Power Ranking the Early Favorites to Win the 2013 Stanley Cup

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2013

Power Ranking the Early Favorites to Win the 2013 Stanley Cup

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    The first month of the season has revealed some surprising results.

    The Anaheim Ducks have put last year's disaster behind them and they appear to be a formidable team under Bruce Boudreau.

    The Detroit Red Wings have not folded up despite the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history.

    The New Jersey Devils lost their best player when Zach Parise signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Wild, but they still have their heart and soul and remain a team that finds a way to win.

    The Chicago Blackhawks are following the script that led them to the 2010 Stanley Cup and are playing stellar hockey.

    Here's our power ranking of the early favorites to win the 2013 Stanley Cup.

8. Anaheim Ducks

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    The Ducks were awful last year, finishing 13th in the Western Conference and never threatening to make the playoffs.

    This year is a much different story. The Ducks have gotten off to a scintillating 9-2-1 start and are second to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference as of Feb. 14.

    It could be easy to look at the Ducks and merely dismiss them as a team that has gotten off to a hot start that will eventually level off, but that is not likely.

    The Ducks have a formidable core of three excellent offensive players in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. However, the Ducks' most productive players have been veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, who have scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.

    One of the most exciting aspects to the Ducks' start has been the stellar play of rookie goalie Viktor Fasth, who has gotten off to a 6-0-0 start with a 1.74 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage with one shutout.

    Fasth, 31, has come out of nowhere to give the Ducks security with their play in the net.

    This team has a chance to surprise a lot of observers this year.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Penguins have not been overly impressive at the start of the season, but they have still gotten off to a 9-5-0 start and are in firm playoff position.

    The Penguins have played well on the road but are just 3-3-0 at home. They bounced back to beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2 after losing back-to-back games to the New Jersey Devils.

    The Penguins simply cannot be overlooked under any circumstances. The talent level is simply too high.

    No team can match the Penguins when it comes to explosive scoring. Sidney Crosby is healthy and is leading the team with six goals and 14 assists. It seems like it will just be a matter of time before he reclaims his position as the NHL's leading scorer.

    Evgeni Malkin has not yet hit his stride, but he still has 16 points, as does Chris Kunitz. James Neal has a vicious shot and has already scored 10 goals.

    Marc-Andre Fleury is a question mark in the net after his poor showing vs. Philadelphia in last year's playoffs, but he is off to a reasonable start. Fleury has a 2.41 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

    While there is some inconsistency to Pittsburgh's game, it will take a formidable effort to beat them in a seven-game series.

6. Detroit Red Wings

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    The Detroit Red Wings were not supposed to be contenders this year.

    They lost Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and it seemed unlikely that they would be able to remain at or near the top of their game without him since he is arguably the second-best defenseman in NHL history behind Bobby Orr.

    Mike Babcock will not just sit back and feel sorry for himself. He is doing a masterful job of coaching and keeping this team competitive.

    The Red Wings are fifth in the Western Conference as of Feb. 14, but the arrow is pointing up for this team.

    While they lost Lidstrom, they still have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and that's a lethal combination. Goalie Jimmy Howard is one of the most underrated players at his position in the league and he usually comes up big in important games.

    Flashy center Damien Brunner has already scored six goals in his first year.

5. Boston Bruins

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    The Bruins have gotten off to a smashing start, based largely on their ability to play stellar hockey in the third period.

    The Bruins have lost just one game in regulation through their first 11 and have outscored opponents 15-5 in the third period.

    The Bruins have a familiar core with star players like forwards Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, a healthy Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. The Bruins may have the best blue line in the league thanks to Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk.

    Young defenseman Dougie Hamilton has shown flashes of brilliance and appears to be establishing himself as one of the top rookies in the league.

    Tuukka Rask has performed well in the net with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage, but his real test will come in the postseason.

4. New York Rangers

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    The New York Rangers got off to a slow start, but they are finding their stride.

    They are 7-5-0 and are in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. While that is tenuous ground, there is no reason to think they won't be among the best teams in the league when the playoffs get underway.

    New acquisition Rick Nash has shown off his skill handling the puck and passing it, but he has not hit a hot streak as a goal scorer. It is certainly coming. The Rangers have not been cashing in on a lot of goal-scoring opportunities, and Henrik Lundqvist has not been at his best.

    However, the Rangers are playing tenacious defense and never allow an opponent easy access into the offensive zone. They are a hard-working team that plays with grit every night.

    John Tortorella will never let his team relax, and it's because of this that the Rangers have an excellent chance of walking away with the 2013 Stanley Cup.

3. Vancouver Canucks

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    They are the team that just won't go away.

    This was the year that it looked like the Canucks would have a difficult time staying put as one of the league's best teams. Start off with the goaltending controversy and the fact that the Canucks wanted to move Roberto Luongo. Add in Ryan Kesler's shoulder injury.

    Compounding those issues were the Canucks' past playoff failures.

    But instead of having a goaltending controversy weigh this team down, it has elevated it back to elite status. Luongo is playing stellar hockey and Cory Schneider is doing well. The Canucks are getting timely scoring and in addition to Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the Canucks have found an emerging player in Zack Kassian (five goals).

    The Canucks have gotten out of the gate with an 8-2-2 record, and they look like a legitimate threat once again.

2. New Jersey Devils

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    The New Jersey Devils looked like a team that would have to fight simply to make the playoffs in 2013.

    They lost high-scoring left winger Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild and assistant coaches Adam Oates and Larry Robinson left head coach Peter DeBoer's staff.

    But general manager Lou Lamoriello knows how to put an excellent hockey team on the ice. As usual, goalie Martin Brodeur continues to be the backbone of the team, as he has a 2.36 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

    With Parise gone, veteran Patrik Elias leads the team with 15 points. David Clarkson emerged as a legitimate goal scorer last year when he netted 30 goals. He already has nine goals this year.

    The Devils have not played their best hockey yet, but they are still sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks have yet to taste regulation defeat after playing their first 13 games of the season (10-0-3). They have rolled to an 8-0-2 mark away from the United Center.

    They are playing like they have an excellent chance to reprise their 2010 Stanley Cup championship run. Through the early part of the season, Patrick Kane has placed himself as a prime Hart Trophy candidate. He has scored nine goals and 11 assists and has provided a spark nearly every night.

    Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith have also been solid for the Hawks. High-scoring winger Patrick Sharp has not yet hit his stride.

    The Blackhawks have gotten consistent goaltending from Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. However, goaltending was an issue for this team the past two years.

    If there's one area that could let them down later on in the year, it's Crawford's play in key games.