2013 NHL Playoffs: Each Team's Chances of Winning the Stanley Cup
It's time for beards. No, not a new season of Duck Dynasty, it's time for the NHL playoffs.
The skates are sharpened, the sticks taped and the ice freshly cut. Anything can happen.
Last year the Kings went from barely making the playoffs to hoisting the cup. Who will this year's Cinderella be? Who will raise the Cup?
Let's sort out the madness and take a look at each team's chances of hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.
8th Seed in the East: New York Islanders
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 0 percent
Islanders fans can rejoice in the fact that their team has made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That excitement will fade quickly, though, when the realization sets in that they will be taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Yes, the Islanders do have a history of beating the Penguins as underdogs. The Islanders won their first playoff series ever by beating the Penguins after falling into a 3-0 hole in 1975. In 1982, the Islanders beat the Penguins after tying up the fifth game in the best-of-five series late and winning it in overtime.
This is 2013, though. Yes, the Islanders have some of the league's most exciting players in John Tavares and Matt Moulson. However, they lack the top-to-bottom depth needed to compete with the Penguins night after night.
Their only hope is to get the Penguins in penalty trouble and let John Tavares go to work. Tavares has nine power-play goals on the season. Matt Moulson isn't far behind with eight.
7th Seed in the East: Ottawa Senators
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: .5 percent
The Senators play simple hockey, which is good for this time of year. The issue, however, lies in their inability to score goals.
The Senators have scored the least amount of goals of any playoff team. That inability to score will definitely come to haunt the Senators in the postseason.
The Senators also draw the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. I just don't see Ottawa having the offensive firepower to outlast the Canadiens in a seven-game series. Ottawa averages 2.08 goals per game, while Montreal averages three.
One boost for the Senators, however, is the addition of Erik Karlsson. Karlsson, coming off an Achilles tear, will provide stability at the blue line.
7th Seed in the West: Detroit Red Wings
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 2 percent
Detroit being in the playoffs has become a common occurrence. Detroit in the playoffs without Nicklas Lidstrom? Now that is something new.
Henrik Zetterberg has stepped in as the new captain and done a noble job this season, scoring 11 goals and accounting for 48 points.
Detroit's top line with Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can skate and probably beat anybody. After that, though, the wheels kind of fall off. There isn't much of a supporting cast for Detroit's stars.
The fact that the Red Wings have to play the Ducks in the first round may be a blessing. Even though the Ducks have surprised most by winning 30 games, the Red Wings beat them in two of their three meetings.
Between Jimmy Howard's inconsistent play and the fact that the Red Wings are still looking for a clear answer for the hole Lidstrom left behind leads me to believe they will have an early exit from this year's playoffs.
5th Seed in the East: Toronto Maple Leafs
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 3 percent
The Maple Leafs can attribute a lot of their success to goalie James Reimer.
Reimer had a 2.46 goals-against average and helped the Leafs to a .921 save percentage at even strength during the regular season. The wild card here, though, is that Reimer will be making his postseason debut this year. It is yet to be seen if he can handle the pressure of playoff hockey in Toronto.
On offense, it's all Phil Kessel. Kessel led the team in points, goals and assists. After Kessel, the Maple Leafs have plenty of offensive firepower.
Their main weakness is defensively, as they allowed more than 30 shots per game this season. If you let your opponents take that many shots, more than a few are going to find the back of the net.
3rd Seed in the West: Vancouver Canucks
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 3.5 percent
The Vancouver Canucks are a great regular-season team, though this year wasn't their most stellar.
The Canucks are much like the Red Wings, in that they are highly skilled with their top two lines. After that, the skill and talent begin to waiver.
They also struggle mightily in the faceoff circle, having won only 47.6 percent of their faceoffs this season. That is cause for concern because puck possession is crucial, especially in the postseason.
The Canucks also play the San Jose Sharks in the first round, a team that swept the season series of three games. A combination of all of this makes the Canucks' road to the Cup difficult.
3rd Seed in the East: Washington Capitals
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 4 percent
The Washington Capitals' biggest issue is their first-round opponent, the New York Rangers.
The Rangers beat the Capitals in two of their three meetings this season.
Alex Ovechkin is back and thriving this season, though, having scored 32 goals. The Capitals also boast the league's best power play, converting on 26.8 percent of their chances.
The Caps are thin on the blue line, however, and they struggle on the penalty kill. Washington's 77.9 percent penalty kill is not where a Stanley Cup winning team's number needs to be.
If the Caps can knock off the Rangers in the first round, who knows where momentum can carry them? I just don't think they can get out of the first round.
5th Seed in the West: Los Angeles Kings
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 4.5 percent
It's very hard to repeat in any sport, yet that is the task the Los Angeles Kings have this season.
The Kings have had an up and down season, but they never lost their confidence as the reigning Stanley Cup champions. They are just as gritty and tough a hockey team as they were last year.
The injury bug bit the Kings this season, however, most notably in the defensive unit. The struggles on defense contributed to the fact that the Kings only won eight games on the road all season. That is something that will surely have to change if the Kings want to repeat.
A bright spot in L.A. is Jake Muzzin. The rookie has a plus-16 rating as a defenseman and added 16 points on offense.
4th Seed in the East: Boston Bruins
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 6 percent
Boston has been through a lot recently, and the fact that the Bruins will be playing for their city in a time of need shouldn't be understated.
The fact of the matter, however, is that the Bruins have won just two of their last nine games coming into the playoffs. But the Bruins do have a good chance to make a run this postseason because of their strong defensive play.
Boston ranks third in goals against and fourth in penalty kill.
Boston is also a good offensive team, led by Brad Marchand and David Krejci. The late-season acquisition of Jaromir Jagr will also pay dividends.
If the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs in the first round (Boston did beat Toronto three of four times this season), then look for the Bruins to make some noise.
6th Seed in the East: San Jose Sharks
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 6 percent
The Sharks are a team of grizzly vets with an infusion of youth, which is a good combination to succeed this time of the year. The Sharks' track record makes me wary of giving them a higher chance of bringing home the Cup, however.
Antti Niemi has been a rock in net this year. Niemi has a 2.16 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Niemi's 24 wins also tied him for the league lead.
Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton lead an offensive unit that has struggled at times this year. The Sharks average only 2.4 goals per game but have the ability to score upwards of four goals any night.
The Sharks are also a tough, gritty team that will be difficult to knock around. The deadline acquisition of Raffi Torres only solidifies this team's identity.
4th Seed in the West: St. Louis Blues
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 7.5 percent
St. Louis is a good hockey team, the kind of which you hear Barry Melrose praise.
The Blues are very strong offensively, thanks in part to the emergence of rookie Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko accounted for 19 points this season. Chris Stewart led the offensive charge. In his fourth year in the league, Chris Stewart broke out and led the team in goals and assists.
St. Louis also solidified their blue line at the deadline by adding Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester.
The major knock on St. Louis is their inconsistent goaltending. Can Brian Elliott be the guy in net to take them to a cup?
The Blues will come into the playoffs with revenge on their mind. St. Louis will play L.A. in the first round, a rematch of a second-round series from last year when the Kings swept the Blues.
8th Seed in the West: Minnesota Wild
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 8 percent
Minnesota was the talk of the hockey world this offseason with their additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Will their offseason splash pay off? I think so.
Yes, they would have to knock off the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, but crazier things have happened.
At times Minnesota has the ability to score at will and lock down defensively. The key in that sentence, though, is "at times." For Minnesota to advance and make noise, it has to be consistent—and that's where the additions of Parise and Suter play in. They have been here before.
The Wild also dominate on faceoffs, winning 52.4 percent of their draws. This will be key for Minnesota, because if it can control puck possession and get a few bounces, it has a chance of upsetting Chicago.
Minnesota plus playoff hockey: hard to pick against that.
2nd Seed in the East: Montreal Canadiens
Chance of winning the Stanley Cup: 8.5 percent
Montreal is a scrappy team that turned heads all season, and now it's time to see what it can do on the big stage.
The Canadiens are a good offensive team that averages three goals per game and have the fifth-best power play in the league. If you look at the roster and their stat sheet for the year, the Canadiens just have a bunch of hockey players. The locker room is made up of a bunch of guys who can do whatever their coach needs at any time.
Two question marks, however, are Carey Price and their defensive structure. Carey Price has had an up and down season, and the Canadiens have had to juggle their defensive pairings after some injuries. They also struggle on the penalty kill, killing only 79.8 percent of their penalties.
6th Seed in the East: New York Rangers
Chance of winning the Stanley Cup: 10 percent
The New York Rangers are a classic Atlantic Division team, tough with scoring ability.
Besides New York's gritty defensive style, its biggest strength is goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist had another career year, allowing only 2.02 goals per game and saving almost 93 percent of shots he faced. If you even get a clear shot on him, he has more than a fair chance of saving it.
The loss of Marc Staal will likely hurt them in the long run, though, as it will cause their current blue-liners to play extra minutes in crunch time. The Rangers have also struggled to win on the road, winning only 10 road games all year.
EA Sports did predict the Rangers to win the Cup, though.
2nd Seed in the West: Anaheim Ducks
Chance of winning the Stanley Cup: 11 percent
Ageless wonder Teemu Selanne has his eyes on the Cup, and he hopes his teammates can take him there.
The Ducks have surprised pretty much everyone this year by finishing second in the West. A main reason for their resurgence has the been the play of Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf scored 15 goals, had 34 assists and accounted for 49 points this season. Getzlaf took his game to a new level this year, and the Ducks followed suit.
The Ducks do struggle with faceoffs, though, and that isn't a stat you want to struggle with come playoff time when every possession matters.
But the Ducks have a very strong one-two punch in net with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth, which could prove to be a difference-maker later on in the playoffs.
1st Seed in the West: Chicago Blackhawks
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 12.5 percent
Be wary of Presidents' Trophy winners they said, and I am a little. Look at what happened to Vancouver last year.
I don't know if Chicago will be outed in the first round, but the Blackhawks aren't perfect.
They struggled on the power play this year, ranking 19th in the league.
Yup, that's about the only bad thing.
The Blackhawks do just about everything else flawlessly. Their biggest roadblock now is the sheer unknown. Blackhawks fans need to pray to avoid a major injury. If you literally take out their top two lines, then maybe there's a chance someone can knock them off.
Then again, their depth is also a key to their success. So I guess just pick your poison and buy some lucky charms if you want your team to beat the Hawks.
1st Seed in the East: Pittsburgh Penguins
Chance of Winning the Stanley Cup: 13 percent
The Cup is coming back to Pittsburgh.
Similar to the Blackhawks, it is truly hard to find a flaw in the Penguins this year.
They went out and acquired basically every big-name player available at the deadline to stack a roster that was already stacked.
They can essentially score at will and also are a bruising tough team. They rank first in the league in goals per game and second in power play.
The scariest news for the rest of the NHL is the announcement that Sidney Crosby has been cleared to practice. The timetable for his return is still uncertain, but with Sid practicing, a return is expected to come sooner rather than later.
One aspect where the Penguins do struggle is their penalty kill. The best chance a team has at beating Pittsburgh is to get it in the penalty box.
Even if you do that, though, the Penguins can still outscore you.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will raise Lord Stanley's Cup when it's all said and done.