Each 2013 NHL Playoff Team's Greatest Strength

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystMay 1, 2013

Each 2013 NHL Playoff Team's Greatest Strength

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    Every NHL playoff team fought through an arduous regular season to reach this stage. When the lockout was lifted, squads across North America had little time to prepare for a significantly shortened regular-season schedule and the challenges that would come with it.

    The teams still in the running for a Stanley Cup have particular qualities that ultimately made them playoff-caliber and title capable. From outstanding goalkeepers to offensive firepower, different elements fuel each squad.

    Here, we examine the greatest attribute of all 16 playoff contenders. Championship dreams may hinge on these key team strengths.

Anaheim Ducks: Ability to Win Away from Home

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    The Ducks open the playoffs at home against Detroit but it's the team's success away from Anaheim that has people talking. The squad is 14-5-5 on the road this season.

    Sustained success in opposing arenas bodes well for the team's fortunes this postseason, when pivotal road matchups make or break a team locked in a tight series.

Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask Is Up to the Task

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    Tuukka Rask, a former first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, prepares to take on the team that drafted him 21st overall in 2005. He has effectively filled the shoes of Tim Thomas, who became a Boston icon by virtue of his dominant run to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

    During the regular season, Rask was 19-10-5 with a 2.00 GAA. The Bruins' new No. 1 in net keys the team's title hopes.

Chicago Blackhawks: Offensive Firepower

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    The Blackhawks spent most of the regular season burying opponents with a barrage of offensive talent. Chicago has been extremely balanced in its attack and the squad surged to the best record in hockey. 

    Patrick Kane, who finished fifth in the NHL in points, and Jonathan Toews each scored 23 goals. Marian Hossa added 17 scores for the conference's top offensive unit.

Detroit Red Wings: Veterans Abound

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    This group has been through battles together plenty of times throughout the years. Detroit, in the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive year, is led by an experienced core of players.

    Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg anchor a roster brimming with playoff veterans. Goalie Jimmy Howard has won 13 postseason games in three previous runs.

    The Red Wings can handle adverse situations better than most squads. There's not much Detroit's top players haven't witnessed on the ice.

Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick Commands Respect

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    The 27-year-old goalie stole the show during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, posting a 16-4 record and dominant 1.41 GAA. He claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy by leading Los Angeles to history as the first eight-seeded squad to win an NHL title.

    Jonathan Quick return to the playoffs seeking another opportunity to advance his stardom and chase a championship repeat. He won 18 games during the regular season, compiling a 2.45 GAA.

Minnesota Wild: Offseason Acquisitions Pay Immediate Dividends

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    Minnesota made a splash last summer, diving into the free agency pool head first. The Wild acquired Zach Parise and Ryan Suter during the offseason, demanding attention from hockey fans across the country.

    The Wild return to the postseason for the first time since 2008 and that duo is a big reason why. 

    Parise led the team in goals (18) after advancing to the Stanley Cup finals with New Jersey last year. Suter is a sensational defender and finished fourth on the team in total points.

Montreal Canadians: Production Throughout Roster

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    Montreal makes the most of its lines, relying on a bevy of productive players instead of just a few stars. The Canadians feature eight players who scored at least 10 goals.

    Michael Ryder led the way during the regular season with 16 scores. Teammates Brendan Gallagher, a rookie, and Max Pacioretty each tallied 15 goals.

New York Islanders: The Rise of John Tavares

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    The 22-year-old center surged toward the top of any list of MVP candidates with a strong fourth NHL season. The 2009 No. 1 overall draft selection scored 28 goals—four shy of his career-high—during a shortened season. 

    John Tavares has always been a capable distributor, highlighted by 50 assists in 2012, but his goal production is what elevates him into the league's upper echelon. He is unquestionably the face of this franchise, leading the Islanders into the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

New York Rangers: Play Between the Pipes

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    Henrik Lundqvist has to be considered one of the game's current great goalies after another strong regular season. The Rangers' backstop tied for the NHL lead in victories (24) and posted a dominant 2.05 GAA.

    He delivered throughout the 2012 postseason, when New York reached the Eastern Conference finals. Lundqvist is elevating his game at the right time, surrendering more than two goals just four times in the team's past 20 games.

Ottawa Senators: Healthy Returns

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    The Senators spent significant spans of the season awaiting the return of key standouts. Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson suffered an Achilles injury on Feb. 13, while goalie Craig Anderson nursed an ankle injury midway through the spring.  

    Both players are back on the ice just in time. 

    Karlsson returned from a 31-game hiatus and tallied two assists in Thursday's overtime victory over Washington. Anderson, who missed 18 contests, has been sensational when healthy (1.69 GAA in 24 games).

Pittsburgh Penguins: Depth Created at Trade Deadline

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    Pittsburgh powered its way to the Eastern Conference's top seed, receiving a late-season push with the additions of a trio of veteran contributors. The Penguins picked up Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline, providing expansive depth for a team already viewed as a title contender.

    Iginla has tallied at least one point in seven of nine games, while Morrow has 14 points in 15 games since arriving from Dallas. Jokinen notched three goals in the final two regular-season contests.

St. Louis Blues: Offensive Balance

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    The Blues can bank on several players to step up when necessary. St. Louis features five players who've tallied 25 or more points.

    Chris Stewart notched 18 goals and 18 assists this season. Patrik Berglund works well while sharing the ice with Stewart, posting 17 goals in AC.

    Chris Stewart scored a team-high 18 goals and 36 points. Patrik Berglund was next with 17 goals and was one of five Blues players with at least 25 points.

San Jose Sharks: Stacked at Center

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    The Sharks have impressive depth at the center position, highlighted by a young up-and-comer and a seasoned vet. San Jose has seen Logan Couture blossom this season, as he notched a team-high 21 goals.

    Joe Thornton begins his latest Stanley Cup journey as a key producer yet again. He led the Sharks with 33 assists during the regular season.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Young Players Appear Ready for Prime Time

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    A trio of highly touted draft picks have panned out for Toronto in 2013. The Maple Leafs return to the postseason with young players hungry to prove themselves on the game's greatest stage,

    Phil Kessel, a 25 year old who was selected fifth overall by Boston, scored 10 goals in the final 10 regular-season games and led the team in points (52).

    Twenty-three-year-old James van Riemsdyk, a former No. 2 overall pick for Philadelphia, notched 18 scores in his first season with the franchise. Nazem Kadri, 22, was selected seventh overall in 2009 and matched van Riemsdyk with 18 goals.

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin Is Playing Like a Man Among Boys

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    The Russian superstar is on an absolute warpath these days. He registered a league-record 14 goals in April and led the NHL with 32 total scores.

    Washington followed suit as its catalyst caught fire, finishing 11-1-1 in the final month of the regular season to claim a fifth division title in six seasons. Now, Ovechkin and Washington aim to chase down an elusive Eastern Conference crown.

Vancouver Canucks: The Twin Tandem

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    The dynamic Swedish duo continue to own opponents. Henrik and Daniel Sedin pulverize defensive game plans with precision passing and superior hockey IQ.

    They combined for 85 points during the regular season. The identical twins are fueled by the bitter disappointment of losing Game 7 to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.