NHL playoffs, capsule previews
- April 15, 2014 - 1:10 AM
Colorado vs. Wild
Records: Avalanche (Central champion) 52-22-8, 112 points; Wild (top wild-card team) 43-27-12, 98 points.
Season series: Colorado won four of five.
The skinny: Under first-year coach Patrick Roy, the Avalanche went from finishing with the second-fewest points in the league last season to a division championship. Young guns Nathan MacKinnon (24 goals), Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog all had more than 60 points. Duchene’s availability is uncertain because of a knee injury. G Semyon Varlamov set a franchise record with 41 wins. … Only four of the 12 Wild forwards who skated in Game 1 vs. Chicago last year will play in this series. RW Jason Pominville (30 goals, 30 assists, 60 points) is the scoring leader. G Ilya Bryzgalov was picked up as insurance at the trade deadline, but now gets the starting nod in a pressure situation.
St. Louis vs. Chicago
Records: Blues (second in Central) 52-23-7, 111 points; Blackhawks (third in Central) 46-21-15, 107 points.
Season series: The Blues won the first three games, Blackhawks the final two.
The skinny: The teams were among the league’s best before late-season slumps landed them here. Still this is only the second opening-round series in playoff history featuring two teams with at least 107 points. The Blues have lost six in a row. Injured St. Louis forwards T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Vladimir Sobotka should return, but can G Ryan Miller shake off a recent slump? … Chicago should get back injured stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane who, along with W Patrick Sharp and D Duncan Keith, make the Hawks tick. The defending Stanley Cup champions figure to battle hard to retain that title.
Anaheim vs. Dallas
Records: Ducks (Pacific champions) 54-20-8, 116 points; Stars (second wild card) 40-31-11, 91 points.
Season series: Dallas won two of three.
The skinny: Will the Ducks learn from last season, when were the No. 2 seed before losing to No. 7 Detroit in the first round? The Ducks are led by the dynamic duo of C Ryan Getzlaf (31 goals-56 assists-87 points) and RW Corey Perry (43-39—82). The Ducks were one of the best 5-on-5 teams in the league but, perhaps surprisingly, were bottom third on the power play and a mediocre penalty kill. … The Stars are in the playoffs for the first time in six years thanks in large part to first-year GM Jim Nill’s hiring of coach Lindy Ruff and his trade for Tyler Seguin (37 goals, 84 points). Seguin lifted LW Jamie Benn’s game (34-45—79).
San Jose vs. Los Angeles
Records: Sharks (second in Pacific) 51-22-9, 111 points; Kings (third in Pacific) 46-28-8, 100 points.
Season series: The Kings won three of five.
The skinny: This is a rematch of last year’s gritty, seven-game, second-round series won by the Kings. All seven games were won by the home team, five of them by one goal, one in overtime. The Sharks are dynamic offensively, led by centers Joe Thornton (76 points) and Joe Pavelski (79) and LW Patrick Marleau (70). … The Kings, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the playoffs, boast a top-notch defense and a goalie, in Jonathan Quick, who outplayed Sharks G Antti Niemi last year. The top Kings line of Anze Kopitar centering Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams has started to impress. Gaborik was acquired in a trade-deadline move from Columbus.
Boston vs. Detroit
Records: Bruins (Atlantic champions) 54-19-9, 117 points; Red Wings (second wild-card team) 39-28-15, 93 points.
Season series: Detroit won three of four.
The skinny: Boston represented the East in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, when it won the Cup, and 2013 and is favored to do so again, while the Red Wings are in the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season. The Bruins’ balanced scoring is led by C David Krejci (19-50—69), C Patrice Bergeron (30-32—62) and W Jarome Iginla (30-31—62). G Tuukka Rask was second in the league in save percentage (.930). … The Red Wings upset second-seeded Anaheim last year and took Cup champion Chicago to overtime of Game 7. Along with veterans like RW Daniel Alfredsson and D Niklas Kronwall, the Red Wings have cultivated a load of young talent, led by RW Gustav Nyquist (28 goals), LW Tomas Tatar and D Danny DeKeyser.
Tampa Bay vs. Montreal
Records: Tampa Bay (second in Atlantic) 46-27-9, 101 points; Canadiens (third in Atlantic) 46-28-8, 100 points.
Season series: Tampa Bay won three of four.
The skinny: The teams were separated by a point in the standings. The young, quick Lightning is led by C Steven Stamkos, who scored 25 goals and had 40 points in only 37 games. But Tampa Bay learned to win without him this season, with rookies LW Ondrej Palat and C Tyler Johnson leading the way. Tama Bay G Ben Bishop should play, despite an upper body injury late in the season. … Montreal was lifted by the trade-deadline acquisition of Thomas Vanek. He, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais have one of the hottest lines going. D P.K. Subban had another big offensive season (53 points). Look for G Carey Price to rebound from a disappointing postseason a year ago.
Pittsburgh vs. Columbus
Records: Penguins (Metropolitan champions) 51-24-7, 109 points; Blue Jackets (top wild card) 43-32-7, 93 points.
Season series: Pittsburgh won all five games, trailing for a total of 56 seconds.
The skinny: The Penguins had a great regular season despite being decimated by injuries. Through it all Sidney Crosby (league-leading 104 points) established himself as the league’s MVP. But the person who will determine how far the Penguins go is G Marc-Andre Fleury. He lost his job to Tomas Vokoun after four poor starts in last year’s playoffs. This year Fleury has no veteran backup behind him. … The Blue Jackets are inexperienced, with 13 players in the postseason for the first time. Columbus had seven players with at least 16 goals. The keys are centers Ryan Johansen, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. G Sergei Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, is healthy again.
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia
Records: Rangers (second in Metropolitan) 45-31-6, 96 points; Flyers (third in Metropolitan) 42-30-10, 94 points.
Season series: Teams split four games.
The skinny: Given the bitterness of this division rivalry and the outcome of the season series, the Flyers will have to do something they haven’t done in New York since Feb. 20, 2011 — win. The Rangers got stronger all year under new coach Alain Vigneault and the Flyers have at least one 20-goal scorer on all four lines. Both teams have a formidable top defensive pairing — Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi for New York and Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn in Philly — and both are strong in net. The Rangers are led by LW Rick Nash (26 goals), C Brad Richards (20) and Mats Zuccarello (19). The Flyers’ top line of C Claude Giroux (28-58—86), RW Jakub Voracek (23-39—62) and LW Scott Hartnell (20-32—52) will be hard to stop.
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