Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane are as good as hockey players get. Their teammates are pretty good, too.
In the NHL playoffs, that guarantees nothing.
Superstars and teams that were successful in the regular season get sent home, regularly, in the wild and wide-open postseason because seedings are relatively irrelevant. Los Angeles proved that last year, becoming the first team seeded eighth to hoist a Stanley Cup. Since the salary cap became part of the league's landscape after a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, seven teams have won NHL titles and no franchise has done it twice.
Los Angeles' quest to repeat, as the fifth-seeded team in the Western Conference, begins Tuesday night in St. Louis.
"The salary cap makes it an even playing field," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Everybody has a chance."
Crosby, Ovechkin and Kane hope that is not the case.
Pittsburgh's star forward Crosby might not be cleared to help the top-seeded Penguins try to win the first of 16 games Wednesday at home against the New York Islanders, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Crosby practiced Monday, but he hasn't played in a month because of a broken jaw. For a change, concussion-like symptoms aren't keeping him off the ice as they did for much of the past two years.
The Penguins have proved they can win without Sid The Kid, especially with Brenden Morrow, Jossi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla -- all of whom were acquired before the trade deadline -- on their loaded roster.
Canucks: Goaltender Cory Schneider returned to practice. However his status for the first game of the Stanley Cup quarterfinals against the Sharks remained uncertain. Schneider was injured April 22 in a win over Chicago, when he played the whole game without any apparent discomfort. He worked out briefly with an assistant coach Sunday.
Stars: New general manager Jim Nill talked a lot about culture change. He wasn't ready to discuss a coaching change. Nill was formally introduced by the team after spending the past 15 years as an assistant G.M. with the Red Wings, who just extended the longest playoff streak in North American pro sports to 22 seasons.
Draft lottery: The Colorado Avalanche won the NHL draft lottery. The Florida Panthers own the second pick for June's draft, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have the third selection.
The lottery adopted a different format this year, with all of the 14 non-playoff teams having a shot at the first pick. The remaining 13 squads will be slotted in reverse order of their regular-season points.