Of the Western Conference dark horses, two stand out as particularly fear-inspiring. The Chicago Blackhawks are the obvious choice for an upset victory given their strong track record against the Vancouver Canucks and the non-trivial fact that they won the Stanley Cup last season. But then there's a more surprising threat: the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks have a track record of upset victories, most recently in 2008-09 when they knocked off the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. They have come on strong late in the season and boast strength at every key position: up front the quartet of Hart Trophy candidate Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan is as fearsome as any in the league, while the defense features a Norris Trophy candidate in Lubomir Visnovsky.
Yet, there's also a case to be made that Anaheim is the weakest of the Western Conference playoff teams and, for all their intimidating pieces, may be set to make a quick exit from the postseason.
Start with a look at goal differential. One glimpse will tell you that the Ducks are in an entirely different class than the Western playoff contenders:
Team Goals For Goals Against Goal Differential
Vancouver Canucks 254 183 +71
San Jose Sharks 240 208 +34
Chicago Blackhawks 251 219 +32
Los Angeles Kings 217 193 +24
Nashville Predators 215 191 +24
Detroit Red Wings 255 234 +21
Phoenix Coyotes 226 220 +6
Anaheim Ducks 234 233 +1
Dallas Stars 217 224 -7