Biggest Weakness of Every Team in the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
There's no such thing as a perfect team.
Let's take that back.
If you saw the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens play the game, you might be willing to argue the point. The Habs were a shocking 60-8-12 during the regular season and needed just 14 games to race through three rounds of the playoffs and take home the Stanley Cup.
But that version of Les Glorieux exists only in history books, memories and on grainy video.
The 16 teams in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs range from decent to outstanding, but all of them have weaknesses that can be exploited over the course of a seven-game playoff series.
Here's a look at the weaknesses dogging this year's crop of postseason participants.
Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL and he is not officially back in the lineup. He is practicing with the Penguins, but the team has not said when he will start playing again (source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com).
That's a problem.
Crosby will not play in Game 1 against the New York Islanders.
Sidney Crosby not ready to play just yet and will miss Game 1 Wednesday evening.— Scott Burnside (@ESPN_Burnside) May 1, 2013
It's also easy to point at goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and say he's the Penguins' soft spot since he was awful in last year's playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers.
But Fleury had a bounce-back season and so did the Penguins defense. Fleury finished the regular season with a respectable 2.39 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
However, there still may be a few problems with the Penguins' defensive philosophy. They did not put a lot of pressure on opponents once they got the puck in the offensive zone. Instead of blocking shots and intercepting passes, the Pens gave their opponents quite a bit of freedom.
That manifested itself in an inability to take the puck away. The Penguins ranked 29th in takeaways this season.
The Canadiens are in position to make a decent playoff run as the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
They played consistent hockey for the majority of the season and they were often spectacular.
However, there is a dark cloud hanging over the team at the start of the postseason: The play of Carey Price in goal.
Price slumped badly at the end of the season, losing six of his final eight starts, and he appeared to suffer from a lack of confidence.
Even if Price can overcome his recent woes, his career playoff record is 8-15. That has to be concerning for head coach Michel Therrien and Price's teammates.
Braden Holtby burst on the scene in last year's playoffs and his performance was a memorable one. He held the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in check and the Capitals defeated them in seven games.
In the next series, Holtby extended the New York Rangers to seven game before the Caps finally succumbed.
While he was a postseason star last year, he was inconsistent this season. Holtby had a 2.58 GAA and a .920 save percentage this year. Overall, those numbers are better than average, but he was awful in the early part of the season and much stronger later on.
If he is streaky in the playoffs and starts off on a poor note, the Caps could be forced out of the playoffs in the first round.
The Bruins have a myriad of problems as the playoffs get underway.
They looked like a juggernaut early in the year when they started off with a 17-3-3 record, but in the second half of the year, they struggled in several areas.
The biggest issue is goal scoring. The Bruins scored two goals or fewer in eight of their last nine games. The Bruins rank 26th in power-play proficiency. This has been an issue in Boston for years.
On the surface, the penalty killing is one of the team's strengths. However, they allowed nine power-play goals in their last 30 shorthanded situations. As a result, the Bruins went from first to fourth in penalty killing this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Just happy to be here.
That's got to be the mindset of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04. How can they feel anything but satisfied?
The Maple Leafs don't know what they can count on as they enter the postseason against the experienced Boston Bruins. During the regular season, the Leafs proved to be a creative offensive team that was not afraid to drop the gloves and exert its physical presence.
Can they play the same way in the postseason? They will have to establish an identity.
Goaltending has been a longstanding weakness that was addressed this season as James Reimer played respectable hockey all year. He will have to handle the pressure of guarding the net as a playoff goalie for the first time.
New York Rangers
The Rangers may have finished the regular season by winning seven of their last 10 games, but this season was a disappointment.
They were the clear-cut favorites to win the Eastern Conference, but they were touch-and-go to even make the playoffs until the final days of the season.
The Rangers struggle to put the puck in the net. Rick Nash is a legitimate goal scorer and Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan have also showed the ability to score clutch goals. However, the Rangers ranked 15th in goal scoring with an average of 2.62 goals per game.
That's not enough for a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.
The Senators are a gritty, hard-working and admirable team that overcame serious injuries all season.
However, they are the lowest-scoring team playing postseason hockey. The Senators ranked 27th in the NHL with 2.33 goals per game.
The Senators can win games by playing shutdown hockey. It's not exciting, but head coach Paul MacLean's team cannot afford to fall behind by more than a goal. If they are going to have success, they have to get an early goal or two and hang on for dear life.
Daniel Alfredsson has been the face of the franchise for years, but he has slowed down considerably. If defenseman Erik Karlsson, the best offensive defenseman in the NHL, can't trigger the attack, the Senators are in trouble.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders surged this season because they followed the lead of John Tavares, who became a legitimate superstar.
Tavares, Matt Moulson and speedster Michael Grabner give the Islanders solid front-line offense. But where is the secondary scoring? It seems like head coach Jack Capuano is just hoping that the team finds some additional scoring to help out the big trio.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov had a solid second half of the season, but you wonder how much he has left to offer at the age of 37.
The Blackhawks did not display any substantial weaknesses during the regular season as they rolled to the Presidents' Trophy.
However, the Blackhawks are not a physical team. They were on the receiving end of more hits than they dished out in 44 of the 48 regular-season games this year.
That's a somewhat misleading statistic because teams that possess the puck are usually not going to be doling out a lot of punishment.
Still, a team that comes out very aggressively and starts bouncing bodies around the rink is not going to get a lot of response from the Blackhawks.
The Ducks had a brilliant season and rose from 14th in the Western Conference last year to second place this year.
They combined clutch scoring, excellent goaltending and physical play to earn their status. The have the talent and the style of play to go a long way in the playoffs.
However, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are two of their best players once you get past Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
Selanne and Koivu are golden oldies. Do they have enough left to play consistently in a grueling postseason run? They could tire and that would make the Anaheim offense far more predictable.
Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider missed the last two games of the regular season with a "body injury."
The Canucks had no intention of giving any further explanation of what was ailing Schneider because they did not want to give playoff opponents any edge when it came to exploiting potential problems.
While Schneider said Tuesday that he is feeling much better (source: vancouversun.com), the Canucks have not said whether Schneider will play in the opener of the series. If they have to go with Roberto Luongo, they could be much more vulnerable to a second consecutive first-round defeat.
St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliott rebounded from a terrible start to finish the regular season on a hot streak. He played well in the playoff opener vs. the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, as the Blues came away with a 2-1 overtime victory.
However, will the Blues get consistent play from Elliott throughout the playoffs? If they don't, will Jaroslav Halak get back into form after spending time on the injury list.
The Blues are a tough and grinding team, but they don't always score enough goals.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings were a dominant road playoff team last year. As the No. 8 seed, they were on the road for the first two games of all four playoff series and they went 8-0 in those games.
The Kings lost the road opener 2-1 to St. Louis in the playoffs this year after tying the game in the final minute.
Based on what the Kings did in the regular season, that's not a surprise. The Kings were just 8-12-4 away from Staples Center this year.
San Jose Sharks
No team goes into the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs with more recent playoff failures than the Sharks.
They have been looked at as a Western Conference favorite for years, but they have never made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Why will this year be any different?
Are the Sharks strong enough mentally to overcome their failures? It's doubtful.
Additionally, the trade of Ryane Clowe robs this team of much of its grittiness.
Detroit Red Wings
The 2013 season figured to be a tough one for Detroit after losing future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement at the end of last year.
Head coach Mike Babcock could not replace a player of Lidstrom's caliber and the Red Wings needed a 4-0 run in the final week of the season just to make the playoffs.
Without Lidstrom, the Red Wings are weaker on defense, and that could prove decisive in the postseason. The Red Wings also lack scoring depth.
No team has a tougher opening-round playoff assignment than the Minnesota Wild.
They barely hung on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and that gave them a first-round matchup with the Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom is one of the Wild's best assets, but he was sidelined moments before the first game of the series when he injured himself in the warm-ups prior to Game 1 (source: NHL.com).
While backup Josh Harding was sharp in relief, it would be a shocker if the Wild can push the Blackhawks and win more than one game if Backstom is not at his best in the playoffs.