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Who Will Win The Stanley Cup? SI special contributor Pierre McGuire ranks the five teams with the best chance of lifting the chalice this spring, plus a dark horse (statistics through Sunday).

Jan. 20, 2003
Jan. 20, 2003

Table of Contents
Jan. 20, 2003

Who Will Win The Stanley Cup? SI special contributor Pierre McGuire ranks the five teams with the best chance of lifting the chalice this spring, plus a dark horse (statistics through Sunday).

1. Stars (25-10-10-1) Dallas has an extra gear and knows when to
use it, whether protecting a lead or making a comeback. The
off-season addition of free-agent sniper Bill Guerin (20 goals),
steady forward Scott Young and defensive defenseman Philippe
Boucher gave the team outstanding depth. Marty Turco's terrific
first half (1.83 goals-against average, .929 save percentage)
quieted skeptics. The Stars are the most well-rounded club in the
league.

This is an article from the Jan. 20, 2003 issue Original Layout

2. Red Wings (24-11-7-1) The defending champs have more depth up
front than any other team, even with captain Steve Yzerman
sidelined indefinitely because of a knee injury. Curtis Joseph
was only adequate in net, but he usually gets better when the
stakes are raised. The biggest concern is the relatively thin
back line (Jiri Fischer missed most of the first half with a torn
left ACL and may not return this year), which forced Norris
Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and 40-year-old Chris Chelios to
get too much ice time. Will they be fresh in the postseason?
Also, can rookie coach Dave Lewis excel in the playoffs like his
predecessor, Scotty Bowman?

3. Senators (27-10-5-1) To win the Cup, a team needs a defensive
stopper (Ottawa has one in 6'9", 260-pound Zdeno Chara),
quick-strike ability (28-goal star Marian Hossa), solid
goaltending (Patrick Lalime, four shutouts) and enough grit to
grind out wins (well...). That last item bedeviled the Senators
in recent years, but with hard-nosed forwards Mike Fisher, Chris
Neil and Shaun Van Allen getting regular minutes this season,
Ottawa won't be caught short in that category. Having the
league's second-best power play makes the Senators dangerous.

4. Canucks (25-13-5-0) If Vancouver were in the East, it would
be the conference favorite. The Canucks have size (the forwards
average 6'1", 204 pounds), speed, the game's most dominant
two-way defenseman (Ed Jovanovski) and outstanding role players
(defensive forwards Matt Cooke and Trevor Letowski). The big
question is in net--can unproven Dan Cloutier overcome the memory
of last spring's disastrous series against the Red Wings?

5. Flyers (23-10-8-1) One of their biggest advantages is having
veteran Ken Hitchcock, who won the Cup with Dallas in 1999,
behind the bench. No coach is better at preparing his team for
the long playoff haul than Hitchcock, who is in his first year
with Philadelphia. The Flyers are also built for the postseason:
They are one of the largest teams in the NHL (average: 6'2", 207
pounds) and have outstanding top-end talent. Disappointing
forwards Simon Gagne (six goals) and Keith Primeau (11) should
rebound from poor first-half performances. One major concern is
goalie Roman Cechmanek, who has flamed out in the postseason two
years in a row.

Dark horse. Avalanche (17-13-9-5) The most talented team in the
league was also the most underachieving in the first half. Taking
the fall was coach Bob Hartley, who was fired last month and
replaced by novice Tony Granato. The new coach's job? Get Patrick
Roy (2.62 goals-against average, .904 save percentage) to play
like a Hall of Famer again, and improve the team's dismal home
record (7-8-6-2), shoddy defensive play and penalty killing (29th
in the NHL). That said, there's no team that wants to meet the
Avalanche in the postseason.

SIX COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE NHL (6)