NHL

Power Ranking Every NHL Playoff Team Heading Into the Postseason

Power Ranking the 16 Teams for the Playoffs

Cup
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The tournament to determine this year's Stanley Cup winner begins in a few days and the 16 teams competing for the greatest trophy in all of team sports have now been decided. Gone are usual suspects like the Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators. But old powers like Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh appear tough. Here's a power rankings for all 16 teams.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets
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16. Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets
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Columbus isn't a regular in the playoffs and the Blue Jackets have never advanced past the first round. As the seventh seed in the East, Columbus will be playing somewhat of a regional rival in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stretching the series to six games would be a big accomplishment for the Blue Jackets.

15. Dallas Stars

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15. Dallas Stars

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Dallas got into the playoffs only in the last couple days with the elimination of the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference. The Stars could play Anaheim, St. Louis or Colorado in the first round and while it wouldn't be a shock to see Dallas make it a competitive series, this is more likely a stepping-stone year for the Stars.

14. Philadelphia Flyers

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14. Philadelphia Flyers

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This ranking is probably a bit too low for the Flyers, who with a win in Pittsburgh on Saturday clinched a first-round matchup against the New York Rangers. That series is likely to go the distance, be very physical and take quite a bit out of whichever team wins it, which means the Flyers' (and Rangers') chance for a deep run is pretty slim.

13. New York Rangers

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13. New York Rangers

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And here are the Rangers at 13, for much the same reason the Flyers are at 14. New York isn't one of the teams many people think of when discussing the elite in the Eastern Conference. The one positive in the Rangers' corner is goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who figures to single-handedly win at least one game against the Flyers in Round 1, giving the Rangers the advantage in the rankings here.

12. Detroit Red Wings

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12. Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings
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Like a champion of a small conference tournament that breaks into March Madness and creates havoc as a 12-seed, the Detroit Red Wings are the most dangerous team you'll find that could be put at 12 in these rankings. Detroit didn't have its typical stellar year, but the Red Wings can play with anyone. They have a big ask in the first round, however, going up against the Boston Bruins.

11. Montreal Canadiens

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11. Montreal Canadiens

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The Canadiens will not only be representing their home city of Montreal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but all of Canada, as well. Montreal is the only team from north of the border to qualify this year and the storied franchise hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1993 -- the last time a Canadian team lifted the silverware.

10. Minnesota Wild

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10. Minnesota Wild

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You'd expect a team with Zach Parise (28 goals, 55 points) to be in the playoffs and while the Wild weren't in the race in the very tough Central Division, a season with 98 points is nothing to sneeze at. Minnesota gets in as the seventh seed in the West, but the Wild's opponent hasn't been determined.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning

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9. Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning
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Tampa Bay had a heck of a season, finishing second in the Atlantic Division with 99 points, when you consider how long they were without Steven Stamkos due to injury. But with one of the league's best players back in the fold, Tampa Bay could be a tough out in these playoffs. The Lightning take on Montreal in Round 1. Stamkos still scored 25 goals in 36 games.

8. Los Angeles Kings

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8. Los Angeles Kings

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As former Stanley Cup champion, it's never wise to count out the Kings, and their aggressive Twitter feed (@LAKings) will be sure to let you know all about it. Los Angeles finished third in the Pacific with 99 points and are a championship contender when you consider the Kings have only allowed 170 goals this season (best in the NHL).

7. Anaheim Ducks

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7. Anaheim Ducks

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The Ducks were the best team in hockey for a long stretch this season, especially early, and have clinched the Pacific Division title with 112 points. So why is Anaheim seventh here? Simple, their head coach, Bruce Boudreau, has yet to prove he can get a team out of the second round. With similar strong teams in Washington, the Caps never took that next step. Can Anaheim do so now?

6. Colorado Avalanche

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6. Colorado Avalanche

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Colorado probably surprised some this year by not just being good, but by being very good. The Avalanche are tied with St. Louis for the lead in the Central Division with one game to go for each team on 111 points. Colorado is one of the higher scoring teams in the league with 248 goals.

5. San Jose Sharks

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5. San Jose Sharks

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Sharks fans are hoping the new NHL playoff set up this year will help their team finally exorcise past demons and allow San Jose to make a deep run. Always seeming to fall in the first or second round, the Sharks are locked into what might be an all-out battle of a series with the Kings in the first round. Win that, and San Jose should be well tested for whatever awaits afterward.

4. Chicago Blackhawks

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4. Chicago Blackhawks

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Twice Stanley Cup champions in the last four years and the current Cup holders, the Chicago Blackhawks always seem to come to life when the springtime comes. Chicago, however, is facing the prospect of a very tough first-round series against either Colorado or arch-rival St. Louis. If it's Hawks-Blues, expect seven games of bruising hockey that also features a lot of skill.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

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3. Pittsburgh Penguins

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The 2009 Stanley Cup champions have enough offensive firepower to repeat that feat in 2014, but there are questions about whether they will get enough quality goaltending to win four 7-game series, and about the health of top forward Evgeni Malkin. Teams like Boston in the East are too good for the Penguins to try and beat them if they aren't at full strength.

2. St. Louis Blues

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2. St. Louis Blues

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Everyone knows who the Blues are now, in part thanks to T.J. Oshie's heroics in the shootout when the United States outlasted Russia during the Olympics. Having acquired Ryan Miller from Buffalo to backstop their playoff run, the Blues are as good as anyone and might not even win their own division. St. Louis would be wise to capture the Central and avoid the Blackhawks in the first round.

1. Boston Bruins

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1. Boston Bruins

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What, you were expecting somebody else? While some writers will rank the playoff teams and try to get cute at the top or make some trendy upset pick, the bottom line is that the Boston Bruins are the best team in the NHL. That doesn't mean the Bruins will win the Cup, upsets happen, but to rank Boston (117 points, +85 goal differential) as anything other than No. 1 would be completely foolish.