Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 3/25/13
Get excited, the playoffs are right around the corner. In just over a month, the NHL playoffs will start up and the chase for the Cup will begin once again. And right now, there is a tier at the top of the standings that is playing at another level compared to the rest of the league. In the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens and Penguins have a step on every one else, while the Ducks and Blackhawks are a lock on top of the West. Chances are, one of the four will be Stanley Cup Champions, but the question is who? For part one of the series, let’s take a look at things on the Eastern front. Pittsburgh Penguins Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman – US PRESSWIRE As usual, Pittsburgh is leading the pack in the East as the playoffs approach. Currently riding an 11-game winning streak, the Pens are clicking on all cylinders. Crosby is a sure fire MVP finalist, casually putting up 39 assists in just 32 games. Equally impressive is the players around him. Neither Crosby or Malkin are among the top three goal scorers on the team as Neal, Kunitz, and Dupuis all have double-digit goal totals. All of their talent culminates in the man advantage giving them the best power play attack in the league. When Malkin heats up and pitches in, the NHL has to watch out. On the back end, the defense is rock solid. Five starters boast a positive plus-minus and between Kris Letang and Paul Martin the Penguins provide enough offensive support to get the puck into the hands of their goal scorers. When it comes to goalies, coach Dan Bylsma loves the production from back up Thomas Vokoun, who shoulders roughly a third of the games. Starter Marc Andre Fleury has been good enough posting a 2.38 goals against average with a .912 save percentage. More importantly, Flowers will be fresh come April when Sid the Kid and the rest of the Pens make a push to add another banner to the rafters. Montreal Canadiens Photo Credit: Allen McInnis, The Gazette The Habs have quietly put together a strong 2013 campaign with a .750 winning percentage. Their numbers aren’t sexy, but they continue to find ways to get the job done. When they light up the scoreboard, they win by committee. 13 players have double-digit point totals including the defensive pairing of Marcov and Subban having 20 and 22 respectively. Thomas Plekanec, their leading goal scorer only has 12 goals. However, every player that has played more than 10 games has at least one. Depth is their strong suit so grinding out playoff games is no issue. Goaltending has been phenomenal for Montreal. Price and Budaj both sport goals against averages under 2.50 and save percentages over .900. Although Price starts the majority of the games, there should be no lack of confidence in Budaj as he has grabbed a point in five of his six starts. They don’t have the same star power of others front runners, but no one in the NHL wants to play in the Bell Centre come playoff time. Verdict: Pittsburgh Penguins Photo Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes When it comes down to it, there’s too much the Penguins can throw at a team offensively to not win. Most of the players have already won the Cup with a very similar team, while the Canadiens haven’t made a cup final since 1993. Playoff hockey is meant for their storied franchise, but they will have to at least wait another year to come out of the East on top. -Miller
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mike Trout progressing towards return before All-Star break

There's nowhere for Chris Paul to go

Mother Nature stops Tim Tebow's St. Lucie debut

Carson Palmer not sure if 2017 will be his last NFL season

Report: Spurs, Clippers among teams interested in Andre Iguodala

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Vanderbilt players shot while trying to get teammate’s phone back from thief

Would adding George, Hayward make Celtics a super-team?

Kevin Durant congratulates Russell Westbrook for earning MVP honors

Colts QB coach: Andrew Luck should not be double-digit INT guy

Jim Kelly praises Sean McDermott, throws shade at Rex Ryan

Did John Paxson just admit the Bulls are tanking?

Although you have seen this start before, this season is no sequel for the Dodgers

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

Who won Wimbledon the year you were born?

Box Score 6/27: Monday is for all sorts of ballers

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

2017 is not another disappointing sequel for the Dodgers

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker