By Tyler on April 9, 2014
The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Apr. 16, and the 16 team field is all but set in stone. After an elongated 82-game schedule there is very little debate as to who the best teams in the NHL were during the regular season, but deciphering the sides best suited for playoff hockey is a whole different deal.
Here are the five most likely teams to win the 2014 Stanley Cup.
The San Jose Sharks seem to choke come playoff time every year, but 2014 could be the year that all changes. Through 79 regular season games, the Sharks rank fourth in the Western Conference with 109 points, and more importantly, rank fourth in the NHL in goals per game against and seventh in penalty kill efficiency. The potential return of Tomas Hertl could be a huge boon, and the Sharks enter the playoffs as an outsider favorite.
The Pittsburgh Penguins placed second in the Eastern Conference and have made the playoffs each of the last eight years, so they are clearly top contenders. Unfortunately, they drop to fourth place because of a 6-7-1 record the last 14 games, nobody knows what to expect from Kris Letang, and they were embarrassed in the Conference Finals last year. Nevertheless, if Pittsburgh can play physical and disciplined, they can win the Stanley Cup.
The St. Louis Blues have been magnificent this year, as they lead the Western Conference with 111 points, and rank in the top five in the NHL in goals for and against. The likes of Alexander Steen, T.J. Oshie and David Backes lead a forward unit that shows the work ethic needed to win in the playoffs, and Alex Pietrangelo leads and efficient defensive corps. A lack of playoff success is the only think keeping the Blues from top favorites status.
The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost it to the Chicago Blackhawks last year, and they are huge favorites to win the Eastern Conference again this year. Boston has the ultimate defensive stopper in Zdeno Chara, and the rest of the defensive unit isn't too shabby either. Add in a veteran forwards corp led by David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron, and the Bruins are as complete a team as any.
The Chicago Blackhawks may rank fifth in the Western Conference this year, but they maintain favorite status because they are reigning Stanley Cup champions. With Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa on board, Chicago will always be tough to beat, and a 3-0 record shows they are beginning to heat up. Until someone beats them, the Stanley Cup is the Blackhawks' to lose.
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