Analysing the back end

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:40 PM ET


 How the eight Eastern playoff teams stack up on defence:

 - Tampa Bay Lightning: No names really jump out with the exception of newcomer Darryl Sydor, but don't sell Dan Boyle and Pavel Kubina short. They've matured into reliable two-way contributors.

 - New York Islanders: Defence could be the best thing about this team. Adrian Aucoin, Kenny Jonsson, Janne Niinimaa, Roman Hamrlik and Eric Cairns have size and experience, but a bad playoff track record.

 - Boston Bruins: There was much debate whether Sergei Gonchar or Brian Leetch would prove to be the catch of the day from the March trade deadline. Gonchar can sting you on the scoreboard, while Hal Gill, Nick Boynton and Sean O'Donnell mop up.

 - Montreal Canadiens: Biggest question mark is Norris Trophy candidate Sheldon Souray's health, as the secretive Habs try to confuse the media. Patrick Brisebois had a better year with Bob Gainey's vote of confidence. The rest are a mystery.

 - Philadelphia Flyers: They have retooled from last year with rookie Joni Pitkanen, ex-Leaf Danny Markov, Mattias Timander and wild-card Vladimir Malakhov. But Kim Johnsson and Eric Desjardins are a strong incumbents.

 - New Jersey Devils: They hardly are toothless without Scott Stevens, but now it's show time for the rest of the group, including rookie Paul Martin. Don't forget about Scott Niedermayer, who plays almost 26 minutes a night.

 - Maple Leafs: The key is Ken Klee coming back from shoulder problems. Leetch will be stretched to his limit, but he's playoff hungry. Unless Tomas Kaberle and Aki Berg straighten out, the less they're required the better.

 - Ottawa Senators: The 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara poses an obvious problem, and then you must get through former No. 1 picks Wade Redden, Chris Phillips and Curtis Leschyshyn. But this group still hasn't shown that it is Cup-worthy. Perhaps Greg de Vries puts them over the top.


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