Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Power Ranking Every NHL Playoff Team

Andre Khatchaturian@AndreKhatchCorrespondent IIIApril 8, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Power Ranking Every NHL Playoff Team

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    The playoff field is set and the NHL's best teams are ready to duke it out for two months in order to win one of the most coveted trophies in sports.

    Will the Boston Bruins repeat? 

    Will Roberto Luongo get some redemption?

    Or can the Pittsburgh Penguins take it all now that they're fully healthy?

    Perhaps we'll even see an underdog like the 2006 Edmonton Oilers or 2010 Philadelphia Flyers make an unexpected run.

    Here are the power rankings for all 16 playoff teams as we commence one of the most exciting tournaments in sports. 

16. Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers have the worst goal differential among all the playoff teams at minus-27. They've also blown nine leads heading into the third period when they've had a lead after two periods.

    That's not the way to win playoff series.

    Finally, they have a league-leading 18 overtime losses, which means they gained plenty of charity points in the regular season. There is no charity in the playoffs.

    They really don't have a dynamic scorer or a goaltender and will struggle getting out of the first round, even if they do win the Southeast Division.

    All of that said, Dave Tallon did a fantastic job in turning the team around this season so quickly. They're not going to make a Cup run but either way this has been a successful season for the Panthers. 

15. Ottawa Senators

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    Like the Florida Panthers, the fact that the Ottawa Senators made the playoffs is a surprise. Most people expected them to be in the bottom-third of the league before the start of the season. 

    They have solid scoring output with Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson.

    However, the team doesn't play a lick of defense. They've allowed the most goals from all the playoff teams and it's going to be difficult to win a series when they can't stop the puck from going into their own net. 

14. Washington Capitals

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    The Washington Capitals are one of two teams to have a negative goal differential in the playoffs. That being said, they've really turned on the heat in March and April, going 10-4-2 in their last 16 games to help them earn a playoff spot.

    That said, Tomas Vokoun has been a disappointment in his first season with the Capitals and he'll need to magically turn into the guy the Capitals wanted when they signed him in the summer. Not only that, Alex Ovechkin had an uneventful season with nothing to write home about.

    The rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin has died because of Ovie's lack of scoring output. And it's also important to note that Washington hasn't reached the Conference Finals even when they were winning Presidents' Trophies and finishing with the No. 1 seed in the East. 

    This is probably the weakest Capital team in recent memory and another short playoff season is in store for the team once again. 

13. Los Angeles Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings have had a season long struggle of scoring goals.

    They have the fewest amount of goals from the 16 playoff teams with just under 200. They have been lighting the lamp often as of late, but it's still their primary deficiency.

    They're also 1-22-3 when trailing after two periods, which is the worst record among the playoff teams. If this team falls behind early, they have an extremely difficult time bouncing back. 

    They'll need to score at a pace that they're not used to and get plenty of help from their star goaltender, Jonathan Quick, if they're going to make a run. 

12. San Jose Sharks

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    The San Jose Sharks have yet to make the Stanley Cup Finals despite having an unbelievable amount of success in recent regular seasons. 

    This year they barely made it into the playoffs and it shouldn't have been this hard for a team with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. 

    The one thing they have going for themselves is playoff experience. They're used to having great regular seasons and no playoff success. This time they hope for the opposite. They've been in the playoffs enough times to know what to expect and they have a goaltender who has won the Stanley Cup in Antti Niemi. 

    It won't be a surprise to see the Sharks make a run. They have the experience to erase the dismal regular season out of their memories. They're in the playoffs now. All they have to do now is do what they've been doing in April and late March, which is winning hockey games. 

11. Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Phoenix Coyotes are 32-4-6 when they score first in hockey games this season. That's the second-best record in the Western Conference. 

    This is also not their first go-around in the playoffs. The last two seasons were great learning experiences for the young team and this season they're fortunate that they won't be going up against the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings in the first round. 

    The Red Wings eliminated the Coyotes in the last two seasons. Perhaps facing a new opponent will be a breath of fresh air for the Yotes. 

    The team relies on goaltending and defense to win hockey games. Mike Smith has been stellar in net all season long and has eight shutouts, replacing Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Scoring has been an issue for the team, as has their power play, which is clicking at just 13.8 percent, tied for worst in the league. 

10. Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are on fire heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. They finished the season with an 11-2-4 record in March and April. They'll also have the fortune of going up against the Pacific Division champion in the first round.

    All of that being said, the Blackhawks can't stop the puck. They've allowed the second-most goals among all playoff teams. When they won the Stanley Cup back in 2010, they had stellar goaltending with Antti Niemi and would score at a furious rate. 

    This year, they have a goal differential of just plus-10. They're scoring less, and giving up more goals. Although they're hot going into the playoffs, don't be surprised if this year's Chicago team is ousted early. 

9. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Which Ilya Bryzgalov will we see in the playoffs?

    Will we see the guy who was 11-3-1 in the final month of the season with four shutouts and a .939 save percentage, or the man who was inconsistent throughout much of the season and had a save percentage below 90 percent?

    The Flyers traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter this offseason in order to create a new identity based on youthful scoring and great goaltending. While Claude Giroux had an excellent season and led the team in scoring, Bryzgalov has struggled at times in net.

    The good news for the Flyers is that he'll be heading into the playoffs on a hot streak, but the bad news is that they're going up against the highest-scoring team in the NHL in the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

8. New Jersey Devils

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    The New Jersey Devils have the benefit of playing the Florida Panthers, who have a horrid goal differential, in the first round. They had a solid bounce-back season after failing to make the playoffs last season.

    The Devils head into the playoffs having won six straight games and they'll be looking to carry that momentum. 

    The team has a stingy defense and rely on their defense to win games. They lead the league in penalty-killing percentage at 89.6 percent and short-handed goals with 15. 

    They also have one of the greatest goaltenders of all time in Martin Brodeur. What hasn't Brodeur seen in a NHL game? He has a plethora of experience and with his revamped offense, there is no reason why the Devils can't win a few series and perhaps even make a run for the Cup. 

7. Detroit Red Wings

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    The Detroit Red Wings were one of the best home teams this season, once winning 23 consecutive games at the Joe Louis Arena.

    However, they failed to secure a home playoff series, falling to the No. 5 seed and facing a surging Nashville Predators team without having home ice. 

    That being said, the Red Wings have a plus-45 goal differential. They have the offensive talent with guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and the playoff experience to weather the tribulations of a playoff series. Their head coach, Mike Babcock, knows how to keep his team under composure because of all the battles he's faced and won throughout his coaching career.

    If this team can get past Nashville, expect a deep run for the Wings. 

6. Nashville Predators

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    The Nashville Predators are a team that lives off balanced scoring, a stingy defense and excellent goaltending.

    They have a 34-3-4 record when scoring first in games, which is a testament to the solid play from Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, their two best defensemen. Not only can Weber and Suter shut down opposing forwards, they can light it up, too. The duo has a total of 95 points, combined.

    They also have the second-highest winning percentage in the NHL when trailing after two periods. They're a good comeback team, who will always stick around and fight until the end.

    The Predators had a 16-5-3 record in the Central Division, which is arguably the most competitive in the NHL. They've been playing against tough teams like St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago all season long and their experience from last season's playoff run will give them the confidence to win in the playoffs. 

5. St. Louis Blues

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    The St. Louis Blues are limping into the playoffs, winning just four out of their final 12 regular-season contests. They may have won the Central Division, but there's something about this team that gives one the sense that they're going to lay flat after an impressive regular season.

    Their scoring may be balanced, but they really don't have anyone that stands out. Against an elite playoff team, their scorers can get shut down and they'll be forced to be extremely dependent on their phenomenal goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak.

    Halak has some postseason experience and he tends to shine in the most dire moments, as evidenced by his two Game 7 victories in the 2010 playoffs when he was with Montreal.

    Halak and Elliott will have to carry this team throughout the next two months if they're going to bring joy to the city of St. Louis again, just a few months after the Cardinals won the World Series. 

4. New York Rangers

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    The New York Rangers finished the 2011-12 regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, just edging out the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    However, they have some cause for concern as they head into the playoffs. For one, they have lost four consecutive games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and they've won just three games in their last 10 games against playoff opponents.

    The team has also struggled to win playoff series in recent years. However, with a new focal point in the offense in Brad Richards and an improved, young defense, they could easily win the Stanley Cup if they play the way they are capable of playing.

    It won't be easy, though. Boston and Pittsburgh are two teams that can knock them out of the tournament.

3. Boston Bruins

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    What's not to love about the defending champions?

    They have pretty much the same team as last season and that worked out pretty well for them, didn't it?

    The Bruins have the best goal differential in the league (plus-67), the best record in the league when scoring first (31-5-0) and have yet to relinquish a lead when up after two periods (32-0-0). 

    Those are stellar rankings. The team stumbled a bit in the first month of the season and also hit a bit of a roadblock early on the second half. But they've recovered from that and as long as they don't get complacent and play with the same intensity they did last year, the Bruins will repeat as Cup champions. 

2. Vancouver Canucks

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    The Vancouver Canucks do everything well.

    They're sixth in power-play percentage, sixth in penalty-killing percentage, third in goal differential, fourth in goals allowed and seventh in goals for. 

    They're going to make a deep run again, but it all comes down to Roberto Luongo. If he wilts in clutch situations like he has in the past, most notably Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, then the Canucks can get bounced early.

    If he shines, the nation of Canada will get the Stanley Cup back for the first time since 1993. 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have faced an unbelievable amount of adversity this season and they've just laughed at its face with their fingers pointing at them.

    Now with their entire roster back and healthy, this team has been playing at another level. 

    They've been scoring goals at a frantic pace and they have the second-best goal differential in the league. Not only do they lead the league in scoring, but ever since Sidney Crosby returned, the Penguins have scored at least three goals in every game, except for one. 

    The team has been averaging 4.5 goals per game in their last 15 games. Add a stingy defense with guys like Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik manning the blue line and an elite and proven goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, and you get a team that's destined to win the Stanley Cup. 

    With that kind of a lineup, it'll be a failure if they didn't win. 

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