Having momentum entering the 2013 NHL playoffs is a must if a team plans on hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the postseason.
Momentum doesn't necessarily refer to having the best scorer or the best record in the league—although it doesn't hurt—but rather, entering the postseason on a winning streak and having success down the stretch will propel a franchise through the playoffs.
So who has the most momentum heading into the NHL playoffs?
Let's take a gander.
Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0)
The Pittsburgh Penguins finished the 2013 regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference thanks in large part to owning the NHL's best scoring mark, averaging 3.4 goals per game.
The broken jaw suffered by star Sidney Crosby will take a toll on the Penguins' offense, but left winger Chris Kunitz has stepped up in a big way, scoring 22 goals and finishing tied for seventh in the league in points.
Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh Penguins practices, return from broken jaw uncertain es.pn/Z01SWS— ESPN NHL coverage (@ESPN_NHL) April 26, 2013
Pittsburgh has won eight of its last 10 games and owns the NHL's second-best goal differential mark with a plus-46 margin. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been decent this season (2.39 goals against mark and .916 save percentage), but a lethal scoring offense has made up for his average goaltending.
Drawing a matchup with the Ottawa Senators in the first round, Pittsburgh has some of the best momentum of any NHL team entering the playoffs.
Washington Capitals (27-18-3)
Alex Ovechkin, who is tied for third in scoring, will lead his Washington Capitals into a first-round matchup against the New York Rangers in the NHL postseason.
Washington made note of Ovechkin's amazing season via Twitter:
Alex Ovechkin will win the 2013 Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded annually to the leading goal scorer in the NHL. @ovi8 finished with 32 goals.— Washington Capitals (@washcaps) April 28, 2013
The Capitals are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and own the NHL's fourth-best scoring mark, averaging three goals per game. Washington will enter the playoffs boasting the league's best power-play margin with a 26.8 mark.
Washington will find success in the postseason through its scoring attack. Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro and Nicklas Backstrom have all notched at least 48 points this season. Braden Holtby has been solid in goal this season, but Washington will only go as far as he takes them in the playoffs.
The Capitals gained some quality wins down the stretch against the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders, giving them confidence and momentum entering the playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks (36-7-5)
Owning the NHL's best record during the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks enter the postseason riding a high that could result in the franchise's fifth Stanley Cup championship.
Which team has the most momentum entering the playoffs?
Thanks to a 24-game point streak, Chicago finished with a 36-7-5 record and will enter the playoffs having won seven of its last 10 games.
The Blackhawks rank No. 1 in the NHL in goals against, which is a testament to their aggressive defense and excellent starting goaltender, Ray Emery (1.94 goals against mark). Patrick Kane is also a big reason for the Blackhawks winning the Presidents' Trophy, posting 55 points this season, which is good for fifth in the league.
Scoring the second-most amount of goals per game in the NHL (3.1) and owning the best goal differential this season (plus-53), Chicago should easily be the favorite to come out of the Western Conference in the 2013 NHL playoffs.
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