Posted: Tuesday April 10, 2012 1:51PM ; Updated: Tuesday April 10, 2012 1:51PM
Adrian Dater
Adrian Dater>INSIDE THE NHL

Pens top Playoff Power Rankings

Story Highlights

The Penguins' talent and return to health make them the Stanley Cup favorite

Nashville just has a confident look as it enters the playoffs a dangerous team

Defending champ Boston is getting its act together and may make a deep run

After this week, the Power Rankings machine goes back into the shed, its amazing sorting and calculating abilities protected under grandma's plastic cover. All I had to do was grab the little slips that popped out of it in order to decide where each team should be ranked and why. Here's how the slips came out this one last time, for the playoff field, which shall be considered our final 1-16.

As for the also-rans, we'll dispatch them in short order right now. 'Nuff said. 17. Buffalo Sabres 18. Dallas Stars 19. Colorado Avalanche 20. Calgary Flames 21. Tampa Bay Lightning 22. Winnipeg Jets 23. Carolina Hurricanes 24. Minnesota Wild 25. New York Islanders 26. Toronto Maple Leafs 27. Anaheim Ducks 28. Edmonton Oilers 29. Montreal Canadiens 30. Columbus Blue Jackets

Here's how all 16 playoff teams stack up.

2012 NHL Playoff Power Rankings
1Pittsburgh Penguins
Seed: East No. 4
Somehow, they have arrived in one piece. That's part of the luck in winning a Stanley Cup -- you just have to be healthy and playing your best hockey in one reasonably small window of time. Not that the Pens have won anything yet. They didn't finish with the league's best regular season record, but let's admit it: they're the team you'd take right now if you were betting the mortgage. Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang, Neal, Orpik, Staal -- they're all healthy and ready to go. It's going to take a very good defense and goaltender to beat them in a seven-game series.
 
2Vancouver Canucks
Seed: West No. 1
Like the Penguins, they finished strong and have home-ice advantage through the playoffs. Daniel Sedin was back at practice on Monday, skating on a line with brother Henrik and Alex Burrows. The Canucks are one of those organizations that loves to play the injury subterfuge game with the media, though, so they won't say whether he'll be in the lineup for Game 1 against Los Angeles. What, are the Kings going to alter their game plan for the series as if Daniel isn't going to play? Of course not.
 
3New York Rangers
Seed: East No. 1
You definitely get the feeling they got a better first-round draw with Ottawa than a Washington team that is getting warm and has a history of upsetting them. We'll finally start finding out about this team, which has proven itself over 82 regular season games, but proving it again in a grueling, possibly 28-game postseason is a much different thing. You still worry about New York's offensive depth, but the team game is strong and Henrik Lundqvist is one motivated man in net right now.
 
4Nashville Predators
Seed: West No. 4
They have that look. They seem very confident entering the playoffs, and it says here that playing Detroit in the first round is the best way to start the postseason. They'll get their top rival right away, with home-ice advantage. Fans in Nashville are VERY excited about this. The Preds' defense is outstanding, and the offense looks a lot deeper than last year. Alexander Radulov was quite the late-season addition; he posted seven points in his nine games after coming back from Russia.
 
5St. Louis Blues
Seed: West No. 2
St. Louis Blues (49-22-11)
It was a great season for them, and their future is arguably as bright as it is for any team you want to name. Yeah, you still have the nagging feeling, though, that they're not quite there yet as a real Cup possibility. They stumbled a bit down the stretch, and despite a big, fast and mostly young group of forwards, scoring problems are a worry. Some of their young players may still need more maturation in order to be fully ready to hoist Lord Stanley's silver punchbowl.
 
6Philadelphia Flyers
Seed: East No. 5
A reasonably strong finish, led by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, has the orange-and-black faithful starting to get its hopes up again. All that's been missing all these years is that one hot goalie, right? Bryzgalov had a great 2010-11 season with Phoenix, too, and was terrible in the first round. Then again, this team is better in front of him than were those Coyotes. Keep your fingers crossed, Philadelphia.
 
7Boston Bruins
Seed: East No. 2
Boston Bruins (49-29-4)
Tuukka Rask isn't ready to return from his abdominal strain, so Tim Thomas will need to be ready to play for what could be a long series against Washington. The Bruins finished strong, but something was lost after that scarily dominant middle third of the season. They've been sloppy with the puck on too many nights, and they settled for a pretty, perimeter game for too long a stretch. They've gotten things back together, and could have another good run in them. We're about to find out.
 
8Detroit Red Wings
Seed: West No. 5
Respect is all this organization deserves. Detroit is a 100-point per season hockey factory. But it was a real struggle down the stretch for Mike Babcock's crew, and not having its customary home ice for the first round is something of a shock to the Winged Wheel system. Nobody is saying they can't make a long run, but their 17-21-3 road record is not encouraging, nor is the seemingly brittle health of the core veterans.
 
9Chicago Blackhawks
Seed: West No. 6
Jonathan Toews practiced on Monday. Still, nobody has said if he's up to playing an NHL playoff game after being out the last few weeks with a concussion. Skating at a practice and skating in a playoff game?.well, that's different. Chicago is still a very dangerous team, but you get the feeling that things never quite came together for the Hawks this season. Maybe it's not too late.
 
10New Jersey Devils
Seed: East No. 6
They go into the tournament hot, riding a six-game winning streak. And after all the grief he took last year from smart-aleck reporters, let's give Ilya Kovalchuk this much: he was great this season (37 goals, 83 points). OK, now about that playoff career record: exactly one victory in nine games, with three goals on the scoresheet. No time like the present to improve on that, with a series against the Florida Panthers and Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen to shoot at.
 
11Phoenix Coyotes
Seed: West No. 3
Phoenix Coyotes (42-27-13)
They won their final five games to sneak away with the Pacific Division title, another great achievement for a team with nothing but chaos to deal with, thanks to their "parents" in ownership. With Mike Smith playing so well in net, the gritty Coyotes continue to persevere and are actually in the best position to achieve a playoff series victory since 1987 when they were the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.
 
12Washington Capitals
Seed: East No. 7
Gotta give these Caps credit. After a turbulent early ride under new coach Dale Hunter, they got their act together just in time and are in the tournament with what should be a fun series against the Bruins. Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin have some of their old chemistry brewing again and the Caps will need the offense if young Braden Holtby is forced to do the lion's share of the goaltending. But that should make things interesting. Let's hope Tim Thomas enjoys his visit to Washington this time.
 
13San Jose Sharks
Seed: West No. 7
San Jose Sharks (43-29-10)
A four-game winning streak in the final week put them safely back into the dance after a season of questions about their identity and ability. It's pretty clear that they're still a tough, tough group that finds ways to stick together through rough seas. (Joe Thornton has a great, sea captain playoff beard.) Still, with a tough first-round foe waiting in St. Louis, there is a sense that this could be the swan song for a perpetually promising team that never quite delivers.
 
14Ottawa Senators
Seed: East No. 8
Ottawa Senators (41-31-10)
A preseason poll of the league's pundits probably would have found about five percent of them predicting that this team would make the playoffs. But here are the Senators, thanks to solid coaching by Paul MacLean, great years from Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, and some strong goaltending from Craig Anderson. This team is big and it can skate, but it's probably not deep enough for a deep playoff run.
 
15Florida Panthers
Seed: East No. 3
Florida Panthers (38-26-18)
That wonderful NHL system of division winners getting home ice no matter what their record -- Florida finished with eight fewer points than first-round opponent New Jersey -- got the Panthers their first two games at Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise. It's probably the least sexy of the eight playoff series, but these Cats don't care. Not since 2000 has there been a playoff game in South Florida and GM Dale Tallon's reconstituted crew should give the Devils a fight. Added incentive: the Devils are coached by ex-Panthers bench boss Pete DeBoer.
 
16Los Angeles Kings
Seed: West No. 8
They made it, but they did it with all the style of a running-on-fumes Dodge Dart with its rusty muffler dragging the ground as it straggled to the service bay. These Kings just refused to make anything easy on themselves this season, and nothing will change with a first-round series against Vancouver. They should have been better, but they're still alive -- for now.
 

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: Sammy Watkins NFL Draft Rick Adelman NFL Questions Aaron Hernandez Donald Trump
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint