Offense Depth up front - accentuated with a top-five power play - capitalizes on a strong defensive game to transition into one of the most potent offenses in the league .. quick to jump on a lead, leading the league going into the third with a lead 42 times (37-2-3) .. Six 20-goal scorers, Zdeno Chara with 19 and Milan Lucic at 17, are a shining example of scoring balance led by Marc Savard, a Hart Trophy candidate before tailing off, doing little things away from the puck and buying into a defensive system that ensure playoff success .. despite firepower, Bruins scored 86 goals in the third period this season, only rallying twice when trailing into the third (2-10-4) .. a puck possession team, they gave away the puck the fifth least amount of times this season .. David Krejci scored 21 goals and 60 points in Bruins wins, and only once in losses (27-1-8-9) .. Second in the league in goals scored 5-on-5 this season .. have the horses to make it a deep run.
Defense Chara patrols the blueline 25 minutes nightly, a difficult task to maneuver as a forward into the zone with the giant back there .. although he has trouble with smaller, speedier forwards and could see wave after wave of outside speed .. Dennis Wideman has improved on both sides of the puck, counted on for 20-plus minutes per game, utilizing a responsible game this season, enhancing the transition with improved first pass and scored over 40 points in Boston wins, and eight points in losses (3-5-8) .. these two highlight the main unit, but Boston blessed with a deep blueline that includes Mart Stuart, Andrew Ference and trade deadline addition, Steve Montador.
SLEEPERS Chuck Kobasew scored eight goals in the last 20 games, and went through the lull in April .. Mark Recchi is likely to be overvalued by poolies looking at the Bruins to progress, but could be a decent boost for the roster .. reclamation project Michael Ryder finished shy of the 30-goal mark but led Bruins forwards with 10 power play goals and seven game winners.
Offense Led by Great '8", Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals offense drops off dramatically after the top unit of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin and complimented by rover Mike Green, the first defenseman to score more than 30 goals since Kevin Hatcher did it in the 1992-93 season .. sport a power play ranking second overall with over 25% proficiency, and closer to 30% at home .. scored 95 goals in the third period this season, second highest amount, entered the third period with the lead 38 times, and only won four games in the 21 times they entered the third period trailing (4-16-1) .. second overall (behind Detroit) in shots-per-game averaging 33.4 .. not the same Capitals as last spring, but they still work hard and forecheck with zeal (828 hits at home and 823 on the road) throughout the forward units, while the trailer Green forces opposition to backcheck or get burned.
Defense Mike Green has over 60 points more than Washington's second defenseman, Shaone Morrisonn, and as a unit aren't as tight knit as the forward units .. The defense corp leads all playoff teams with giveaways, and the Capitals as a team are guilty of coughing up the puck in their zeal to transition, leaving goaltender Jose Theodore out to dry at times, but also block a lot of shots, ranking in the top-10 this season .. eighth overall in goals-against in the third period, and a middling penalty-killing percentage of 80% .. the Achilles tendon for the Capitals is between the pipes where a Jekyll/Hyde Theodore hit the 30 Win mark for the third time in his NHL career, his first with the Capitals, and fell under 3.00 GAA as the calendar flipped to 2009 and has never looked back .. will have to step it up for a long run in the playoffs.
SLEEPERS There aren't many candidates for sleepers in this lineup as the run will begin with Ovechkin and stall after Semin, but look for the veteran presence and savvy of Sergei Fedorov to shine through .. Brooks Laich plays a prominent role on the power play and special teams can make or break a playoff series.
Offense Adapted to Brent Sutter's less restrictive style fit in conjunction with the Patrik Elias's return to form, a mid-season hot streak for Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac's chemistry with Zach Parise .. all cultivated during the absence of number one goaltender, and looked invincible in support of great goaltending, but sputtered down the stretch .. Langenbrunner has scored at a point-per-game pace since the lockout (25-5-20-25) .. Devils benefit most from drawing first blood (0.837 Win percentage when scoring first) and holding the lead entering the third (38-1-1) .. Elias has (24-11-21-32) in the post-lockout playoffs and can easily be the highest scoring Devil .. offensive success revolves around Parise, with 17 points in 31 Devils losses .. rely more on timely, crucial scoring, good potential for a long run.
Defense Martin Brodeur is the backbone of the defense, but there is a capable, albeit vanilla blueline crew .. recuperated from a long layoff and ready for a lasting postseason, an excellent goaltending choice for the East .. surprising note on a 20th ranked penalty-killing unit, and more successful on the road with 81.8% than at home 78.7 .. Paul Martin would be the best pool choice on the blueline .. Devils have over 200 more hits (846R/590H) and blocked shots (582R/380H) on the road than at home.
SLEEPERS Brendan Shanahan could be the wild card for an improved secondary power play unit, with special teams being so important .. John Madden plays the same shut down role, which gives him a lot of playing time .. there will be a run on Devils in most drafts.
Offense Shut out only one this season, a 5-0 loss to Florida .. Paul Maurice turned the Canes around to enter the playoffs with authority, especially after the reunion of Erik Cole with Eric Staal at the deadline .. coincided with Rod Brind'Amour finding his scoring touch in March (13-6-10-6), Ray Whitney and a surprising Tuomo Ruutu emerging with a career high 26 goals .. and riding some hot goaltending (see defense below) .. led by Eric Staal with 19 goals in the last 30 games, hot to end the season .. Erik Cole came on quick after being reacquired with alternating highs and lows .. look very similar up front to the team that won the Cup two seasons ago, relying on what should be a better power play than the middling 18th overall .. hot entering the playoffs, can they retain the momentum up front?
Defense Cam Ward won 10 of 13 games in March, facing less than 30 shots four times, and over 40 shots three times (.938 SV%), in a brilliant display of athleticism and tenacity .. Joe Corvo plays the point on the power play, and Dennis Seidenberg is a big shot and used on the first unit .. a very mobile unit supporting the forwards, but can leave Ward out to dry at times.
SLEEPERS Rod "The Bod" may go earlier through sheer reputation, but the gem on the Hurricanes entering the playoffs is Chad LaRose who's even appeared on the power play recently .. Taking a chance on Dennis Seidenberg could play out well.
Offense Could be the deepest set of forwards, led by a 45-goal Jeff Carter, and three 30-goal scorers, Simon Gagne 33, Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell with 30 each .. fourth overall in goals-per-game (3.18) and the league's sixth best power play (21.9%) and second at home (26.9%), not as good on the road (16.9%), a 10 percentage point difference .. Carter has scored nine goals in the last 16 games, slightly off the pace earlier in the season .. Mike Richards and Simon Gagne both have 14 goals since the All Star Break, Carter has 15 and Hartnell 13 .. Getting Daniel Briere back from an injury-plagued season will only further enhance the offense and could be enough to score clutch goals on the road to a possible Conference Finals appearance.
Defense Physical contingent on the road, forcing intimidation as a defensive tactic to strip the puck on active forechecks .. 916 hits on the road compared to 770 at home, leading up to a league-leading 213 road penalties .. led NHL with 32 shots-against-per-game, and a reason for the need for firepower up front .. Martin Biron has faced less than 30 shots four times since the beginning of March, a 16-game span .. inconsistent season led to a stellar postseason last spring, while a less the blueline will have to help him clearing rebounds and containing traffic in front instead of trying to initiate the transition game too quickly and getting burned.
SLEEPERS Some excellent sleeper candidates don the orange and black, including Claude Giroux, Joffrey Lupul and Mike Knuble .. Matt Carle provides depth in very deep drafts.
Offense Strange to believe the team with both Sidney Crosby and art Ross Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin can sport a 19th overall power play (17.5%) .. solidified wingers at the deadline, and not disappointed with Bill Guerin (16-5-7-12) and Chris Kunitz (19-7-11-18, 3PPG) with depth recall Miroslav Satan from Wilkes-Barre .. Jordan Staal should see lots of ice time in important situations, including at the end of the game for empty netters for those frivolous, meaningless, important points that could win a pool .. Petr Sykora hasn't seen power play time twice in April, the same amount for the entire season up until then, handle with care .. led the league with 11 comeback wins when trailing after two periods (11-21-2) on the strength of 83 goals in the third .. a lot of depth here.
Defense Mobility of Sergei Gonchar has helped beyond the power play and will see a lot of action with the mandate to get the puck up ice .. second in the league in blocked shots, yet average 30 shots-against per game .. Marc-Andre Fleury has been prone to small rebounds a few feet in front, that's been creeping in lately and he'll have to show diligence in rebound control .. Penguins penalty killing is better at home (85%) than on the road (79.9%), but have a top-10 unit .. defensive possibilities thin after Gonchar, but Kris Letang is a good alternative (31-9-10-19 since the All Star Break).
SLEEPERS A victim of the cap winger Miroslav Satan is 33-12-15-27 in games Pittsburgh won this season which could work in his favor should he be installed in a top two lines. Could be worth the gamble.
Offense Largely dependant on power play production (10th overall), that struggled early this season sitting at the bottom and catching fire after the acquisition of Mathieu Schneider prior to the deadline .. boast three 20-goal scorers (Alex Kovalev 26, Andrei Kostitsyn 23, Tomas Plekanec 20) but could have possibly had nine if not due to injuries .. 11 double-digit scorers in their roster, considering the turmoil in Montreal, there is a balanced attack .. Kovalev has scored nine goals in the last ten games and his 11 power play goals lead the team, with six scored in the same span .. Tomas Plekanec hasn't scored in 13 games entering the playoffs and Andrei Kostitsyn has zero in 12, with some press box appearances .. Montreal united Kovalev with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay about nine games ago with success, so expect to see them as a unit to start the postseason, and possibly the first power play unit with Schneider and Patrice Brisbois manning the points with the man advantage.
Defense The loss of Andrei Markov is a huge blow to the playoff effort, as their best puck mover and point man on the power play is unlikely to return prior to the second round .. o the bright side, early reports of Schneider being done for the season were grossly exaggerated as he returned in the playoff clinching game against Boston and played the last game of the season .. will be bumped and bruised and likely a target of forechecking forwards .. there isn't much selection pool-wise after Markov/Schneider so stick to the forward units, particularly the sleepers.
SLEEPERS Maxim Lapierre makes an impact with more minutes, and gets those minutes by working hard, a good trait for a playoff sleeper .. Christopher Higgins was being double-shifted on a scoring unit and a fourth line, quite unlikely to persevere throughout the playoff, and is too talented to be used on a fourth line.
Offense Nik Antropov led the team in scoring, (17-7-5-12) after coming over at trade deadline, but Ryan Callahan (17-8-8-16) has been phenomenal in that span .. a very soft scoring set of forwards that will win a lot of 2-1 games - despite taking the sixth most shots-per-game (32.4%) and play it tight on their way to a possible first round exit .. stick with the big guns, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Nik Zherdev along with the two mentioned above .. sport the second worst power play in the NHL, ahead of the Blue Jackets, with Drury leading with 10 .. Nik Zherdev went pointless in April once it was all but certain the Rangers had clinched the playoff spot, and not a good sign; draft wisely.
Defense A relatively porous group made better by the addition of Derek Morris but still won't be able to handle the likely speed of opposition forwards in a seven-game series, except in brief spurts .. have the first overall penalty-killing unit with an 88% success rate .. Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival haven't produced offensively this season, and the latter hasn't been the big shot from the point, and doesn't pinch in as much to help out scoring goals .. a very thin pool group of rearguards, stick with the forwards.
SLEEPERS Ryan Callahan could go unnoticed over sexier names in the lineup, but has become a go-to player for new(er) coach John Tortorella
Offense One 40-goal scorer and three 30-goal scorers puts the Red Wings first overall in goals-per-game .. boast the NHL's best power play with five double-digit power play goal scorers .. second overall heading into the third period with a lead, 41 times, and won eight of 23 games in which they trailed after two periods .. hard forechecking and puck possession team, firing the most shots-per-game with 36.3 and allowing the second least amount of shots-per-game 27.8 .. own the best face off percentage winning 55.2% of draws .. pool picks are three lines deep should poolies feel they advance to the Conference Finals and advance.
Defense The Red Wings defensive woes start between the pipes, where neither Ty Conklin nor Chris Osgood ran away with the number one spot .. gave up 10th most goals against while sporting the worst penalty-killing of all playoff bound teams .. a team with a hot power play could take advantage of this throughout the playoffs .. last overall in blocked shots, with average of nine per game, and were in the top-10 in giveaways, and second least amount of takeaways .. Goaltender Chris Osgood faces scrutiny over his ability just like last spring .. Holes exist, can they be overcome?
SLEEPERS With a favorite like Detroit, there aren't many sleepers since there is likely to be a run early in pools, so it's a matter of grabbing a depth pick a little earlier in the draft .. Jiri Hudler has the ability to get a lot of power play time, the bread and butter of Stanley Cup Champions .. Kris Draper and Daniel Cleary will have a lot of important minutes this spring.
Offense Applied coach Todd McLellan's shooting philosophy benefiting captain Patrick Marleau and his rebound to career high goals with 38 .. captain recently returned from injury and is a consummate playoff performer scoring (52-24-16-40) since the 2003-04 playoffs .. Joe Thornton will attempt to challenge the stigma of being a playoff choker but enters the spring with the third consecutive drop in points, from a high of 125 in 2005-06 to 86 this season .. a dangerous cast of support players starting with Devin Setoguchi, Jonathan Cheechoo and Ryane Clowe .. sport the NHL's third best power play (23.7%), but better on the road (27.4%) than home (20.8%) .. offense depends on the amount of shots winning 34 of 53 games where they outshot opponents and second behind Detroit losing just four of 25 games where they were outshot (18-4-3).
Defense Dan Boyle is a responsible rover along the likes of Mike Green but better in his own zone who QB's the power play along with a revolving partnership between Rob Blake and Christian Ehrhoff .. a mobile unit with some grit in Douglas Murray and Brad Lukowich solidified by Stanley Cup Winner Rob Blake .. if the Sharks are to take it to the next level, it will have to involve their back end to a great extent .. Evgeni Nabokov has been everything at home for the Sharks, but struggled with goals against on the road .. nonetheless, his athletic style and ability to find a way to make the save makes him the Sharks best penalty killer, for a unit that ended up third in the league 83.4%.
SLEEPERS Another run will likely be made on the Sharks, although if the choker labels scare away some poolies, all the better .. Ryan Clowe and Rob Blake are great later picks in later rounds.
Offense The offense still revolves around the touch of captain Jarome Iginla regardless of the heroics of Michael Cammalleri and inconsistent scoring of newcomer Olli Jokinen .. injury-filled roster focuses opposition on main scoring threats, giving some of the lower roster in Daymond Langkow, David Moss and Curtis Glencross to step up .. a middling power play is overlooked due to the second most goals scored at even strength with 171, one shy of leader, Boston .. Cammalleri with 39 goals led the Flames, the first time a player other than Iginla led the team since Valeri Bure in 1999-00 .. Don't forget about the great season Rene Bourque had and could return during or just after the first round .. will have to score a lot to make up for the sketchy team defense.
Defense Second last in blocked shots ahead of Detroit, slightly explaining the 23rd overall goals against, and 3.02 goals against-per-game average .. yet, they were fourth overall in penalty killing (83.3%) amongst teams in the playoffs .. Miikka Kiprusoff won 45 games, played in 76 games, and as much as the team and goaltender insists this isn't an issue heading into the playoff, wear and tear on goaltenders hampers their production and it could very well be the case here .. the defense is banged up with many regulars missing and they could find it difficult competing at a high level for a prolonged period of time.
SLEEPERS David Moss and Adrian Aucoin are wild cards as depth players on the second power play unit.
Offense The offense drops off after the Sedin twins 82 points each, but the emergence of Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows along with the addition of Mats Sundin gives them more offensive potential since the lockout .. oddly enough, Burrows scored a breakout 28 goals and 51 points, and none were on the power play .. Ryan Kesler scored a career high 26 and 10 with the man-advantage .. Mats Sundin hasn't scored in 13 games entering the playoffs, one more than the slump to end the season in 2006-07 .. stuck in the middle of the pack in power play (17th - 18.9%) and top-10 in goals scored (242) .. may not score in a lot of blowouts, but timely and clutch scoring could surf them through a couple of rounds.
Defense Only playoff-bound team without a loss going into 3rd with lead (30-0-3) .. Kevin Bieksa leads the blueline with 11 goals and 43 points hasn't scored in 17 games, and defenseman, Alexander Edler hit 10 goals and 37 points, but hasn't scored in eight .. both see power play duty and a lot of even strength play .. the 213 goals against is largely determined by the spectacular play of goaltending phenom Roberto Luongo and the Canucks will go as far their goaltender is able to take them .. Could be the most balanced team heading into the postseason.
SLEEPERS Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows both work and work and work ... that kind of ethic, translates into a lot of good ice time and the possibility to expand the breakout to the postseason.
Offense Widely expected to be led by the wonder sophomores Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, instead led by rejuvenated, and injury-free Martin Havlat (80-29-47-76) and emergence of Kris Versteeg and his 22 goals (nine since the All Star Break) in a support role .. Toews only Blackhawks player to eclipse 30-goals .. Havlat, one goal shy of the 30-mark would have been followed by Patrick Sharp had he not missed 20 games due to injury .. ten players with double digit goals, and four twenty-goal scorers and Dave Bolland with 18 .. Sitting 11th overall on the power play (19.4%), with a better road success rate (21.9%) than home (17.6%) .. sat fifth overall in goals for, and entered the third period with a lead in 40 games, tied for third overall with the Devils .. seemingly more effective when leading after two, as they only won twice trailing to enter the third and better when outshooting opponents (.615% wins) .. good potential for a first round upset but may not have the veteran presence to go the distance.
Defense The goaltending combo has turned out to be a boon, finishing sixth overall in goals-against, even with a 19th ranked power play (19.3%) and having blocked the fourth least amount of shots .. former Stanley Cup winner Nik Khabibulin is expected to start Game 1, with the luxury of having a fall back option .. pool picks on the back end starts with Brian Campbell who hasn't scored in 43 games (43-0-22-22), but don't forget Duncan Keith and Cam Barker, both capable of playing the point on the power play .. good mobility and ability to move the puck up ice to speedy forwards through the neutral zone, but can be a little porous if they decide to overzealously support the rush.
SLEEPERS Andrew Ladd gained confidence of the coaching staff, being used in the final moments of games, making him an excellent candidate for empty net points.
Offense Feel good surprise of the postseason considering they weren't supposed to be there in the first place .. lineup features a balanced attack up front, with the emergence of kids like T.J. Oshie and Patrick Berglund when Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya (11-2-13-15) went down with injury .. one of the better overall special teams producers with a steady successful power play ranked eighth overall (20.6%) with a 23.5% success rate at home and 17.6% on the road .. defensively responsible forward units also forecheck and produce scoring chances or penalties .. balanced attack with two 30-goal scorers, two more 20-goal scorers and McDonald 14 in 45 games, and Oshie 14 in 56 games .. emergence of gritty and hard working David Backes now put on display against the team that tendered him a contract offer as an RFA over the summer; they might find out what they almost got.
Defense If missing Eric Johnson to a silly off season activity wasn't difficult enough, losing Eric Brewer 28 games into the season should have completely derailed the back end .. former Maple Leafs rearguard Carlo Colaiacovo filled in during injury absence and will be a big component on the point with the man advantage .. hard working defensive-minded crew put together out of necessity and not designed this way .. could be a bit more mobile, but protects their net well enough to sneak into the postseason.
SLEEPERS Patrick Berglund and T.J. Oshie (34-9-18-27 since All Star break) will be available in later rounds and would be a catalyst to any first round success.
Offense A two-line offensive unit led by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, with Teemu Selanne and emerging talent Bobby Ryan providing depth at even strength and two good power play units .. fifth ranked power play (23%) will be relied upon to provide timely scoring .. struggled scoring during the middle of the season with a lack of confidence, but have turned it around with the playoff spot and some changes at the deadline .. Teemu Selanne missed over 20 games and scored 16 power play goals to the lead the Ducks, with Getzlaf and Perry scoring double-digit power play goals .. will have their hands full at even strength, but could use the power play as a valuable weapon.
Defense Centered around Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger playing huge minutes in all important situations, with a second pairing of Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski providing a support role .. Jonas Hiller has taken the number one spot but could see J.S. Giguere make an appearance should the Swiss-born netminder falter .. a physical group that blocked the third least amount of shots in the NHL.
SLEEPERS Smallish center Andrew Ebbett has an engine that keeps going, and has produced 22 points in 31 games (31-6-16-22)
Offense May have lucked out considering they have the 30th ranked power play in the NHL (12.8%) scoring only 41 goals .. also ranked in the bottom third in scoring, with disparity between leading scorer Rick Nash (78-40-39-79) and next on the list, Kristian Huselius (74-21-35-56) .. trade deadline pickup Antoine Vermette (17-7-6-13) has fit in perfectly into coach Ken Hitchcock's system and made contributions on both sides of the puck, good enough to get bumped up right under Nash .. last spring's coming out was one of the factors used to sign him to Columbus and will be looked upon to continue with the timely scoring that helped propel his former team to the Conference Finals .. a waking experience for the franchise first appearance in the postseason.
Defense First overall, giving up the puck the least amount of times this season, the only team to be under the 400 mark, a remarkable feat considering the effectiveness of the Calder Trophy candidate Steve Mason and the team's eight overall ranking in goals against .. a no-name crew with Fedor Tyutin being the best power play point man candidate, with Kris Russel rushing the puck .. Mason makes his NHL playoff debut having won two of his last six starts, letting in more than 3 goals in four of those games .. getting there, but not quite ready for deep playoff runs.
SLEEPERS Raffi Torres has 10 goals in 32 games since the All Star break, some of them being important to the club, at opportune times and Jakub Voracek is preparing for next season's breakout auditioning in the postseason.