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Always the most important story line in the NHL—who will win the Stanley Cup?
It's even better this year because there are at least eight teams that can be considered legitimate contenders, and it's all but impossible to accurately predict the winner without just getting lucky.
Philadelphia Flyers: Philly has most of the normal attributes of a Cup winner with depth on offense and defense, toughness, leadership and experience. The biggest question is if their goaltending can hold up throughout the playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks have elite-level two-way forwards, depth on defense, a good checking line and proven regular season goaltending. The Canucks' questions right now surround secondary scoring from Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson and whether or not Roberto Luongo can be good in the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are finally starting to get healthy again, and with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom, they may have the best all-around elite talent. They're very good offensively and defensively and have tons of experience. The questions are around clutch goaltending, health and whether the oldest team in the league has enough in the tank to make an extended playoff run.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins' strength has traditionally been down the middle with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, and it still is, but the Pens look more complete than ever before. They have the best player in the league, good depth on defense, a proven winner in net, great leadership, youth that has experience and by far the best penalty kill in the league at 88.4 percent. The biggest question for the Penguins is if they can get and stay healthy.
Dallas Stars: The least expected of the contenders, the Stars have proven themselves with two extremely talented lines that play a physical, playoff style of game every night. The Stars don't have the depth of other contenders, but they boast a Conn Smythe winner as their best player and a youthful energy that should benefit them in a long series. The questions are many for the Stars, such as goaltending, elite defensemen and depth, but they could surprise other contenders.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins boast by far the best goalie in the league right now, a great backup, the best shutdown defenseman in the league and great depth on forward. There aren't really any questions with the Bruins this year, except maybe whether or not they'll get Marc Savard back and be even better.
Chicago Blackhawks: While the Hawks haven't been as good this regular season as they were last year, they have a core that boasts Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. They're also getting great goaltending from rookie Corey Crawford and have experience and the league's best power play. The biggest question for the Hawks is if their loss of depth will cost them in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning: There are some issues with the Lightning, but their embarrassment of riches at forward makes them a threat. Dwayne Roloson is also a proven playoff goalie, and Victor Hedman is one of the best young defensemen. The issues are depth, defense and goaltending.
Washington Capitals: The Caps haven't been good this season but have superstar talent, solid defensemen, great team speed and three goalies fighting to get playing time. The questions surround goaltending, scoring depth and why they've been struggling this season.
Any team that makes the playoffs this year will have a good chance to win in the first round, and there shouldn't be any easy series. It should be a great rest of the season.