The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight with 16 teams having the chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. But the question is, do all 16 teams have realistic chance of winning the Cup? The answer is no.
Here are our power rankings for the 16 playoffs teams.
16. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have made the playoffs for the last 25 seasons, but this might be their weakest team to date. This is going to be the last hurrah for the Red Wings with Pavel Datsyuk, as he is going back to Russia next season. The Red Wings are putting Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk on the same line for the playoffs in an attempt to jumpstart the offense. The Wings also are hoping goaltender Jimmy Howard can rediscover his past playoff glory. Howard has been good down the stretch, but can he carry the Wings?
15. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning were originally the NHL favorite to win the Stanley Cup this season. They had taken the Chicago Blackhawks to six games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. This year was the year for the Lightning. After a slow start, the Lightning finally got their offense going along with great goaltending from Ben Bishop. Then the injuries happened. Anton Stralman broke his fibula against the New York Islanders on March 25. Stralman was a top-pairing defenseman with Victor Hedman. Steven Stamkos was then ruled out with a blood clot. Stamkos had 36 goals this season, leads the Lightning in goals and was second in points to Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning will depend more heavily on Bishop than they’ve had to prior.
14. New York Islanders
In the playoffs, goalies can make even an average teams look great. Unfortunately for the Islanders, Jaroslav Halak is injured. Thomas Greiss has been a career backup before this season and now will be the starter with Jean-Francois Berube as backup. The Islanders might get Travis Hamonic from injury, and they still have John Tavares and his 33 goals. If Hamonic stays out, expect Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk to play more heavy-pressure minutes. Ultimately, the Islanders’ goaltending issues will rear their ugly head in the playoffs.
13. Nashville Predators
The Predators acquired Ryan Johansen before the trade deadline in a savvy move. The move gave the Preds a top-line center and added to their strong team defense. The reason for their struggles to start the year was the play of Pekka Rinne. Rinne had been an All-Star goalie coming into this season. Rinne had flashes of his old self toward the end of the season but is still not up to All-Star caliber. Rinne is once again going to hold the Predators’ playoff fate on his pads.
12. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are lead by goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has been solid all season for the Wild. Dubnyk is backed by a defense that is allowing just 28.6 shots on goal. The biggest pitfall for the Wild is injuries. Zach Parise, Erik Haula and Thomas Vanek are battling injuries. They accounted for 57 of the Wild’s 213 goals. The Wild hope to continue their streak of getting out of the first round. They have a tough first-round draw in the Dallas Stars.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are injured, plain and simple. The Penguins just returned goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from a concussion, and defenseman Olli Maatta could be ready to play in the playoffs. The status of Evgeni Malkin, Matt Murray and Bryan Rust is in question for their first-round series against the Rangers. The only healthy players might be Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby. Will they be enough? My vote is no.
10. New York Rangers
The Rangers are mediocre team with Henrik Lundqvist this season. Can you imagine what they are without him? The Rangers also are going to be without top pairing defenseman Ryan McDonagh for some games in the playoffs. The Rangers still do not have the appropriate depth on offense and defense to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup, but they still have Lundqvist.
9. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers got rolling once rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere got rolling. The Flyers, with a never say die attitude, fought hard to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were led by Gostisbehere and goalie Steve Mason. While the Flyers made an improbable run to playoffs, their time may be cut short by drawing the Washington Capitals in the first round. Mason will have to stand on his head for the Flyers to even make it out of the first round.
8. Florida Panthers
The Panthers are a unique combination of youth and veteran experience. They have young stars in Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov, and veterans in Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo. Jagr has been to the top of the mountain before and knows what it takes to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Luongo is completely capable of standing on his head for 16 wins. They are team to watch.