It is a long, tedious journey to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs. A dynamic offense, gritty defense, smart goaltending and a whole lot of heart are the necessary keys to win hockey’s greatest prize: Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The NHL is populated with driven teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, who are expected to qualify for a spot in the postseason each year.
However, there are always a few one-and-dones. Last season, it was the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs who failed to qualify for a second straight berth.
Unlike the Islanders and Panthers, the Senators and Maple Leafs had their chances to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, they failed to produce results late in the second half of the season.
This postseason, a few teams are already on the verge of heading to the golf course. We’ll take a look here at who could miss out on the 2014-15 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Heading into Monday night’s matchup against the Anaheim Ducks, the Dallas Stars have found themselves in a hole, being down two games in this Western Conference showdown.
The Texas-based franchise made a strong push late in the regular season to leapfrog the Phoenix Coyotes for the final wild-card spot in the West.
Solid goaltending from Kari Lehtonen (.919 save percentage, 2.41 GAA) and captain Jamie Benn's leadership earned them the opportunity to play the top-seeded Ducks.
This young team's lack of playoff experience will be its downfall in this year’s playoffs. Experience is what separates the Stars from their first-round opponents, who already won a Stanley Cup in the past decade.
Another reason why the Stars will miss the playoffs next year is due to the fact that the conference they compete in is absolutely stacked with talent in all areas of the ice.
The Coyotes, who missed out this year after heading to the Western Conference Final two years ago, have a lot of young, talented players—like defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson—who could help propel them back to the playoffs next year.
Expect Dallas and Phoenix to be in a similar position next season, but with the Coyotes edging out the Stars in the long run.
The Philadelphia Flyers avoided heading back to Wells Fargo Center down two games to none after overcoming a two-goal deficit on Easter Sunday against the New York Rangers.
The Flyers have had an interesting turn of events this season, beginning with the firing of head coach Peter Laviolette three games into the year. Craig Berube, the new bench boss in Philly, helped turn the club around and brought it back to the playoffs by securing the third seed in the Metropolitan Division.
It was clear captain Claude Giroux was a big factor in the turnaround. The center didn’t score a goal in the first 15 games of the season, but somehow got fired up and finished third in the league in points with 82.
His team took notice of his resurgence and is now back in the postseason after failing to secure a spot last year.
The team lacks a strong base in goaltending, which could pose a problem next season. Steve Mason, who currently is injured, has not had a very consistent career—especially when he was in Columbus with the Blue Jackets.
This season was not a terrible one for the young netminder, but he will definitely be a factor in whether this team can earn a playoff berth for a second year in a row.
The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins will most likely have strong seasons again next year and Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals cannot afford to miss the postseason for two consecutive years.
Because of this, the Metropolitan will be one of the toughest divisions in the league, which will be a big test for the Flyers.
Detroit Red Wings
Over the last two seasons, Mike Babcock’s Detroit Red Wings have been flirting with not making the playoffs and failing to continue the franchise's impressive playoff streak.
After finding his team in a rut due to a rampant case of the injury bug, Babcock found a way to make the playoffs for the 23rd time in franchise history with what little resources he had.
A key figure in the Wings being able to keep their streak alive was 24-year-old Swedish forward Gustav Nyquist, who had 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points in just 57 games.
The club is heading back home against the Boston Bruins tied at a game apiece in the first round of the playoffs. The Western Conference transplant is probably the likeliest of the four wild-card teams this year capable of defeating their top-seeded opponent.
The Red Wings can miss the postseason next year if they do not see the same kind of production from the younger members of the club.
Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm will no doubt play their part, but they obviously have nothing to prove. Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar will be looked upon by Babcock and the Red Wings' front office to produce like they did in the latter half of the 2013-14 season.
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