x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The path to the Stanley Cup could open up for one of the outsiders

While the teams at the top of the NHL standings have the best chances of a championship, the clubs down on the play-off bubble are only marginally less dangerous.

While the teams at the top of the NHL standings have the best chances of a championship, the clubs down on the play-off bubble are only marginally less dangerous.

Sure, some holes have been exposed over the long regular season, but in a seven-game series — or even a two-month play-off run — any of the teams in contention for the last play-off spots are more than capable of winning it all.

In the East, few teams have been hotter lately than the seventh-placed New York Rangers or eighth-placed Buffalo Sabres.

More important, the Rangers and Sabres have goaltenders who can lay a claim as the best in the game, in New York's Henrik Lundqvist and Buffalo's Ryan Miller.

Considering the top teams in the East, Philadelphia and Washington, are weakest where the Rangers and Sabres are strongest, it is not difficult to see an early-round upset or two.

In the West, the seventh-placed Anaheim Ducks might have the best line in hockey with Ryan Getzlaf between power wingers Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, and perennial sniper Teemu Selanne lurking on the second line.

Jonas Hiller, the goalie, has returned from a two-month bout with vertigo, and he is supported by a mobile defence. Nobody wants to draw the Ducks.

In eighth place are the defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. They might not be as deep and talented as a year ago, but they have a core of great players, as well as the knowledge of what it takes to win.