NHL Playoffs 2013: Teams with Best Chance at Reaching Stanley Cup Final

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NHL Playoffs 2013: Teams with Best Chance at Reaching Stanley Cup Final
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jonathan Quick stops all 35 shots, as the Kings defeat the Sharks 2-0 to win Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on May 14.

Hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup doesn’t come easily. It takes sweat, blood and grit.

It’s a feat given to the most rugged team—the last one standing. Breezing through the playoffs is as rare as finding a two-dollar bill.

However, a few teams are as destined as ever to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2013. They’ve demonstrated what it takes to win at all costs, and it will be a dogfight to the end. 

 

Los Angeles Kings

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are using the same formula this year as they did when they won it all last year: stout, physical defense, solid checking, timely scoring and magnificent goaltending.

Down 2-0 to St. Louis in the Western Conference quarterfinals, Los Angeles stormed back by winning four straight to win the series. The Kings’ physicality was a huge factor in their success. In the six-game series against the Blues, the Kings dished out 241 hits.

And in Game 1 of the conference semifinals, the Kings leaned on their backstop, Jonathan Quick, who pounced on every shot and loose puck the Sharks threw his way, stopping 35-of-35 shots as his team skated to a 2-0 victory Wednesday night. 

“We wanted to get off on a good foot, no matter how we had to do it,” Quick said after notching his 25th career playoff victory, courtesy of ESPN.com.

As long as Quick plays like he has, the Kings have an excellent shot to win their second straight championship.

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chicago is the cream of the crop, the best of the best. There's no other way to put it. 

The Blackhawks bolted out of the gates to start the season, gaining a point in each of their first 24 games and easily winning the President’s Trophy with a league-best mark of 36-7-5.

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They made quick work of the inferior Minnesota Wild, eliminating their opponents in five games to reach the conference semifinals against division rival Detroit.

Chicago has toyed with its opponents all season, and that trend should continue against the Red Wings.

The Blackhawks are the most dangerous team in the playoffs. They boast a young and energetic roster headed by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and youngsters Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, who, as a group, have combined for 13 points, including six goals and seven assists. 

Their high-powered snipers will push the Red Wings to the brink. Averaging 3.40 goals per game in the playoffs thus far, the Blackhawks will continue to pump strikes into the net and cruise their way to the final.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Jarome Iginla prepares for a face-off against the New York Islanders in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Acquiring Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline has done wonders for the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Iginla has nine points, including two goals and eight assists in seven playoff games for the Penguins thus far.

Moreover, the Penguins’ power play is lethal. Receiving power-play goals from Paul Martin and Chris Kunitz in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals versus Ottawa Wednesday night, the Penguins upped their man-advantage percentage rate to 36 percent (9-of-25).

“Their power play is good,” Senators goalie Craig Anderson said, courtesy of NHL.com.

It is very good, and Pittsburgh’s success on the power play will carry them to the Stanley Cup Final.

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