by Kolby Solinsky
Editor, White Cover Magazine
*The following was compiled through 20 years of sarcastically watching hockey and (almost) nothing else. Until the invention of Fantasy Football and the FIFA series, that is. It breaks down the Achilles Hells of every NHL team — in the reverse order of their original position in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. You may think some clubs are invincible, but it’s not true.
All due respect to Vancouver, St. Louis, and Phoenix, but the Kings were never physically tested in their run to the 2012 Stanley Cup. Once Vancouver’s other Sedin returned to the lineup, the Canucks’ puck possession gave the Kings a world of trouble. The final two games of that series came down to one overtime. As for the Coyotes, they were absent for the first three games and — once Shane Doan and Co. remembered they wanted to win — the Kings almost fell prey.
Of course, this is clouding an otherwise All American postseason, but there are weaknesses here.
How to beat the L.A. Kings? — Hit Them.
2. New Jersey Devils
The Devils snuck into the Cup final behind everyone’s backs, and power to them. But, oddly, they were manhandled by a Los Angeles side they didn’t let up an inch defensively.
How to beat the New Jersey Devils? — Kill Penalties.
3. New York Rangers
The best team in the Eastern Conference for the entirety of the regular season is a lot different now than it was before the lockout, thanks to the acquisition of Rick Nash. They’ve lost some pluckiness and a small portion of their future, but they’re better.
How to beat the New York Rangers? — Goaltending.
4. Phoenix Coyotes
We don’t want to disrespect any team that makes it to the Western Conference final. After all, they got there because two other teams completely disrespected them. We know that Chicago’s high-flying, quick strike offence was neutralized by Phoenix’s suffocating goaltending, and we know that Nashville’s defensive side couldn’t do much against the Coyotes, who really don’t have an offence to defend against.
How to beat the Phoenix Coyotes? — Just Be Yourself.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Look at all the teams who have manhandled — at times — the best regular season team over the past two or three seasons. Boston. Chicago. Los Angeles. In the regular season, they’re beaten by Calgary teams on good night, and Minnesota Wild teams almost every night.
Yet, they dominate squads at the top of their game. They slapped the San Jose Sharks around in 2011. They shutout the Boston Bruins for two games in a Stanley Cup Final they ultimately lost.
The good news for Canucks fans? They haven’t changed a lot since that near-victorious run. The bad news? Ditto.
How to beat the Vancouver Canucks? — Speed Through the Neutral Zone.
6. St. Louis Blues
St. Louis’s best attributes? Three big, smooth centres. A future Norris Trophy winner. A tandem goalie system.
The Verdict? They’re still a long way away.
How to beat the St. Louis Blues? — Powerplay and Puck Possession.
7. Boston Bruins
Washington gave us the blueprint last year. Vancouver showed it off in their only meeting of the regular season last winter. Believe it or not, the Big Bad Bruins are vulnerable and self-conscious.
Just like a normal bear, the Boston ones will maul you one-on-one, but will run away with pee down their legs if you take a stick and bang it on a tree.
How to beat the Boston Bruins? — Shoot. Shoot. SHOOT!
8. Florida Panthers
Do we really have to do this?
How to beat the Florida Panthers? — Just Play Hockey.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
Who knew that the mighty Penguins would roll over that easy against Philadelphia? I mean, yeah, they came back and made it a series, but they were embarrassed several times by a team that eventually couldn’t even compete with the New Jersey Devils.
How to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins? — Get Physical. Physical.
10. Nashville Predators
Believe it or not, the Predators looked like Stanley Cup champions for most of the 2011/12 regular season. Then, they had to go and get Alex Radulov, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Paul Gaustad.
Gaustad just wasn’t what was advertised. Radulov and Kostitsyn ultimately ruined the Predators’ unbeatable chemistry. Now, the Predators have lost Shea Weber’s beard, er, defensive pairing, Ryan Suter.
But, it was the Phoenix Coyotes who beat, almost by lulling them to sleep and then pouncing when they saw a yawn. Just like a real coyote, actually.
How to beat the Nashville Predators? — Be Boring.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Believe it or not, it wasn’t the New Jersey Devils who exposed the Flyers. It was the Penguins in Games 4 and 5. It was the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic. Much like the Canucks, the Flyers put up a formidable facade. But, they’re vulnerable to attacks and point shots.
How to beat the Philadelphia Flyers? — Speed.
12. Detroit Red Wings
Will Detroit finally drop off the face of the earth? After 20 years of being the NHL’s only perennial threat, have the Red Wings lost their lustre? Will they win a Stanley Cup, or will they even make the playoffs?
Our bet? There’s still a lot of fight in this dog.
How to beat the Detroit Red Wings? — Luck and God’s Graces.
13. Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks can score with the will of anybody. They can be down five goals in a game and still have a chance at coming back. It’s just how they are. But, they often don’t do it for 82 straight games. Well, nobody does, but the Blackhawks seem to do it five games at a time.
How to beat the Chicago Blackhawks? — Close Your Eyes and Hope.
14. San Jose Sharks
Not surprisingly, this isn’t as tough as it used to be. San Jose blew their championship window, which made Ottawa’s championship window look as long as the Six Day War. They’ll bounce back eventually. Patrick Marleau is a lot younger than people think he is, and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski will carry the Sharks as long as they’re there.
Still, the Sharks lack the teeth of the animal they’re named after.
How to beat the San Jose Sharks? — Any Way You Want.
15. Washington Capitals
Once the Capitals finished their two-year adjustment to a defensive style (sheesh), Washington put together an almost-successul, 14-game playoff run. It ended too early, and it’s not hard to think that Washington’s style would have been better suited to beat New Jersey. At least, in comparison to New York’s.
Still, there’s no secret to euthanizing Washington. It’s the same as it’s always been.
How to beat the Washington Capitals? — Target Ovechkin.
16. Ottawa Senators
The Senators are going through a re-birth. Luckily for them, they’re making the playoffs in the middle of it. Not many teams have that luxury. (Right, Toronto?)
How to beat the Ottawa Senators? — Offence.
17. Calgary Flames
The Flames are still clinging to a style that can simply be described as pre-lockout. As in, the 2005 NHL Lockout. They’re a print-only newspaper in the digital age. That will change but, for now, the Flames still seem to get confused by shiny objects and brand new equipment.
How to beat the Calgary Flames? — Pass the Puck.
18. Dallas Stars
The Stars are wasting their only year with Jaromir Jagr, but still have enough talent up front in guys like Loui Eriksson to be good and better than everyone else thinks for some time.
The Stars might be the toughest team to analyze right now, because we’re not sure how they’ll develop over the next year and we’re not sure just how good they’ll be, post-lockout.
That said, the Stars aren’t yet powerful enough to sustain any kind of dominance over a full slate, and that includes a seven-game playoff series.
How to beat the Dallas Stars? — Six Relatively Strong Defencemen.
19. Buffalo Sabres
Like Dallas, Buffalo probably deserved a better fate than they got in 2012. They came together at the end, but couldn’t hold off an unrelenting Senators team, a revitalized Capitals squad, and surging clubs from Winnipeg and Tampa Bay, who also missed out but took some points away from Buffalo.
How to beat the Buffalo Sabres? — Wingers Who Can Shoot from the Hashmark.
20. Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene will be wearing robes one day but, for now, they’re just learning. The goaltending has improved, as has the defence, but Colorado is far from a Northwest challenger or even a surefire playoff team.
How to beat the Colorado Avalanche? — Goaltending. Forwards. Defencemen. Anything, Really.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning
All sizzle. Little steak.
How to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning? — A Plastic Bag Over the Head.
22. Winnipeg Jets
There’s still a lot of buzz around the Jets. It’s easy to get caught up in that. Don’t.
How to beat the Winnipeg Jets? — Play Them In Your Own Arena.
23. Carolina Hurricanes
Take a terrible team. Add Alex Semin and Jordan Staal. So, a lot of goals and a two-way forward. That certainly changes how you look at them, especially since Eric Staal now has more room to roam.
How to beat the Carolina Hurricanes? — Wait and See…
24. Minnesota Wild
Like the Hurricanes, a lot’s changed in the Twin Cities. Inconsistent team. Add Zach Parise. Add Ryan Suter. A little bit of pixie dust and VOILA. The Wild might just challenge for the Northwest Division in 2013. Or, 2014.
Still, there’s a lot left wanting here. Dany Heatley is shrinking fast, but Parise’s addition will exponentially improve the point totals of Devin Setoguchi and Mikko Koivu.
The Wild are built to blow up, like the Los Angeles Kings were last year. Only, they don’t have Darryl Sutter.
How to beat the Minnesota Wild? — Fight Back.
25. Anaheim Ducks
Have you ever seen a dead duck flying through the air? All it takes is one shot.
How to beat the Anaheim Ducks? — Possession and Slapshots.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs
There is little here to like, but they can score a lot of goals and their power play is exceptionally effective from night-to-night. There must be a reason the Maple Leafs start every year hot and then fall off the face of the earth.
How to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs? — Outwork Them. They’ll Get Tired.
27. New York Islanders
Unfortunately for the Isle, John Tavares doesn’t play goaltender.
How to beat the New York Islanders? — One-Timers.
28. Montreal Canadiens
Without Cammalleri, the Habs have even less balls than they did in years past. They’re so French, it’s hard to watch sometimes. Lucky for them, that’s a good thing now. They have new management and new coaching. They’ll get the players they want eventually, too.
Just… not right now.
How to beat the Montreal Canadiens? — Make Them Cry.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
They don’t even deserve a blurb.
How to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets? — Show Up.
30. Edmonton Oilers
Unfortunately for the Oilers… Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins don’t overcome the fact you don’t have a top two defenceman or a starting goaltender.
How to beat the Edmonton Oilers? — Dump and Chase.