Here are the teams with the best chances of winning the Stanley
Cup, according to SI's Pierre McGuire (all statistics through
1. DEVILS The defending champions have more weapons, including
lethal special teams, than any other club. It will be important
to rest premier goaltender Martin Brodeur, who played in 38 of
42 games, before the playoffs begin.
2. AVALANCHE Colorado is loaded offensively, and center Joe
Sakic is the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy. Patrick Roy
had a solid first half (2.13 goals-against average), but he
looked a bit shaky against the better teams.
3. BLUES This is a well-balanced club with lots of grit and
outstanding special teams. The big question mark is in goal:
Roman Turek faltered in last spring's playoffs, and while
23-year-old Brent Johnson has been terrific as Turek's backup (he
had a league-leading 1.62 goals-against average), he's still a
4. SHARKS They play an in-your-face game. Right wing Owen Nolan
(14 goals in 29 games) is the key offensively, while the
defensive duo of Marcus Ragnarsson and Mike Rathje usually shuts
down the opponents' top line. Will rookie goalie Evgeni Nabokov
(1.94 goals-against average) hold up down the stretch, or will
San Jose trade for a veteran netminder?
5. SENATORS Ottawa has as much speed and skill as any other
team in the league, but it badly needs a power-play quarterback.
Goaltenders Patrick Lalime and Jani Hurme, who share the No. 1
job and were unknown quantities heading into the season, have
held up well.
6. RED WINGS If they're going to make a run at the Cup, they
need to deal for a goalie--say, the Canadiens' Jeff Hackett--who
will allow them to junk the pairing of journeyman Manny Legace
and disappointing Chris Osgood. Detroit still has a potent
offense and can grind with the best in the league.
7. FLYERS New coach Bill Barber has successfully implemented an
aggressive forechecking game, but Philly could use another
defenseman who can move the puck. If the Flyers get the right
players in a trade for unsigned restricted free agent Eric
Lindros, they could upset the Devils in the East.
8. STARS On defense they're as good as any club, but the big
concern is volatile goaltender Ed Belfour, who bolted the team
for four days last week after clashing with coach Ken Hitchcock.
9. MAPLE LEAFS Toronto is fortunate to have elite goalie Curtis
Joseph (.911 save percentage), who covers up some of its
defensive weaknesses. The Leafs need a power-play quarterback
and more consistency from their top players, like Mats Sundin
and Sergei Berezin.
10. PENGUINS Having the two best players in the world--Mario
Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr--makes Pittsburgh a threat. G.M.
Craig Patrick must add another defenseman and a physical
forward who can chip in offensively, plus shore up the
goaltending, for the Penguins to be a contender.