All playoff teams have Achilles heel

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:35 PM ET

Has the NHL salary cap created a league of parity or parodies?

Whichever way you look at it, the days of the muscle-flexing dynasties like the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970s or the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s, are over.

Instead, upon examining the 16 teams that are about to partake in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, each and every one has an Achilles heel, an ugly wart that threatens to spoil their individual bids to win the Cup.

Even the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, featuring high-flying Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, have a significant blemish, leaving this particular playoffs a wide-open affair.

Here’s a look:

Washington Capitals

The Warts: Goaltending.

The Skinny: Jose Theodore? Semyon Varlamov? The Caps might be the only team talented enough to overcome average goaltending en route to the Cup.

New Jersey Devils

The Warts: No-name defence.

The Skinny: Mike Mottau? Bryce Salvador? No offence, but they don’t conjure up images of Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens.

Buffalo Sabres

The Warts: A blue line of Tyler Myers and ...?

The Skinny: When your best defenceman is a rookie, there are plenty of question marks.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Warts: Wear and tear.

The Skinny: Coming off two consecutive Stanley Cup final appearances, the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings already have played in the neighbourhood of 290 games the past two-plus seasons, far more than any other teams.

Ottawa Senators

The Warts: Green goaltending.

The Skinny: Brian Elliott started the season as the backup to Pascal Leclaire. He has never been named the No. 1 man despite leading the Sens to the playoffs. He has never made a post-season appearance. Connect the dots.

Boston Bruins

The Warts: No scoring punch

The Skinny: When you depend on greybeards like Mark Recchi and Miro Satan for a chunk of your offensive punch, it’s no wonder you finished near the bottom of league in scoring. They were both great eight years ago but now ...

Philadelphia Flyers

The Warts: Goaltending

The Skinny: You can count on three sure things in the City of Brotherly Loathe — booing Santa Claus, booing Donovan McNabb and booing the Flyers mediocre goaltending. Where’s Roman Cechmanek when you need him?

Montreal Canadiens

The Warts: Sliding down a slippery slope.

The Skinny: If the Habs could not beat the Islanders, Hurricanes and Leafs to end the season, what makes any sane person think they can overcome Ovechkin?

San Jose Sharks

The Warts: If it’s spring, they fold.

The Skinny: Year after year, this ridiculously talented team falls on its face come playoffs. Is there any indication things will be different this time?

Chicago Blackhawks

The Warts: Goaltending.

The Skinny: Antti Niemi has never played a post-season game. Cristobal Huet, more often than not, has come up short in the playoffs. If the Hawks expect to win the Cup, their fortunes ride on these two.

Vancouver Canucks

The Warts: History

The Skinny: No matter how much talent they boast, the Canucks have come up short of expectations in the playoffs dating back to the days of Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund and Ed Jovanovski.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Warts: Post-season inexperience.

The Skinny: They might be the Cinderella story of the regular season, but the clock is about to strike midnight for Lee Stempniak and friends courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit Red Wings

The Warts: Wear and tear.

The Skinny: Like the Pens, the Wings have played about 50 more games than some teams the past two-plus seasons, thanks to consecutive runs to the final. Can rookie goalie Jimmy Howard carry the load?

Los Angeles Kings

The Warts: Post-season inexperience.

The Skinny: The Kings have not been to the playoffs since 2002. To put that into perspective, stud blueliner Drew Doughty was 12 years old at the time.

Nashville Predators

The Warts: Goals ... or lack thereof.

The Skinny: Coach Barry Trotz did a magnificent job behind the bench this season. Too bad he can’t score. They could use the offence.

Colorado Avalanche

The Warts: Inexperience

The Skinny: Take away Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk and this team could almost pass for a junior club. How will they handle the pressure of the Stanley Cup dance? That remains to be seen.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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