With the NHL season just beginning, many teams will be hoping to have a successful 2015-2016 season.
However, not many teams have the potential to contend for the Stanley Cup as they do not possess the talent, or the roster depth to do so. Based on the current team rosters and recent team news, here are the top 5 Stanley Cup contenders at the start of the season:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning recently suffered a major heartbreak after losing to Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals last season. However, after a summer of development, the Tampa Bay's team looks even stronger than last ever.
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They have one of the deepest groups of attackers in the league with Steven Stamkos, a surging Jonathan Drouin and veteran Ryan Callahan leading the first line. They are backed up by "The Triplets" Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov, who have all enjoyed a successful 2014-2015 season.
Their third line consists of Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Erik Condra who are all very potent attackers. Their fourth line is headed by Vladislav Namestinikov, Cedric Paquette, and Brian Boyle who are all gritty, strong, skillful skaters who will give any fourth line major trouble. The Tampa Bay power play is also one of the best in the league as it features the Triplets backed up by Stamkos and Anton Stralman.
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The attacking cast is supported by a group of very talented defensemen that have a good mix of veterans and rookies. The Lightning defense is held up by Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison and Matt Carle, who are all experienced NHL defenders.
In addition to the rock solid defense, Tampa Bay's net is guarded by one of the tallest goalies in the league, Ben Bishop who had a .921 save percentage in last yer's playoffs. Based on the extremely talented and potent offense and an airtight defense backed up by a proven, stellar netminder, Tampa Bay will have the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup this season.
2. New York Rangers
The New York Rangers also suffered a recent heartbreak at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings two seasons ago. After a year of great signings, and another great season, the Rangers have also come back as a stronger team.
The Rangers are not known for their attacking prowess because their attacking depth drops off after the second line. The Rangers often rely on superstar Rick Nash his line of Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello and a well-balanced line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, and Kevin Hayes to score goals for the team. The third and fourth line are usually gritty, powerful attackers that are not known for the goal scoring or offensive abilities.
However, the Rangers possesses one of the best defenses in the league. The Rangers' defense consists of captain Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein and former Coyotes superstar Keith Yandle. If the defense is not good enough, there is always King Henry (Henrik Lundqvist) who has been renowned for his goaltending abilities for the majority of the past decade.
The rock solid defense and superstar goalie makes up for the weaker offensive unit and keeps the goals allowed to the minimum. Thus, even a one or two goal game for the Rangers can easily result in a Rangers' win. Defense surely wins games for the Rangers so look out for this airtight defense and Rick Nash to carry the team to the Stanley Cup.
3. Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks won their last Stanley Cup against the Ottawa Senators in 2007 but has never made it into the Stanley Cup finals since then.
The Ducks' offense is one of the deepest, most elite ones in the league. Their first line is led by captain Ryan Getzlaf who is flanked by Carl Hagelin and Chris Stewart, while the second line consists of: Jiri Sekac, Rickard Rakell, and Corey Perry.
he third line consists of Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Kesler, and Jakob Silfverberg, and the fourth line boasts talent as well. Patrick Maroon, Shawn Horcoff and Mike Santorelli make up the fourth line, and they have the talent to score goals and cause headaches on any NHL team.
The Ducks' defense is also one of the deepest ones in the league. It consists of Hampus Lindholm, Kevin Kieksa, Cam Fowler, Simon Despres, Clayton Stoner and Sami Vatanen. The defense consists of young but established defensemen like Vatanen who are looking to prove themselves as well as seasoned veterans like Kevin Bieksa to mentor the younger players.
Frederick Andersen will likely start most of Anaheim's games, and he has put up a surprising 35 wins and a .914 save percentage in 54 games last season.
The Ducks' also possess an extremely threatening power play unit consisting of superstars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Patrick Maroon, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen, who has one of the hardest shots in the league. If Frederick Andersen can improve or replicate his success last year, the Anaheim Ducks will definitely make it far this year as they possess one of the deepest teams in the league.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins last won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but after that, they have been extremely unsuccessful. However, this year, the Penguins have one of the strongest teams in their franchise history after the addition of superstar Phil Kessel.
Pittsburgh have the best offense in the NHL at the moment in terms of depth and talent. With Crosby, Kessel and Kunitz leading the first line and Malkin, Plotnitkov and Hornqvist holding the second line, the Penguins can easily overpower any team with the sheer amount of offensive production from their top 6 attackers.
The scary part is the fact that the bottom six is extremely skilled and an attacking threat as well. Nick Bonino and David Perron lead the third line and Matt Cullen, a former Nashville star centers the fourth line. It is safe to say that all four lines are threats to any NHL team.
The only department that does not stand out in the Penguins' lineup is their defense. Asides from Kris Letang, the rest of the defensemen are rookies or they lack experience. However, they all have great potential. The defense will be backed up by Marc-Andre Fleury who is one of the best goalies in the NHL. The Penguins power play is even scariest as it combines the first line with Evengi Malkin and superstar defenseman Kris Letang.
Despite the unproven defense, the amount of goals that the Penguins will produce can pummel any team in the NHL. You can only imagine how strong of a team the Penguins will be in the postseason after the young defensemen have another year of regular season hockey under their belt!
5. Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago is currently the reigning Stanley Cup champion but after a horrible off season of terrible trades, the Blackhawk roster has taken a huge hit.
Chicago's offense is still relatively deep with Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov leading the top two lines and Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Desjardins leading the bottom 6.
However, without players like Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, the offensive production for the Hawks will definitely plummet. Despite the losses, the Blackhawks' offense is still one of the best in the league, as Kane, Toews and Hossa all remain in the league's top 30 attackers.
The Blackhawk's defense is still rock solid with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the defense. They are backed up by veteran Trevor Daley, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad, who are all solid defensemen. Corey Crawford is between the poles for the Blackhawks and he has been performing really well in the past two seasons.
Despite the weakened roster, the Blackhawks team is still a force to be reckoned with as they hold one of the deepest rosters in all departments the NHL. With Joel Quenneville coaching the team, the Hawks will definitely make another deep Stanley Cup run this year.
In the past decade, the majority of Stanley Cup winning teams have a very well balanced team, with depth in all departments of their roster. They often have great coaches and an amazing management team behind the players. All five of the teams above possess extreme talent and depth in their roster.
It will be a joy to watch different hockey match-ups this year since there are so many talented teams in the NHL.
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