As one of the top teams in the NHL and the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins have defined themselves as one of the league's Stanley Cup contenders in the first half of the 2013-14 NHL season.
Even without Evgeni Malkin (missing for nine consecutive games now) and a variety of defenders, the Penguins have been able to prey on their weaker divisional foes and now have a 13-point lead in the Metropolitan.
They are hardly alone at the top of the pile though, and have several squads vying to become king of the mountain as well. Who are they, and how does Pittsburgh stack up?
For the purposes of this examination, we're comparing the Penguins to each division leader—the Montreal Canadiens have been subbed in since Pittsburgh leads their grouping. This isn't to say that (for example) the L.A. Kings or San Jose Sharks aren't Cup contenders—they are.
Using the top teams in each division was just the easiest way to break everything down without making too many predictions with more than half a season left to be played. We'll also assume that the Penguins will be healthier moving forward, and might write about injured players and the impact they could have within the next few months.
We'll see how the teams stack up at forward, in net and on the blue line. We've also included the vague "intangibles" section as a sort of catch-all.
All stats appear courtesy of NHL.com.