season from last year, Tim Thomas has managed to fight through his struggles and regain his form.
With the playoffs looming, Thomas and the rest of the Bruins are peaking at the perfect time.
The Bruins have positioned themselves to become the first back-to-back champions since the Detroit Red Wings won their second-consecutive title in the 1997-98 season.
Canucks Look to Wash out the Bad Taste in Their Mouth from Last Year’s Loss
Can Roberto Luongo exorcise his demons from last year and win the cup?
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Just as the Bruins fought through their cup hangover, the Vancouver Canucks also struggled to begin the season.
After getting back on track, the Canucks were able to take over the top seed in the Western Conference. Led again by the Sedin twins and the superb goaltending duo of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, the Canucks are again positioned to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Last season was a learning experience for the Canucks. The Canucks will take the memory of last year’s loss and use that as the driving force to win it all this year.
Veteran Red Wing Club Poised for Title No. 12
Will Nicklas Lidstrom go out on top?
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The Detroit Red Wings have clinched a playoff spot.
Does that sound familiar?
It has been speculated this is Lidstrom’s last season in the NHL, pushing teammates to end Lindstrom’s career on top.
This is a veteran team whose core won the Stanley Cup together in 2008. Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk returned from month long injuries in time to get back into a rhythm with the rest of the team.
In addition to having a veteran team loaded with playoff experience, goaltender Jimmy Howard is having a career year. Since he vaulted onto the scene two years ago, Howard has provided stability at the goaltending position for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings have all the pieces needed to win and, as long as they stay healthy, the team will challenge the Canucks for the Western Conference title.