As the 2013 NHL regular season enters its final month, it is time to start thinking about which teams are positioned to make a run at the Stanley Cup. These teams have the depth, talent and leadership to go far this year. Which five teams have what it takes to contend for the Stanley Cup this year?
1) Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks were the first team to clinch a Stanley Cup playoff berth this season. This was due in large part to going 23 games to start the season without a regulation loss. They still have the best record in the league as they head to the final 10 games. Their roster is loaded with players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews who is having a MVP type season. Additionally, they have two goaltenders in Ray Emery and Corey Crawford who can win games when their team needs them to. In fact, Emery has lost only one game this season in 19 games.
2) Pittsburgh Penguins
Although they are without Sidney Crosby for an extended period of time, they are still the team to beat in the east. Trade deadline deals to bring in Brenden Marrow and Jarome Iginla helped boost the depth as well as the amount of veteran leadership on the team. With Crosby out, it will be on players such as Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz to provide the scoring boost. Kunitz currently leads the team with 20 goals this season. When it comes to goaltending, Marc Andre-Fleury is one of the best in the league. His 20 wins and 2.31 GAA are among the best in the league this year.
3) Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season. They started off slowly this year after stumbling down the stretch last year. However, they have managed to become the best team in their conference outside of Chicago. In any other year, they would have been looking forward to a top seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry will have to start the playoffs as the only other team likely to beat Chicago on their way to a possible Stanley Cup.
4) Boston Bruins
The Bruins have everything that you need to make a Stanley Cup run. They have an amazing goalie in Tukka Rask, big defensive players such as Zedeno Chara and a plethora of guys who can score goals. They are committed to playing defense above all else. That is going to help them significantly when the playoffs roll around. The team that can win a 2-1 game is more likely to win than the team that needs to score four or five goals to gain a victory.
5) Montreal Canadiens
This last spot could have gone to the Kings, but the Canadiens are due for a run to the Stanley Cup finals. They are a young team with a hot goaltender in Carey Price who can stand on his head when necessary. P.K. Subban is an outstanding defensive player who can hit as well as score a goal every so often. Montreal has waited almost 20 years for a Stanley Cup title. Will this be the year that the drought ends?
Technically, every team has a shot to win the title until they are eliminated. However, these five teams are the most likely to win the cup this year barring any surprises. For fans of playoff hockey, these are the teams to watch if you want drama, passion and intensity during the playoffs.