Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 4/8/12
1) Vancouver Canucks
Records:
Overall: 51-22-9
Home: 27-10-4
Away: 24-12-5
Last 10: 8-1-1
Since All-Star break: 21-7-5
Against playoff teams: 20-11-6
Special teams:
Power play: 4th (19.8%)
Penalty kill: 6th (86.0%)
Playoff berth clinched:
March 24
Burning question:
Can Vancouver replicate last year’s playoff success?

X-Factor:
David Booth… The Canucks had one thing in mind when they acquired Booth early in the season – the playoffs. Booth has scored 16 goals in 56 games this year, but he’s talented and able to get hot at certain times. The Canucks’ second line was a catalyst last postseason, and Booth’s presence could make it a factor again – if he’s producing.
Team ceiling:
Stanley Cup victory… This is not the same invincible Canucks team entering the playoffs as last year, when they ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy. However, most of the main components are still around. If Roberto Luongo steps up there is no reason why the Canucks can’t get one more win than they did last year.
Key injuries:
LW Daniel Sedin – concussion, day-to-day
RW Zack Kassian – upper-body, day-to-day
D Keith Ballard – concussion, status unknown for playoffs

2) St. Louis Blues
Records:
Overall: 49-22-11
Home: 30-6-5
Away: 19-16-6
Last 10: 4-3-3
Since All-Star break: 20-9-4
Against playoff teams: 23-12-8
Special teams:
Power play: 19th (16.7%)
Penalty kill: 7th (85.8%)
Playoff berth clinched:
March 17
Burning question:
How will Blues handle playoff pressure?
X-Factor:
Andy McDonald… A relatively young Blues team needs a veteran to step up under pressure. That’s where McDonald, who has a Stanley Cup on his resume, comes in. McDonald was clutch during Anaheim’s Cup run in 2007 and will be a key cog in the Blues lineup this spring.
Team ceiling:
Cup final appearance… Ken Hitchcock’s club has been dominant defensively ever since he took over behind the bench. If Jaroslav Halak falters, a brick wall in Brian Elliott can be called upon – or vice versa. The lack of a big offensive threat could come back to haunt them, but the overall system is enough to carry the Blues to the final.
Key injuries:
None

3) Phoenix Coyotes
Records:
Overall: 42-27-13
Home: 22-13-6
Away: 20-14-7
Last 10: 7-1-2
Since All-Star break: 20-7-5
Against playoff teams: 19-15-8
Special teams:
Power play: 29th (13.6%)
Penalty kill: 8th (85.5%)
Playoff berth clinched:
April 5
Burning question:
Can the Coyotes play their game in the playoffs?
X-Factor:
Mike Smith… The cast-off from Tampa Bay suddenly turned into a Vezina candidate. Smith played well all year, but really turned his game up a notch in the last few weeks with Phoenix’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance. He’s going to have to continue that level of play if the ‘Yotes want to win their first playoff series since arriving in the desert.
Team ceiling:
Second round… Dave Tippett’s system alone is definitely enough to win a playoff series or two. We know they can out-defend teams, but they lack the firepower up front to out-score teams. Though the Coyotes are sneaky good and are playing as good as anyone else heading into the playoffs, they don’t have the horses to make a serious run.
Key injuries:
None

4) Nashville Predators
Records:
Overall: 48-26-8
Home: 26-10-5
Away: 22-16-3
Last 10: 6-4-0
Since All-Star break: 18-10-4
Against playoff teams: 21-17-6
Special teams:
Power play: 1st (21.6%)
Penalty kill: 10th (83.6%)
Playoff berth clinched:
March 28
Burning question:
Is it Nashville’s time to go deep?
X-Factor:
Hal Gill… Given his experience and defensive style, Gill may have been the most valuable addition at the trade deadline. Gill has been-there done-that in the playoffs and he’s going to be a key piece for the Predators. We know Shea Weber and Ryan Suter can shut down top forwards, but can Gill contain the second-liners that burned Nashville last spring?
Team ceiling:
Stanley Cup victory… The array of mid-season additions, namely Alexander Radulov, will make Nashville a tough out in the playoffs. Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter combine for one of the better back ends in the league. If they get some contributions from all around up front, they are good enough to win 16 playoff games.
Key injuries:
G Anders Lindback – upper-body, expected to return for Round 1

5) Detroit Red Wings
Records:
Overall: 48-28-6
Home: 31-7-3
Away: 17-21-3
Last 10: 4-4-2
Since All-Star break: 15-12-5
Against playoff teams: 23-17-4
Special teams:
Power play: 22nd (16.1%)
Penalty kill: 18th (81.8%)
Playoff berth clinched:
March 26
Burning question:
Can the Red Wings withstand another deep run?
X-Factor:
Jimmy Howard… Compared to his first half, Howard has struggled since the All-Star break by posting five wins and a .912 save percentage in 15 starts. Howard has also had to fight off a groin injury in the second half. The Red Wings need a healthy and consistent Howard if they wish to go deep.
Team ceiling:
Third round… One thing hockey fans should never do is doubt the Red Wings. But this isn’t the same Detroit team of the past. Aside from their remarkable 23-game home winning streak, what have the Wings done this year? Their special teams are below average and they aren’t a good road team. If they didn’t have the Winged Wheel on the jersey, they’d be exiting in the first round.
Key injuries:
RW Dan Cleary – knee, day-to-day
C Darren Helm – knee, expected to return in Round 1
G Joey MacDonald – back, status unknown for playoffs
RW Patrick Eaves – concussion, out for the season

6) Chicago Blackhawks
Records:
Overall: 45-26-11
Home: 27-8-6
Away: 18-18-5
Last 10: 6-1-3
Since All-Star break: 16-11-5
Against playoff teams: 22-15-7
Special teams:
Power play: 26th (15.2%)
Penalty kill: 27th (78.1%)
Playoff berth clinched:
March 31
Burning question:
Will a healthy Toews carry Chicago in playoffs?
X-Factor:
Corey Crawford… Crawford has been good down the stretch (1.96 GAA in March) and was solid last spring in his first playoff appearance (36 saves in Game 7 at Vancouver). However, the sophomore goalie has lacked consistency this season. If they get the good version of Crawford, the Blackhawks will make noise.
Team ceiling:
Cup final appearance… They possess more than enough firepower to cause havoc in the playoffs, but do they have the necessary intangibles? Chicago’s special teams are bad, the defense isn’t very deep and, as noted above, Crawford is unpredictable. They also have youngsters playing key roles, which could be costly in the end.
Key injuries:
C Jonathan Toews – concussion, day-to-day
C Dave Bolland – upper-body, expected to return for Round 1
LW Andrew Brunette – foot, expected to return for Round 1
D Steve Montador – concussion, status unknown for playoffs
LW Dan Carcillo – knee, out for the season

7) San Jose Sharks
Records:
Overall: 43-29-10
Home: 26-12-3
Away: 17-17-7
Last 10: 7-3-0
Since All-Star break: 16-15-4
Against playoff teams: 21-18-3
Special teams:
Power play: 2nd (21.1%)
Penalty kill: 29th (76.9%)
Playoff berth clinched:
April 5
Burning question:
Which Sharks team will show up in playoffs?
X-Factor:
Joe Pavelski… The Sharks’ offense has been inconsistent all year and they can’t rely on Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to create the offense. They’ll need a big effort from Pavelski, came through in the clutch two years ago in the playoffs. Pavelski scored a career-high 31 goals this season, and the Sharks will need that to carry over.
Team ceiling:
Second round… Todd McLellan’s gang has been one of the NHL’s most bipolar this season. Some nights they’ll look lethargic; others they’ll look like the Cup contender everyone made them out to be in September. The Sharks have the tools to pull an upset, but their window for going deep into the playoffs has closed.
Key injuries:
RW Torrey Mitchell – upper-body, day-to-day

8) Los Angeles Kings
Records:
Overall: 40-27-15
Home: 22-14-5
Away: 18-13-10
Last 10: 5-2-3
Since All-Star break: 16-11-5
Against playoff teams: 22-14-7
Special teams:
Power play: 17th (17.0%)
Penalty kill: 4th (87.0%)
Playoff berth clinched:
April 5
Burning question:
Do the Kings have enough offense to make a run?
X-Factor:
Mike Richards… Richards will be playing playoff hockey for the sixth time in his seven seasons and has seen it all as a youngster. His first year in L.A. has been up and down (44 points in 74 games), but this could be his time to shine. He’s been clutch in past postseasons with Philadelphia. The Kings will need him to be that effective two-way player to pull any upsets this spring.
Team ceiling:
Third round… These Kings were a sexy Stanley Cup pick before the season, but they underachieved most of the season. Led by Jonathan Quick’s goaltending, they have the necessary pieces to make a deep run. With Darryl Sutter behind the bench, they’ll be a tough out in the second season.
Key injuries:
RW Jeff Carter – ankle, expected to return during Round 1
LW Simon Gagne – concussion, status unknown for playoffs
LW Scott Parse – hip, status unknown for playoffs

Note: Series-by-series previews will be posted this week…
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