The Rangers have rebounded nicely after a rough start
A lockout-shortened NHL season means each team will play just 48 regular-season games. With less time to address on-ice concerns, the teams that play well early may very well be the last teams standing come playoff time.
With about one-third of the 2013 season in the books, here are the five early favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins have been tough to beat in 2013.
As of Feb. 19, the Boston Bruins had won nine of their first 13 games. By the time they reach as many games played as other teams in the Eastern Conference, their points total will likely be one of the highest in the league.
Stellar play from left-winger Brad Marchand, center David Krejci and goalie Tuukka Rask have helped power the Bruins through this first part of the season.
The Blackhawks are sitting comfortably atop the Western Conference.
The Stanley Cup Winners of three seasons ago are poised to bring the trophy back to Chi-town this year. Through Feb. 19, their 27 points was good for best in the league.
As per usual, right-winger Patrick Kane is having a tremendous season with 21 points through 15 games. Centers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, along with veteran right-winger Marian Hossa, also have the Blackhawks looking awfully strong in this 2013 season.
The Blueshirts are still in contention for postseason glory.
After starting the season 3-4, the New York Rangers have since gone 5-2. They have averaged fewer than two goals allowed per game during this seven-game stretch and are starting to find their form on the ice.
Entering the season, the Rangers faced very high expectations. Look for left-winger Rick Nash and star goalie Henrik Lundqvist to help the Rangers satisfy New York fans and make a run at the Stanley Cup.
The Canucks may be the best team north of the border this season.
Led by the dangerous Sedin brothers and netminder Roberto Luongo, the Vancouver Canucks have gotten off to a solid start in 2013.
It's always tough to hang atop the Western Conference, but the Canucks have managed to do just that with ease so far this season. Don't be surprised to find them in the hunt for the cup this postseason.
Patrick Marleau got off to a red-hot start in 2013.
Seven games later, however, the Sharks are now 7-4-3 after dropping their last seven contests. So which squad is the real Sharks team?
The Sharks are more likely contenders than pretenders. If they can end their recent skid sooner rather than later, they should still have a good chance at winning it all in 2013.