With their depth across the board and the experience gained from last spring's trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Philadelphia Flyers have all the elements needed to win the franchise's first League title in 36 years.
The Big Why: In a word, depth. Can you pick Philadelphia's top line? They had seven 20-goal scorers, 10 players with at least 35 points, and seven with at least 45.
Is the top line the trio of Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino? Briereset a career high with 34 goals, and last spring led all playoff scorers with 30 points in 23 games. Hartnell is a physical force and Leino is a deft puckhandler.
What about All-Star Claude Giroux with Jeff Carter and Nikolay Zherdev? Giroux led the team in scoring, while Carter led in goals with his third-straight season of at least 30. Zherdev has struggled to follow coach Peter Laviolette's game plan at times, but is a dynamic force with the puck.
And then there's Mike Richards' line, with Kris Versteeg and James van Riemsdyk. Richards plays -- and plays well -- in all situations, while van Riemsdyk had 21 goals in his second season and seems to be getting stronger and faster by the day.
That depth carries to the defense, as well.
All-Star Chris Pronger is the group's emotional and verbal leader and can set the tone with high-skill and physical play.
With Pronger missing so much time with injuries this season, however, other players stepped up their games -- especially Matt Carle, who led all defensemen in even-strength points. Andrej Meszaros finished among the League leaders in plus/minus. Kimmo Timonen was a steady, solid veteran presence and Braydon Coburn provided strong play at both ends of the ice.
The Big Uh-Oh: Despite their riches, the Flyers struggled after the All-Star break to find any consistency in their game. Part of that could have been complacency due to their big lead atop the conference, but their poor play heading into the postseason is a sign of concern.
The Final Argument: Late-season struggles aside, it's hard to think any team in the League will be able to beat this team four times in seven games. These Flyers will join the Broad Street Bullies in League lore as Philadelphia champions.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.
— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday