It took the very last game of the season to determine who was in, but, as of now, 16 NHL teams are preparing themselves for the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pre-lockout, the idea that any one of the 16 teams that made the postseason could end up winning the Cup was largely hyperbole.
With rare exceptions, the big money teams with the depth, defense, goaltending and firepower usually ended up skating away with Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the playoffs, just like so many people predicted they would at the beginning of the NHL's second season.
However, times have changed quiet a bit.
That all important paradigm of "parity" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman purchased at the cost of an entire NHL season may still not have been worth that particular price tag, however, for my money, parity has made the league, and especially the playoffs, more exciting.
It's hard to look at a No. 1 seed now and not find a few flaws that could very well send them off to an earlier than expected summer, just as it's tough not to see a scrappy No. 8 seed as a team no one is going to see coming and might, just might, skate away with it all in June.
The NHL's playing field (or ice rank as the case may be) is truly as level as it has ever been and that means there are no more easy first-round series and handicapping championships is nearly impossible.
Still, for various reasons, one could look at this year's crop of playoff teams and pick out a few that, just don't seem capable of reaching the NHL's Promised Land.
It could be that they're missing key players to injury, lack the depth any team needs in this league to win a Cup, or, just don't have the experience it takes to scratch and claw 16 wins over the next two months.
Some of these picks will likely make you mad, and some, you might agree with.
Whatever your reaction, make sure to make your voice heard as I'm more than ready to talk about why these five teams have no chance of winning a Stanley Cup this year.
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