Each NHL Team's Biggest Strength and Weakness

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IDecember 6, 2011

Each NHL Team's Biggest Strength and Weakness

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    In the NHL, anything can happen on a given night. Each team in the league has strengths and weaknesses. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent is the best way to prepare for the grind the NHL season can bring.

    Let's take a look at the biggest strength and weakness of every NHL squad.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Strength: Goaltending

    Jonas Hiller hasn't been given much of a chance this season with the Ducks playing the way that they are, but the All-Star goalie is still playing at a very high level.

    Weakness: Forward Depth

    This season has shown just how important Anaheim's top line is to its success. There is not much depth behind Getzlaf, Ryan and Perry, and it kills this team when those three are slumping.

Boston Bruins

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    Strength: Defense/Goaltending

    The Boston Bruins are on fire right now, making it difficult to pinpoint a single strength for this team. The obvious catalyst to their success is the ability to keep the puck out of the net. Tim Thomas is still playing outside of his head, and the defense in front of him has been sturdy as well.

    Weakness: Top-End Scoring

    The emergence of Tyler Seguin has certainly helped the Bruins establish a top-end scoring threat, and the likes of Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are producing at a better rate this season, but the team still needs to find a consistent top-end scorer. I think Tyler Seguin can be that guy. Is he ready to put together an entire season at this pace? Time will tell.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Strength: Goaltending

    Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth give the Buffalo Sabres two top-flight options between the pipes. Enroth filled in well for Miller when he was injured, showing how important depth in net is for NHL teams.

    Weakness: Consistent Defense

    The Buffalo Sabres have been hit-or-miss defensively. Despite spending plenty of money on their blue line, the results have been uninspiring to start the season.

    Ryan Miler and Jhonas Enroth have been under a ton of pressure to perform, and have most of the time. However, the Sabres would love to have their blue line come together as the season progresses. 

Calgary Flames

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    Strength: Miikka Kiprusoff

    Miikka Kiprusoff remains one of the few strengths that the Calgary Flames have left on their hockey team. While he is on the tail end of his career, I have seen flashes of the old Kipper in Calgary this season. He still has enough in the tank to keep this team competitive.

    Weakness: Offense

    Through 26 games the Flames are No. 26 in the NHL in goals per game.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Strength: Jeff Skinner

    Jeff Skinner is emerging as a star this season in Carolina. He is quickly becoming the face of this franchise, despite Eric Staal's presence.

    Weakness: Special Teams

    The Carolina Hurricanes rank near the bottom of the league in both power play and penalty killing this season. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Strength: Offense

    Averaging 3.22 goals per game, the Chicago Blackhawks rank third in the league in offense. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are playing exceptionally well this season.

    Weakness: Penalty Kill

    The Blackhawks are third to last in the NHL, killing just 75 percent of their penalties.

Colorado Avalanche

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    Strength: Power Play

    For as streaky as the Colorado Avalanche have been, their power play has been one of the best in the NHL. The Avs find the back on the net on 22.2 percent of their chances on the man advantage.

    Weakness: Defense/Goaltending

    A goals against average of 2.89 as a team is not going to win many games in the NHL.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Strength: Rick Nash and Jeff Carter

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are at their best when Nash and Carter are clicking. Now that Carter is healthy, we are going to see what these two are really made of.

    Weakness: Special Teams

    It's hard to pick just one area of weakness for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but their special teams play has been awful this season. Plenty of things need to improve in Columbus. Special teams play is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Dallas Stars

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    Strength: Depth

    The Dallas Stars lost Brad Richards this offseason, but that hasn't kept them team from consistently putting the puck in the back of the net this season.

    Weakness: Goaltending

    For now, the Stars have a hole in net with Kari Lehtonen on the shelf with a groin injury. Andrew Raycroft is a solid backup, but he can't be counted on as a starter for an extended period of time.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Strength: Defense

    The Detroit Red Wings are on a roll, and the defensive efforts of this team are a big reason why. It cannot be attributed to one player, either. The forwards, defensemen and goaltenders have all played well this season.

    Weakness: Special Teams

    Detroit's power play has started to turn things around, but the Wings have to be hoping for more out of their special teams going forward. The penalty kill is in the bottom third of the league and the power play has been inconsistent at times. Of course, picking out a weakness with Detroit is nitpicky.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Strength: Speed

    Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins bring a ton of speed and offensive ability to the Edmonton Oilers. They play the game with terrific pace and have a feel for the game and one another.

    Weakness: Defense

    The Oilers need to play better in their own end, and it starts with the forwards taking care of their responsibilities of the backcheck and into their own end.

Florida Panthers

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    Strength: Top Line

    Kris Versteeg has burst onto the scene in the Sunshine State and helped lead the Panthers first line to an outstanding start to the season.

    Weakness: Depth

    The Panthers top line has been awesome. Unfortunately, the rest of the offensive lines have been very average.

Los Angeles Kings

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    Strength: Goaltending

    Jon Quick and Jon Bernier represent one of the strongest goaltending tandems in the NHL. Combined with the defense in front of them, the two netminders have a 2.15 goals against average this season.

    Weakness: Scoring

    Given how much money the team spent up front in the offseason, the Kings are having a surprisingly difficult time finding the back of the net to start the year. They have a Vezina-caliber goaltender with a solid defensive unit in front of him. Now, they have to help him out with some more offense.

Minnesota Wild

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    Strength: Goaltending

    The emergence of Josh Harding has done wonders for the Wild between the pipes. The added rest has made Nicklas Backstrom more effective, and the team stays competitive in every game.

    Weakness: Power Play

    Converting just 14 percent of their chances, the Wild need to get things figured out with the man advantage to remain an elite team throughout the season.

Montreal Canadiens

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    Strength: Goaltending

    The Montreal Canadiens' biggest strength will be goaltending for a long, long time. Carey Price is a stud.

    Weakness: Power Play

    The Montreal Canadiens have struggled mightily on the power play this season. Not only are they having trouble generating goals, but they are allowing too many short-handed goals to their opposition as well. 

Nashville Predators

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    Strength: Defense

    This is a pretty obvious strength. The Predators have the best defensive pairing in the league and an elite goalie to go with it.

    Weakness: Offense

    The Predators offense has been mildly improved this season, but the club still leaves a bit to be desired in the opposition's end of the ice.

New Jersey Devils

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    Strength: Penalty Kill

    The Devils rarely allow a goal when down a man. They have killed off just over 94 percent of their penalties this season.

    Weakness: Power Play

    For the past two seasons, the Devils have been a bad team with the man advantage. A bad power play can turn wins into losses pretty quickly. Those losses pile up on a team and leave them in the cellar of the division. New Jersey has to find a way to turn things around.

New York Islanders

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    Strength: John Tavares

    John Tavares is off to the start most expected from him this season. With 21 points through 24 games, it's safe to project Tavares to have the first 70-point season of his career.

    Weakness: Everything Else

    The New York Islanders can't seem to get on track to start the season. From the goaltending right on out, this team is in serious trouble.

New York Rangers

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    Strength: Defense/Goaltending

    As a team, the Rangers have managed to hold the opposition to a very solid 2.21 goals per game. Henrik Lundqvist and Company are at it again.

    Weakness: Power Play

    The power play continues to be one of very few weaknesses for the New York Rangers. They rank No. 20 in the league in that department.

Ottawa Senators

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    Strength: Power Play

    Despite their inconsistencies this season, the Ottawa Senators have actually been an elite team on the power play. The Sens rank No. 9 with a 19.1 conversion percentage.

    Weakness: Goalie

    Ottawa has allowed more goals per game (3.33) than any team in the league. Craig Anderson has been terrible this season.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Strength: Offense

    The Flyers offense has been on fire during the first few months of the 2011-2012 season. Claude Giroux has 32 points, and Philly is leading the league in goals scored. So much for a decrease in offense without Carter and Richards.

    Weakness: Goaltending

    Go figure. The Flyers spend all offseason shuffling things around to bring in a superstar goaltender, and the team has a similar makeup to last year's team—score a ton, let in a ton.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    Strength: Mike Smith

    Who would have thought that Mike Smith would be the gem of the free-agent goaltending crew? Time will tell whether Smith will be able to sustain this sort of success, though.

    Weakness: Offense

    Mike Smith is standing on his head so far this season, but for the Phoenix Coyotes to sustain their early season success, more offense is needed.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Strength: Many Things

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are clicking. The Pens are near the top in the league in both goals for and goals against, and boast one of the finest penalty-killing units in the league.

    Weakness: Power Play

    It's a bit of a stretch to call Pittsburgh's power play a weakness, but it has been just OK this season. The Penguins ranked 15th in the league when up a man.

St. Louis Blues

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    Strength: Goaltending

    The month of November was kind to Brian Elliot and the St. Louis Blues. They are now second only to Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins in goals against average. Ken Hitchcock has things turned around nicely down by the Arch.

    Weakness: Power Play

    Ken Hitchcock's next task will be to fix the league's most abysmal power-play unit. The Blues convert only nine percent of their chances.

San Jose Sharks

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    Strength: Power Play

    The abundance of talent on the offense of the San Jose Sharks makes it no surprise that the team once again has one of the five best power plays in the NHL.

    Weakness: Penalty Kill

    The Sharks special teams have been a tale of two tapes. While the power play has been outstanding, the Sharks rank dead last in killing penalties this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Strength: Steven Stamkos

    Steven Stamkos is the Tampa Bay Lightning. If he isn't rolling, the Lightning aren't rolling. It's as simple as that. Stammer is off to another great start with 29 points in 26 games.

    Weakness: Goaltending

    Tampa Bay has had a disastrous start in net, allowing more than three goals a game as a team. Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon have both struggled this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Strength: Offense

    Surround Phil Kessel with some talent and just look at what the kid can do. The Leafs are currently ranked in the top five in the league for both goals per game and power play. Brian Burke's work is finally coming together.

    Weakness: Goaltending

    Unfortunately for the Leafs, the play on the back end has not been quite as stellar this season. Toronto will have to keep their goals against average below three if they want to have a prayer of keeping up with the Bruins in the Northeast Division.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Strength: Power Play

    The Sedins move the pucks like magicians. It's no surprise the Canucks power play is by far the league's best this season.

    Weakness: Roberto Luongo

    Vancouver lucked out with the injury to Roberto Luongo. It gave them free rein to ride Cory Schneider and pull out of their slump. Hopefully, the injury gave Luongo time to mentally reset himself, because he has been especially bad to start this season.

Washington Capitals

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    Strength: Talent

    While the production has not been there this season, there is no questioning the talent on the Washington Capitals roster. They have to get it figured out eventually, right?

    Weakness: Special Teams

    The Capitals simply haven't been doing the little things right this season, which is why their special teams have taken a big hit.

Winnipeg Jets

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    Strength: Home-Ice Advantage

    The Winnipeg Jets have already built up a home-ice advantage of sorts in their first season back. The Jets are a respectable 7-4 at home this season compared to 4-7-4 on the road.

    Weakness: Defense

    Winnipeg ranks in the bottom third of the league for goals against average.