Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 09/25/13 at 03:37 PM ET
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
Here’s a look at three clubs that are rounding into Cup-contending form this season, and three that may have passed their best-by date.
St. Louis Blues
If last season’s thrilling seven-game loss to the Kings suggested anything, it’s that the Blues could really use a cold-blooded sniper capable of breaking a game open at any moment. But the absence of that player doesn’t mean they’re still stuck in the second tier of hopefuls. In fact, like recent champions Los Angeles and Boston, the Blues are a team whose success will depend on layer upon layer of depth and experience....
...It all starts with Ovechkin, of course. After adapting to a new position, the defending Hart Trophy winner played some of the most effective and consistent hockey of his career. But he’s just part of a forward corps that’s deeper, and better balanced, than in the past, with players like Martin Erat, Mikhail Grabovski and Tom Wilson ready to fill glaring needs. Karl Alzner has matured into a reliable shutdown defender, while John Carlson and Mike Green provide plenty of flash from the back end (although they desperately need an upgrade over John Erskine in the four spot). And while Braden Holtby fell apart against the Rangers in Game 7 of their first round series last spring, his body of work in the playoffs, along with his invite to Team Canada’s camp, speaks directly to his potential....
The surest sign that the Senators are on the right path is the recognition that they won’t catch anybody by surprise this time around. Last season played out like a feel-good movie. They were a projected cellar dweller struck by a litany of injuries that should have left them battling the Avalanche for the top spot in the draft.
more on each of the above team plus a look at three teams where the window appears to be closing...
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