With no clear-cut favourite entering the 2009-10 NHL post-season, the playoffs should be a wide-open affair this spring. It takes 16 victories to hoist the Stanley Cup in celebration, so here are 16 storylines to follow.
1. The No. 1 team from the regular season doesn't always win the Stanley Cup. In fact, only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings won both the Presidents' Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the past six seasons. A determined Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are out to win both titles.
2. The Leafs and Panthers never threatened for a post-season position in 2009-10. They are the only two clubs not to make the playoffs in any of the five seasons since the lockout. Should the Leafs finally make it to the post-season next year, it will be the first time for the beleaguered franchise since 2004. The Panthers, meanwhile, haven't been to the playoffs in 10 years.
3. If the Penguins and Red Wings advance to their third final in a row, it would be the first time the same teams met in three Stanley Cup finals since Detroit and Montreal met in 1954, 1955 and 1956.
4. The Chicago Blackhawks are seeking their fourth Stanley Cup championship and first since 1961, the longest current drought in the NHL.
5. We have seen four different Stanley Cup winners in Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit and Pittsburgh since the lockout. Will there be a fifth different champion crowned?
6. The Stanley Cup playoffs will have new blood. Of the 16 teams, six were on the sidelines last season in Buffalo, Nashville, Ottawa, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Colorado.
7. Only seven Canadian Olympians didn't qualify for the playoffs: Ryan Getzlaf, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Rick Nash, Scott Niedermayer, Corey Perry and Eric Staal. This gives 16 players a chance at the Olympic gold-Stanley Cup double in the same season.
8. The eighth seed has pulled off only two upsets since the lockout. The Edmonton Oilers upset Detroit in 2006 and the Anaheim Ducks beat up on the San Jose Sharks last spring.
9. Detroit has won nine playoff series in the past four years, the most of any NHL team.
10. All eyes will be on Joe Thornton and the Sharks. This is Thornton's 10th Stanley Cup playoffs and he has yet to advance to a conference final.
11. Eleven years ago, the Buffalo Sabres lost the Stanley Cup final when Brett Hull scored his controversial skate-in-the-crease goal against Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek. The Sabres return to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus with arguably the leading Vezina candidate in Ryan Miller.
12. At 40, San Jose defenceman Rob Blake has played in 12 previous playoffs. Of course, he won the 2000-01 Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. He is the oldest player in the playoffs this year. Detroit's Nik Lidstrom turns 40 on April 28.
13. Chicago's Marian Hossa has played in 13 Stanley Cup final games — six with the Penguins in 2008 and seven for the Red Wings last year — without a victory in the past two years. Will he get lucky with his third try?
14. Of all the starting playoff goaltenders — Craig Anderson (Colorado), Brian Boucher (Philadelphia), Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh), Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Brian Elliott (Ottawa), Jaroslav Halak (Montreal), Jimmy Howard (Detroit), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose), Antti Niemi (Chicago), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles), Tuukka Rask (Boston), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Jose Theodore (Washington) — 14 have yet to win the Stanley Cup. Only Brodeur and Fleury earned rings.
15. It's been 15 seasons since the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes and they're still searching for their first series win.
16. The Vancouver Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup final 16 years ago, only to lose to the New York Rangers. The Canucks haven't been back to a conference final since.