It's every hockey fan's favorite time of the year again—the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
This year held an exciting season of hockey, and a very unexpected one as well. Who could have predicted the Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues winning their divisions?
Or the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals each finishing with the seventh seed?
The unpredictable season should be the perfect stage for the postseason.
Each team has its reasons and qualities that give it a solid chance of winning the Cup.
The most important player and main reason the Rangers will have a good shot at the Stanley Cup is Henrik Lundqvist, the goaltender who will have a very good shot at winning the Vezina Trophy.
Lundqvist finished the season with 39 wins, a .930 save percentage, a 1.97 goals against average and eight shutouts. All those numbers are good for at least top five in the league.
Lundqvist is undoubtedly the main reason the Rangers will be such a big contender for the Cup.
In addition, the Rangers have some solid forwards like 41-goal-scorer Marian Gaborik and playmaker Brad Richards.
The Rangers also have a very solid defense to complement Lundqvist allowing only 187 goals this season.
The Boston Bruins biggest asset to help them win the Stanley Cup this year is their ability to completely outplay teams when they're on. To give you an idea, the five league leaders in plus-minus rating are all Bruins players.
They have the second-best offense in the league, having scored 269 goals while only giving up 202. Their plus-67 goal differential is the best in the NHL.
It also helps that they have Tim Thomas in the net.
And the fact the Bruins have great postseason experience also gives them an edge. They know what it takes to play for the Stanley Cup. They won it last season.
The fact the Panthers have a minus-24 goal differential probably doesn't help their cause much in the playoffs.
But don't count out the Cats just yet.
It wasn't a coincidence that they won their division ahead of the Capitals.
Honestly, their 227 goals allowed isn't really that bad. It's just their 203 goals scored is what they need to work on.
It'll be a tough ride for the Panthers; they'll need to outplay their opponents every game for sure and make sure they bury every chance they get.
However, the team does have three 20+ goal scorers: Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg.
The Panthers also have home-ice advantage throughout most of the playoffs, and they'll be pumped to finally be back in the playoffs after 12 long years.
The Penguins have the best offense in the entire NHL after having scored 282 goals in the regular season. Most of which they spent without Sidney Crosby.
But who needs Crosby when you have Evgeni Malkin? Malkin already secured the most points in the league with 109, including 50 goals. He may have his name on some NHL trophies by the time the season ends. Who knows, maybe even the Conn Smythe as well.
If Malkin, Crosby and 40-goal-scorer James Neal play together, then watch out. They're probably the deadliest line in the entire league.
And the Pens also have a very capable goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury.
What the Flyers have going for them is the obvious fact they're a tough team. They're not afraid to get dirty.
Their goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, finished the season relatively strong after a shaky start, still ending up with 33 wins.
The Flyers have a very potent offense.
Claude Giroux had a 93-point season with 28 goals and 65 assists. Scott Hartnell scored 37 goals, Wayne Simmonds had 28 and Matt Read had 24.
The Flyers will have a more definitive chance to win the Cup if they can get by the Penguins. It'll be very tough, but hey, it could happen.
The Devils high-octane offense will be the key for their chances of winning the Stanley Cup.
The Devils have three 30-goal-scorers in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson.
Then add two 20-goal-scorers in Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias.
The Devils' offense is the biggest reason they have a chance to win the Cup.
Martin Brodeur also had an average season with 31 wins, a .908 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA. Those numbers are definitely not what he is used to be putting up, but they're not bad. He'll need to step up his game though no later than the second round if the Devils are to stand a chance.
The Capitals had a somewhat disappointing season by their standards, but still finished in the seventh seed.
The Caps still have a good of chance of winning the Cup as any other team.
Alex Ovechkin really picked it up coming down the stretch and salvaged his season ending with 38 goals. Keep in mind, he played half the season without his side-kick Nicklas Backstrom.
The Caps are rolling out an inexperienced goaltender in Braden Holtby, despite looking pretty solid in the seven games he's played this year.
But it's going to be the Caps offense that makes or breaks the team in the postseason. The stars are going to have to show up.
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alex Semin are all going to need to step it up a notch if the Caps are going to win the Stanley Cup.
The name of the Sens' game in the playoffs is offense. The Senators scored 249 goals this season, tied for the fourth best in the NHL.
They will need to justify that on the ice to cover up the 240 goals they allowed this season. The Senators will definitely want to tighten up on defense if they want to make a serious run at the Cup. They have a tough first-round opponent in the New York Rangers.
Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Dany Alfredsson are all coming off big years on offense, notching 34, 35 and 27 goals respectively.
Also joining the offensive attack for the Senators is defenseman Erik Karlsson, who scored 19 goals and 59 assists this season.
Those four players are going to have to lead the way this postseason for Ottawa.
For starters on why I think the Canucks have a shot to win the Stanley Cup this season, well...they won the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the NHL. They also fell one game short of winning it all last season to the Bruins. So they know what it takes to get there.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler are all coming off solid seasons. But they were expected to be good.
The Canucks also have great depth. Chris Higgins, David Booth and Jannik Hansen are all coming off good seasons from the lower lines. They scored 18, 16 and 16 goals respectively.
Their two goaltenders, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, are both coming off monster seasons, combining for 51 wins together.
The Canucks are a very well rounded team and it's no surprise they won the Presidents' Trophy.
The Blues summed up in two words: goaltending and defense.
They just don't allow goals. They allowed 165 all season, the least in the league by far. Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak combined for 49 wins and 15 shutouts.
The possible undoing of the Blues is their offense. As great as their defense is, they only scored 210 goals. Their leading point-getters are David Backes and TJ Oshie, each with 54.
The Blues still won one of the toughest divisions in the NHL though. Halak and Elliot are going to have to be on the top of their games.
Like their fellow three seed, the Panthers, the Coyotes are looked at as underdogs this postseason. But like I said for the Panthers, the Coyotes still found a way to win their division.
Radim Vrbata is going to be the player to watch on the Coyotes as they seek their first Stanley Cup. Vrbata had a career year, scoring 35 goals. Ray Whitney—at 39 years old— had 24 goals and 53 assists, proving that age doesn't quite matter. Shane Doan rounds out the offense, adding another 50 point season to his resume.
The big aspect of the Coyotes game though is similar to the Blues. They're tough to score on, having allowed an above average 204 goals while still scoring a respectable 216.
Mike Smith has had a very surprising but impressive season, earning 38 wins and boasting a save percentage of .930 and a GAA of 2.21.
Smith is going to need to stand on his head for the Coyotes to have a chance to win it all.
The Predators fixed their past undoings on offense and have scored a high amount of goals this season with 237.
Pekka Rinne is probably the biggest factor for the Predators run for the Cup. He had a great season, with 43 wins to lead the league, coupled with other numbers like a .923 save percentage and a 2.39 GAA. Needless to say, he's been earning his contract.
Aside from Rinne, the Preds best chances of winning reside in their balanced offensive attack. They don't have any superstars in the forward position, but more like mini-stars that make up a constellation. Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist scored 19, 24, 19 and 27 goals respectively.
On defense, the dynamic duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter combined for 95 total points. The Predators chances of winning are looking pretty bright.
The Red Wings biggest asset that will give them a chance to win another Cup is the team's experience. Many of the players on the roster have won one or more Stanley Cups and know how to get the job done.
The Red Wings biggest threat is their offense, having put up 248 goals this past season. And they can get goals from a lot of different guys.
Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Flippula, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler all had more than 20 goals. Pavel Datsyuk only scored 19, but added 48 assists.
Jimmy Howard is also coming off a great year, with 35 wins, a .920 save percentage and a 2.13 GAA.
The Red Wings are a deep threat for the Cup.
The biggest reason the Blackhawks have such a good chance to win the Stanley Cup is their dynamic offense.
Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Victor Stalberg all have over 20 goals. Patrick Sharp has 33 goals.
And Jonathan Toews had 29 goals in 59 games before getting injured. It was sad to see because he was having a career year. But he has a chance of returning for the first round of the playoffs.
So yeah, the Hawks have plenty of offensive firepower to spare.
Once again, the Sharks most valuable asset is offense. Playoff experience is also key for them. Just about every Shark on the roster has played in the postseason before.
The Sharks have three 30-goal-scorers, for the first time in franchise history. Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski have all scored at least 30.
Joe Thornton had 59 assists.
Another player to watch is Martin Havlat, who missed more than half the season because of injury. But he's looked impressive recently, and is known to be a big game player.
Despite a weak regular season for the Sharks, which saw them grab only the seventh seed, don't count them out of the Cup race.
It's no secret that Jonathan Quick is the sole reason the Kings are even in the playoffs. The team scored only 194 goals, but allowed a very low 179 to make up for that. Quick's solid goaltending is the main reason for that.
Quick recorded 35 wins, had a save percentage of .929, a GAA of 1.95 and led the league in shutouts with 10. I personally think Quick would be a solid MVP candidate.
If they can find their stride, the Kings do have some talented players such as Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter.
The offense will need to assist Quick if the Kings are to be labeled as serious Cup contenders.