Posted: Mon April 29, 2013 6:00PM; Updated: Tue April 30, 2013 6:55PM
Brian Cazeneuve
Brian Cazeneuve>INSIDE THE NHL

NHL playoffs series-by-series X-factors

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The NHL playoffs were full of surprises last season, as the No. 8 seed L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup.
The NHL playoffs were full of surprises last season, as the No. 8 seed L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup.
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With the puck set to drop on the NHL playoffs, let's takes a look at the X-factors in each series, those certain someones (or somethings) who will impact the fortunes of each of the 16 teams in the eight opening-round matchups.

WEST PREVIEWS: Hawks-Wild | Ducks-Red Wings | Canucks-Sharks | Blues-Kings
EAST: Penguins-Islanders | Canadiens-Senators | Capitals-Rangers | Bruins-Leafs

Can the Kings repeat? Are the Penguins as good as people think? Was the Blackhawks' streak during the regular season merely a fluke? Who are some of the established veterans and unknown stars-to-be hovering on the edge of the playoff spotlight? What will the lower-seeded teams have to do in order to pull off an upset?

Here are eight video breakdowns exploring the X-factors that could determine the course of the first round of the NHL's postseason.

PLAYOFF PREP: Staff picks | Upset alert | Key storylines | Playoff Power Rankings | Schedule

Eastern Conference X-factors

NHL Playoff X-factors: Penguins vs. Islanders
Source: SI
Sidney Crosby's health will be key when the No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins take on the No. 8 New York Islanders.
NHL Playoff X-factors: Canadiens vs. Senators
Source: SI
P.K. Subban's control will be key when the No. 2 Montreal Canadiens take on the No. 2 Ottawa Senators.
NHL Playoff X-factors: Capitals vs. Rangers
Source: SI
Veteran Mike Green will be key when the No. 3 Washington Capitals take on the No. 6 New York Rangers.
NHL Playoff X-factors: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Source: SI
Underrated star Nazem Kadri will be key when the No. 4 Boston Bruins meet the No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Western Conference X-factors

NHL Playoff X-factors: Blackhawks vs. Wild
Source: SI
The pressure of their streak will be key when the No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks face the No. 8 Minnesota Wild.
NHL Playoff X-factors: Ducks vs. Red Wings
Source: SI
Tired vets and untested goalies will be key when the No. 2 Anaheim Ducks face the No. 7 Detroit Red Wings.
NHL Playoff X-factors: Canucks vs. Sharks
Source: SI
Toughness will be key when the No. 3 Vancouver Canucks face off against the No. 6 San Jose Sharks.
NHL Playoff X-factors: Blues vs. Kings
Source: SI
Jay Bouwmeester will be key when the No. 4 St. Louis Blues meet the No. 5 Los Angeles Kings.
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