Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 5/23/2013
And then there were eight. The NHL Playoff field has been cut in half, and it will soon be much smaller still. Before it shrinks, though, it’s a good time to assess the eight teams that remain. These power rankings take three things into consideration — their potential to win it all, their current performance, and their attractiveness as a betting interest:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have been far from perfect — they have had goalie struggles, the Islanders looked far better than they should have, and the Senators had no business winning a game in this series. Still, the team is just so deep and talented that their struggles at times have almost made them look even better. If they can do this well playing clearly below their best, then what are they capable of when they start firing on all cylinders? Their goalie struggles actually is what is most impressive about them. Top goalie Marc-Andre Fleury really struggled and got himself benched. Losing a guy who has won a Cup would be a huge blow to most teams, but Pittsburgh just plugged in another elite goalie in his place. They are just so deep and well-put-together. They are still the team to beat, and I just don’t see it happening. Washington was the team I thought they needed to fear most, and they didn’t even survive the first round.
2. Boston Bruins
I probably have Boston a spot too low in these rankings right now. They are on the verge of sweeping the Rangers after pulling off an incredible comeback to beat the Leafs in Game 7 of their opening round. Their offense is red-hot right now, and their defensive play is as solid as ever. I have them a solid step behind the Penguins for two big reasons, though. First, I have little respect for the Leafs as they currently are made up, so going to seven games against them does little for my opinion of Boston. More significantly, while Pittsburgh is performing well within themselves offensively, Boston is overachieving, and they aren’t likely to be able to sustain it. Still, they are clearly second-best at this point and reinforce the sense of many that the Eastern final is for the Cup.
3. Detroit Red Wings
I just can’t believe that the Red Wings are the top Western team here. At this point, though, I can’t deny it. Despite being badly outclassed on paper, they are up 2-1 against the Blackhawks and are clearly in the heads of the Western Conference Champions. They are doing it through teamwork, relentless devotion to being annoying, and outstanding coaching. I don’t think it can last — I still think I like Chicago to win the series — but the last two efforts by Detroit have been very impressive.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
In Game 2 of this series the Blackhawks were punched in the mouth for the first time all year. They had rolled through the regular season, essentially clinching all there was to clinch with their 24 straight wins to open the season. They were totally dominant in the opening round, and they cruised in the first game against Detroit. In Game 2 Detroit got feisty, though, and Chicago didn’t have an answer. One game doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things — even though it occurred in Chicago. What is the concern, though, is that they were even more flat in Game 3. They hadn’t seen adversity all year, and they didn’t handle it with grace. There is still plenty of time, and I still think they are the only team that can beat Pittsburgh (though I would favor the Penguins in their matchup). However, for a team that has made a recent science of early, disappointing playoff departures recently, the last two games are troubling.
5. L.A. Kings
There is a definite line between the top four teams and the bottom four on this list. The Kings are the best of the rest, but they are a clear also-ran in my eyes. They have been solid during these playoffs and could win another series, but they are not future champions. They get top billing among the bottom group because of two things — their status as defending champs and the fact that they have been the most profitable team to bet on so far in these playoffs.
6. San Jose Sharks
Could the Sharks beat the Kings? Absolutely. Is there any reason for anyone outside of San Jose to really care about this team? I can’t find one, and I have been looking since they joined the league. Like so many San Jose teams before them, this team is talented and has plenty of potential, but it just lacks the soul to be a long-term contender. They are only where they are because they drew the Canucks in the first round. There are about 24 teams in the NHL that could have beaten Vancouver in that series given the mindset they had at the time.
7. Ottawa Senators
The Senators should just be happy to be here. They got a huge series win against the Habs — one of the two teams that overshadows them badly in Eastern Canada. They have frustrated the Penguins at times, too. All in all it has been a good showing. It’s just hard to believe that they are built to last this year. They could not win another game in these playoffs and they would still have all sorts of reasons to be proud of what they have done.
8. New York Rangers
The Rangers only won their opening series because the Capitals totally quit on themselves in the last two games. They have looked ridiculously out of place in their second-round series. Their goaltending hasn’t met expectations, their big stars haven’t come through like they are being paid to, and the team just generally hasn’t been nearly as good as they should be. In other words, they have been like every other New York sports team over the last five years except for the Giants.
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