5 NHL Teams That Have Increased Cup Hopes

After the trade deadline everyone wants to analyze the winners and losers after the trading frenzy is over.  Most of the teams this season are still in the playoff hunt, with the 7th and 8th spot in the Eastern Conference and 4th-8th spots in the Western Conference still up for grabs.  Which 5 teams have increased their chances of winning the Stanley cup the most?

1.     Vancouver Canucks- The Canucks made two minor moves that rounded out their fourth line, which has been a revolving door of players all season.  They added Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins, which will round out their fourth line along with Tanner Glass.  The Canucks have two very strong goalies in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, a very deep defence, 2 solid scoring lines led by the Sedin twins, Kessler, and the red hot Samuelsson.  They also have a very strong third line featuring new gritty additions Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra.  This team could win the President`s Trophy and is the front runner for the Stanley Cup.

2.     LA Kings- The Kings made the biggest splash in the league with the addition of Oilers Forward Dustin Penner.  Penner is a big strong power forward that will crash the net and score goals.  Penner could be like Dustin Byfuglien of last year`s Chicago Blackhawks and screen Roberto Luongo if the Kings meet up with the Canucks in the playoffs.  The Kings are currently in 6th in the West, but can easily jump to 4th and maybe even take the division from the Sharks and place 3rd in the Conference.

3.     Boston Bruins- The Bruins made the biggest pre-deadline move acquiring former Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle.  Kaberle fit a need that Boston desperately needed in a puck moving defenseman to play the power play.  The Bruins have a big physical team with Lucic and Chara as well as the best goalie in the league this season in Tim Thomas.  I can see them possibly passing the Lightning for 2nd spot in the Conference, but they will have a hard time passing the Flyers who are 7 points ahead of them in the standings.  With Kaberle they are a serious contender in the East.

4.     Pittsburgh Penguins- The Penguins did most of their dealing before the trade deadline as well getting winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen.  Unfortunately they lost Alex Goligoski on defence, but they got a strong winger in return.  They also added former all-star Alex Kovalev, but he has seen way better days and most think he has a bad attitude and is very inconsistent.  When Kovalev is playing well he has the hands and shot to score goals in bunches.  Without Malkin and Crosby they will probably not pass the Flyers and remain in 4th in the conference, but will Neal, Niskanen, and Kovalev they have a better chance of defeating the Capitals in their likely first round matchup.

5.     Washington Capitals- The Capitals have been a more defensively sound team this season reducing offensive production to support defensive play.  The Capitals added defenseman Dennis Wideman from the Panthers early in the day yesterday.  Wideman will patrol the power play with Mike Green out of the line up.  Wideman also provides a physical element to their defensive game and is great at outlet passes and breaking out of the zone.  The Capitals also added Jason Arnott at almost 3pm.  Arnott is going to play on their second line and fill the need they had of a second line centre.  He has been playing well as of late and will being a spark to Alex Semin and Brooks Laich.  Finally, they added Marco Sturm off of waivers who is a speedy, skilled winger that can jump onto the first or second line if necessary or could add some scoring to their third line.

Watch for these 5 teams to make some noise in the playoffs and advance past the first round.  Other teams like the Sharks, Red Wings, Flyers, and Lightning still have a chance to win hockey’s holy grail, but they didn’t do anything big yesterday to help their chances.  The Red Wings usually don’t make deadline moves sticking to a strict model of drafting, developing, and winning.  The other three teams are all leading their respective divisions and probably believe that they already have the right pieces to make a run of their own.