NHL Predictions 2013: Who Are the Top Stanley Cup Contenders?
The 2013 NHL season is slated to start on January 19, and although in a shortened season every team will have a greater chance to make the playoffs, there is a list of seven teams highlighted by the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, the St.Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins who are the top Stanley Cup contenders.
Out of the 30 NHL teams, 16 will make the playoffs, four will make it to the Conference Finals and two will compete for the Stanley Cup.
A number of betting outlets have already released odds for the upcoming season, but what teams stand the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup?
Will it be Sidney Crosby's Penguins, Henrik Lundqvist's Rangers or will Jonathan Quick put the Kings on his back once more in order to win another Stanley Cup?
Here are the seven top contenders in order of likelihood of winning the Stanley Cup.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
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The Chicago Blackhawks have a team that features a great forward corp and an impressive blue line and that is something that gives the Hawks and advantage over other teams.
Not many teams can say they have multiple elite forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa who score a lot of goals.
On the blue line, the trend continues with elite defenders like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but their goaltending is a weakness that could interfere with Stanley Cup plans.
If the Blackhawks can find a way to improve their goaltending situation there is no reason why they won't be able to compete for the Stanley Cup.
6. Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks have been the NHL's best regular-season team during the past few seasons, and they are currently favored at 9/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup.
The Canucks currently remain one of the West's top teams, and once the CBA is ratified you can expect them to try and make some improvements to their roster.
Vancouver's roster features the two Sedins, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison and netminder duo Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.
If Vancouver can get off to a hot start, and it gets Ryan Kesler back for a playoff run, the Canucks could make a decent run for the Stanley Cup.
5. Los Angeles Kings
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It is very hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, and the proof of that is evident because it hasn't happened since the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins did it in the 1990s.
The Kings' roster will feature forwards like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown, but an injury to Anze Kopitar could leave the Kings without their top center for the first few weeks of the season.
The Kings' blue line will be highlighted by Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick will be in net, but unfortunately the Kings will not be the team to beat in the West in 2013.
Los Angeles will put forth a valiant effort to defend their crown, but they will not be successful in their endeavors.
4. Boston Bruins
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The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup during the 2010-11 season on the heels of an amazing goaltending performance by Tim Thomas.
This year, Tuukka Rask will be in goal, but he should be up to the task of leading the Bruins to greatness.
Boston's roster features talents like Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and young superstar Tyler Seguin among others.
Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference highlight strength on the blue line, and when you look at the entire roster, Boston should be in the hunt for a Stanley Cup championship.
3. St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues are going to be one of the Western Conference's best teams in 2013, and their overall roster is one of the league's best.
The Blues are a defensive-minded team that has a talented blue line highlighted by Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman.
St.Louis also has an established goaltending tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak, which gives the Blues an edge over other teams throughout the league.
When you look at the Blues' group of forwards, it is a bunch of players that play smart two-way hockey. David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, and Andy McDonald feature in this group, but the roster also features goal scorers like Alex Steen and David Perron.
If newcomers Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz can play an effective role in St. Louis, its overall depth and strengths will take the Blues very far in pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be a top Stanley Cup contender in 2013 because of their many elite-level forwards.
Having Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal gives the Penguins a huge edge when compared to other team's top-six forwards.
Brandon Sutter, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis should also play secondary roles that give the Penguins strength.
The Penguins' blue line is highlighted by Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland, but some prospects from the minors could potentially add depth if they make the team out of training camp.
The Pens added Tomas Vokoun as a backup for Marc-Andre Fleury this year, and the duo should be one of the league's best.
Overall, the Penguins are currently favored at 8/1 to win the Stanley Cup, but there is one team that is better on paper, and their overall depth gives them the best chance at winning the Lord Stanley's Cup.
1. New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers made a ton of improvements over the summer, and their roster is one of the deepest in the league.
Not only does it feature offensive and defensive depth, but it has grit and toughness with players like Jeff Halpern, Brian Boyle, Aaron Asham, Taylor Pyatt and Mike Rupp in the bottom six
When you look at the Rangers, you see a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011-12, and built off the success gained during the season.
In a shortened season, Henrik Lundqvist will have the most rest he has ever had before entering the playoffs, and that will allow him to be at his absolute best when it matters most.
Offensively the Rangers are going to be stacked with forwards Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan and rookie Chris Kreider.
This group of forwards features a blend of chemistry and experience that will also give them an edge over other teams in a shortened season.
The biggest difference-maker for the Rangers will be their stellar defense, and the fact that they will be fresh for the playoffs.
The Blueshirts were a team that blocked a ton of shots in 2011-12, and the shortened season will allow Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto to remain in peak condition.
Last year many thought the Rangers had a shot to win the Stanley Cup when they were the East's best team. When you add a healthy roster, Rick Nash and a rested Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers are the team to beat, and a team already being picked to win the Stanley Cup.