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The Likelihood of Each of the 16 NHL Playoff Teams Winning the Cup

by: Esteban On  Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 stanley cup playoffs - stanley cup odds

After a strange, lockout-shortened regular season, the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway Tuesday night. So who will win the greatest championship tournament in pro sports? Well, I personally am against making straight forward predictions. One of the best things about sports and one of the reasons we get so worked up about it is “you never know.” So why try to pretend that you do know?

That being said, I have no problem talking about “probabilities.” Saying this or that team is not very likely to win isn’t being cocky or trying to ruin the fun of sports. If anything, it makes the uncertainty of the playoffs that much more fun. I mean, would the victory of Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown have been as exciting as it was if the teams didn’t have numbers (#15 and #2 respectively) assigned to them? No, I don’t think so. The teams’ likelihood of winning was assessed before hand, and when the expected didn’t happen our excitement was that much greater.

That’s how I’d like you to approach today’s list. It’s not a set of predictions, but rather an attempt to say which teams have the best chance of winning. If I’m wrong, that’s fantastic, because it means we were all treated to an upset. And who doesn’t love upsets?


16. New York Islanders

16 new york islanders john tavares - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 24-17-7 (55 pts)

Goal Diff: 0

Last 10: 6-1-3

The Islanders had themselves a nice little season thanks to scoring machine John Tavares. The 22-year-old center scored 28 goals this year, which would project to about 47 in a regular, non-lockout-shortened season. Unfortunately, as indicated by that poor goal differential (the second-worst of any playoff team), the Islanders just aren’t deep enough to make a serious run at the Cup. Moreover, they have to face off against the group of all-stars and future hall-of-famers that is the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one. So don’t expect the playoff beards to grow too bushy out on Long Island this spring.


15. Ottawa Senators

15 ottawa senators erik karlsson - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 25-17-6 (56 pts)

Goal Diff: +12

Last 10: 6-4-0

Nobody even thought the Senators would be in the playoffs at all after they lost Erik Karlsson, one of the NHL’s most electric talents, to an achilles injury at the start of the season. So, on the one hand, you do not want to underestimate this team’s resolve. On the other hand, of course, is the fact that the Sens’ best forward, Jason Spezza, is still out and does not look to be coming back any time soon. Thus, while the stellar goaltending of Craig Anderson (1st in the NHL in GAA and Save %) combined with the earlier-than-expected return of Karlsson could very well get Ottawa past the slumping Canadiens in the first round, they probably aren’t going to be raising the Cup this year.


14. Minnesota Wild

14 minnesota wild zach parise - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 26-19-3 (55 pts)

Goal Diff: -5

Last 10: 4-5-1

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold broke the bank this summer when he signed blueliner Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. They were two of the three biggest free agents on the market, and the thinking was that their arrival made the team legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Wild did improve enough to make the playoffs for the first time in five years, but just barely. Despite the addition of two superstars, they just did not have much depth, and they had trouble scoring goals most of the season. So could these guys “figure it out” and “put it all together” at the right time? Sure, I guess. But they face the Blackhawks in the first round, and if by some chance they got past them they’d have to face one of the other deep, talented Western Conference teams (and then another) just to make the Finals. So don’t hold your breath, Minnesota.


13. San Jose Sharks

13 san jose sharks - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 25-16-7 (57 pts)

Goal Diff: +8

Last 10: 5-5-0

The Sharks actually looked better this year than they did in previous years. GM Doug Wilson finally decided to tinker with his perennially underachieving roster by shipping out Ryan Clowe and Douglas Murray and bringing in the tough and intense (read: dirty) Raffi Torres. The result was that, for a while, the Sharks were playing a more tenacious style of hockey. Unfortunately, however, they didn’t finish the season too strong, and the Western Conference is still a lot better than them. So their chances of finally bringing a Cup to Northern California don’t look great.


12. Toronto Maple Leafs

12 toronto maple leafs kessel van riemsdyk - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 26-17-5 (57 pts)

Goal Diff: +12

Last 10: 5-4-1

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the playoffs for the first time in nine years thanks to decent scoring and good goaltending. Phil Kessel chipped in 20 goals, and the trade that brought James Van Riemsdyk in from Philadelphia was a stroke of genius. So really, they’re a pretty decent team. However, they’re not great, and if the Eastern Conference wasn’t weaker than the West they would have had a tougher time getting into the playoffs. The Leafs’ first round series against the Bruins could be epic, given the two teams pugnacious tendencies and the Phil Kessel-Tyler Seguin storyline (Kessel was traded to Toronto for the draft pick that brought Seguin to Boston). And if James Reimer stands on his head, a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals is a real possibility for Toronto. But winning the Cup? That would be damn near miraculous.


11. New York Rangers

11 new york rangers tortarella nash - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 26-18-4 (56 pts)

Goal Diff: +18

Last 10: 7-3-0

The Leafs were more consistent than the Rangers this year and finished a point ahead of them in the standings. However, there’s a reason the Rangers were preseason favorites: loads of talent. Nash, Richards, Callahan, Clowe, and some guy between the pipes named Hernik Lundqvist. Of course, the Blueshirts are a little banged up right now with blueliner Marc Staal (most notably) out. But they still finished the season strong, and with their depth and talent in goal, these guys could be dangerous—though probalby not “win the Cup” dangerous.


10. Montreal Canadiens

10 montreal canadiens - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 29-14-5 (63 pts)

Goal Diff: +23

Last 10: 4-6-0

The Montreal Canadiens were the biggest surprise of the NHL season…until the last few weeks when they started looking more like the team people expected. If Carrey Price gets his act together and the Habs regroup, they do have home ice advantage guaranteed through the first two rounds, and the Eastern Conference only has two really dangerous teams right now. Their balanced scoring combined with a hot goalie could take them on a 2010-style run. But probably not.


9. Detroit Red Wings

9 detroit red wings datsyuk zetterberg - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 24-16-8 (56 pts)

Goal Diff: +9

Last 10: 5-2-3

The Detroit Red Wings almost missed the playoffs. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. The reason? Well, despite the fact that they most definitely did miss Nicklas Lidstrom, it wasn’t their defense. The Wings gave up only 115 goals this year, which was fifth-best in the NHL. Their real problem was scoring goals. In that department they were 23rd in the league.

However, despite their struggles, and despite the fact that teams like Toronto and Montreal finished with more points and better records, do you really think those teams have a better chance of winning the Cup than the Wings? Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, two of the best players in hockey. Plus, they’re coached by Mike Babcock, one of the best minds in the game. So while the wings probably won’t hoist the Cup again this year, they could be a tricky opponent for the Ducks in the first round.


8. Vancouver Canucks


Record: 26-15-7 (59 pts)

Goal Diff: +6

Last 10: 5-4-1

The Vancouver Canucks were distracted all year by the unnecessary goaltending controversy inflicted by GM Mike Gillis’s terrible handling of Roberto Luongo. During the playoffs last year, the team decided Cory Scheider was their new #1 goalie, meaning Roberto and his giant contract would have to be shipped out. However, Gillis incorrectly thought he should and/or could get more for Luongo than what other teams were offering, so he failed to pull the trigger on a trade. That left Luongo—who has been a real pro through all of it—in limbo, and messed with the locker room chemistry. Now Cory Schneider is hurt and it looks like Vancouver will probably have to turn to a Luongo whose nerves are totally shot for Game 1 of the playoffs. So things do not look good in Vancouver.

That being said, if Luongo has a stellar game and regains his (and his team’s confidence), this is still more or less the same team that won back-to-back President’s Trophies in 2011 and 2012. So they really could go all the way.


7. Boston Bruins


Record: 28-14-6 (62 pts)

Goal Diff: +22

Last 10: 3-5-2

Much like the Canucks, the Bruins are a team that could win the Cup if they play up to their potential. Earlier in the season Boston was looking like they had returned to the form they were in when the won it all in 2011. Then they stumbled. If Boston regains their form, they are easily one of the only three truly dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference. If they don’t, well, they don’t, and they’re out of the playoffs after the first round.


6. St. Louis Blues

6 st. louis blues - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 29-17-2 (60 pts)

Goal Diff: +14

Last 10: 7-3-0

The Blues were the second-best team in the regular season last year, and this season they got off to a scorching start. Then they completely fell apart, and found themselves in 9th place in the West just one month ago.

So what happened between the end of March and the end of April? Well, the team filled their gaping holes on the blue line by adding Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester; Brian Elliot figured out how to stop pucks from going in the net again; and the team rebuilt its chemistry. Now they head into the playoffs having won 12 of their last 15 games and looking like the defensive juggernaut  they were last year. If they can figure out how to get past the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, they could go all the way.


5. Washington Capitals

5 washington capitals ovechkin - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 27-18-3 (57 pts)

Goal Diff: +19

Last 10: 8-1-1

No team in the NHL comes into the playoffs hotter than the Washington Capitals. This team started the year under rookie head coach Adam Oates just 2-9 and didn’t even reach .500 until April 2. However, that day, April 2, was the start of an eight-game winning streak and an 11-5 finish that gave the Caps the Southeast Division title and the number three seed in the East.

The reason for the turnaround? Well, I hate to give all the credit to one person, but you can’t deny the fact that the Caps wouldn’t be where they are—perhaps the most feared team in the NHL right now—if Alex Ovechkin hadn’t rediscovered his scoring touch. After scoring just 32 goals in all of 2010-11 and just 38 goals in all of 2011-12, Great Eight led the NHL with 32 goals this year in only 48 games.

Are the Caps really as good as the other top teams in the league? It’s really hard to say. But they’re hot, and you never want to bet against a hot team.


4. Los Angeles Kings


Record: 27-16-5 (59 pts)

Goal Diff: +15

Last 10: 5-3-2

The Kings gave us one of the most dominant, one-sided Stanley Cup Championship runs ever last year, absolutely bulldozing the Canucks, Blues, Coyotes, and Devils as the number eight seed in the West. This year they got off to a bit of a slow start, but they picked things up and finished in 5th place in the West and earned a rematch against St. Louis.

So what are their chances this year? Well, if 2012 Con Smythe winner Jonathan Quick regains form, their chances are pretty good.


3. Anaheim Ducks


Record: 30-12-6 (66 pts)

Goal Diff: +22

Last 10: 5-4-1

Anaheim has been a team with loads of potential for several years. They were just waiting for Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan to figure it all out.

Well, this year, they figured it out. And it wasn’t just their superstars that made the difference. These guys are incredibly balanced and got fantastic performances from veteran blueliners like Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray. Plus, they still have the ageless Teemu Selane, who scored 12 goals (a 20-goal pace) this year at the age of 42.

This team is no joke, and figures to be a serious threat to the Hawks in the Western Conference.


2. Pittsburgh Penguins

2 pittsburgh penguins crosby - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 36-12-0 (72 pts)

Goal Diff: +46

Last 10: 8-2-0

To put it simply, anything other than a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals will be an epic failure for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only is this team stocked with an insane amount of premium NHL talent (Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, Jarome Iginla, James Neal, Brenden Morrow, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik), but they are far, far superior to every other team in the Eastern Conference. Like, it’s not even close. These guys went 8-2 to close out the season and that was without the best hockey player on the planet. If Sidney comes back for the playoffs and Marc-Andre Fleury plays respectably in goal, this team should go all the way.

Of course, if Sid doesn’t come back and Fleury flops, well, then…


1. Chicago Blackhawks

1 chicago blackhawks toews hossa - 2013 stanley cup playoffs

Record: 36-7-5 (77 pts)

Goal Diff: +53

Last 10: 7-2-1

The Chicago Blackhawks are the only team in the NHL deeper than the Penguins. Their captain, Jonathan Toews, may not be the best player in the world, but I’d probably put him in my top five. Then there is Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook—plus an extremely underrated Corey Crawford between the pipes.

It was no accident that the Hawks didn’t lose in regulation until their 25th game of the season and finished with 36 wins. They are scary good, scary deep, and, like Pittsburgh, anything other than a trip to the Finals will be a huge failure for these guys.