Welcome back! Yesterday we took a look at which teams are true contenders; that is, those teams I believe will not only finish the regular season strong, but will make considerable runs at the Stanley Cup. Let’s continue by taking a look at teams bound for the playoffs.
This category is for teams that shouldn’t have too much trouble making the playoffs, but might not be considered legitimate Stanley Cup threats at this time. Look for possible line tweaks as these teams prepare to take on the heavy hitters listed above.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are atop the Eastern Conference in points, and I’m sure your asking yourself why they were not included in the Contender category. Well to put it simply, I don’t think they’re good enough. I didn’t to start the season, and I don’t think so now despite their impressive record. King Henrik does have the ability to steal games, and has proven that throughout his career, but I don’t see big playoff goals coming from this roster. They have an excellent, young, blue-collar defense. That, combined with Ludqvist, combined with their team defense has them as the only team that’s allowed fewer than 100 goals to this point. It’s pretty impressive, but I think they are going to need a few more guys that can put the puck in the net if they are going to make a run at the cup. Maybe they can make a few additions down the stretch. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 8.5 to 1.
I don’t know what to make of this team. They are poised to win another divisional title, but are well off the pace with the other top teams in the conference. I know Backstrom is a huge loss, and so is Mike Green (although he should be back soon), but this team is still better than their record shows, and way better than their ‘’goals for” stat shows. Nobody’s putting the puck in the net! I know they have a goalie now, and are embracing team defense, but it’s their high-powered offense that has made them such a threat over the last few years. I know Ovi is not producing the way he should, but he’s not the only one. I don’t see the Caps going deep this year with no Backstrom and low production, but hopefully things come around for them. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 19 to 1.
Ottawa seemed to rebuild while nobody was looking. Many (including myself), thought that it would take a few years and that they wouldn’t be competitive until that time. They are definitely proving us wrong! The additions of young stars like, Karlsson, Greening, Condra, Cowen, Turris, Butler, and Smith, have bolstered their roster in record time. The youth movement has also helped the veterans on the team find their game. Michalek has emerged as a serious threat with the puck, and Spezza has returned to his All-Star form. The biggest surprise though has to be Alfredsson, who at 39 years old is playing like he’s in his 20’s. This team is still a few years away from being anything close to a cup threat, but good on them for staying competitive while they get there. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 34 to 1.
Detroit seems to be beating the system right now as they lead the league in points with a team made up of players in their mid to late 30’s. Oh, and a captain in his 40’s! Don’t get me wrong these players are uber talented and they do have a strong tradition of winning. I just don’t think they will be able to go the distance at their collective age. But, I have been proven wrong before, and I’m sure I will be again. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 8 to 1.
Now here is an exciting team, and one that I have been waiting to emerge ever since they showed their young talent back in ’09 with a brief playoff appearance. Well that young team is finally starting to hit their prime with their core now in their mid 20’s. Couple that with the best goaltending tandem in the league and you have a recipe for success. I don’t think they quite have the talent to mount a cup run, but they do definitely have the grit to get there. I think some tweaking in the off-season could turn this team into a serious contender. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 14 to 1.
When you think of Nashville, you think of defense. They have one of the best goaltenders in the league in Rinne, and arguable the best defensive pairing in the league in Weber and Suter. And their top two prospects on the team are also a goalie and defenseman (Lindback, and Ellis). So where’s the offense? Well, that’s the question. They did add a proven sniper in Mike Fisher, but it’s not enough. Defense does win championships, but not over teams that have both. Hopefully these guys can pick up the pieces they need down the stretch cause otherwise they may be looking at another early exit. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 15 to 1.
Well, there you have it – the list of teams destined for the playoffs, but perhaps not to go very deep therein. Check back tomorrow where we take a look at teams “On the Bubble”.
…and that is the last word.