NHL playoff series previews and predictions

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2013 - 9:36 AM

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) skates in second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh Saturday, April 27, 2013. The Penguins won 8-3. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) PITTSBURGH VS. (8) New York ISLANDERS

Records: Penguins 36-12-0, 72 points; Islanders 24-17-7, 55 points.

Season series: Penguins won 4-1.

The skinny: Even with injuries the Penguins — first-round losers the past two years — went 23-4 at the finish. And now they’re getting healthier, with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal back. The big question is whether Sidney Crosby will return from a broken jaw. The Penguins are loaded up front, with scoring depth all down the lineup , augmented by late additions Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, who had goals in four of his past six games. Former Wild winger Pascal Dupuis was a league-best plus-31 and native Minnesotan Paul Martin had his best per-game point production (.64). Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury and Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov each had 23 victories. The Islanders, in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, haven’t won a playoff series since 1993. C John Tavares (28-19—47) and LW Matt Moulson (15-29—44) carry the offensive load while 37-year-old Nabokov (23-11-7) seems ageless. The Islanders were 14-6-4 on the road, third-best in the East.

(2) MONTREAL VS. (7) OTTAWA

Records: Canadiens 29-14-5, 63 points; Senators 25-17-6, 56 points

Season series: Both teams were 2-1-1.

The skinny: The Canadiens started hot but limped home, losing six of their past 10 games and giving up 29 goals in the six losses. Still, they went from last place in the Eastern Conference a year ago to Northeast Division champs with a combination of good defense and balanced scoring. LW Max Pacioretty (15-24—39) and D P.K. Subban (11-27—38) lead a lineup that had eight players with at least 10 goals but nobody with more than 39 points. G Carey Price has to rebound from a rocky finish. The Senators fought through a number of injuries to qualify for the playoffs. The worst was defenseman Erik Karlsson’s torn Achilles tendon. The Senators haven’t reached the second round since 2006, but Karlsson’s late return should be a boost. C Kyle Turris (12-17—29) leads a balanced Ottawa attack. But the key is G Craig Anderson, who came back from a mid-season injury to lead the NHL with a 1.69 goals-against average. Ottawa finished second in goals against (2.08).

(3) WASHINGtON VS. (6) N.Y. RANGERS

Records: Capitals 27-18-3, 57 points; Rangers 26-18-4, 56 points.

Season series: Rangers 2-0-1, Washington 1-2-0.

The skinny: This rematch of last year’s seven-game conference semifinals can be summed up in a word: Ovechkin. Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin started slowly — with only two goals in the first 10 games — but finished in a rush. His NHL-record 14 April goals gave him 32 for the season, earning his third Rocket Richard Trophy, and helped the Capitals go 11-1-1 in the month, surging to their fifth division title in six years. Washington moved from 14th in the East to third in April. C Mike Ribeiro had 13 goals and 49 points and Ovechkin linemate Nicklas Backstrom had 48 points. G Braden Holtby had a career-high 23 victories. The Rangers — who reached the conference finals last season — also are hot, having gone 10-3-1 in April. C Derek Stepan of Hastings had a team-high 44 points, and LW Rick Nash had two goals in the season finale to reach 20 for the ninth consecutive season. G Henrik Lundqvist tied for first in the league with 24 wins, was fifth with a .926 save percentage and seventh with a 2.05 GAA. The status of injured Rangers Marc Staal, Brian Boyle and Ryane Clowe is key.

(4) BOSTON VS. (5) TORONTO

Records: Bruins 28-14-6, 62 points; Maple Leafs 25-17-5, 57 points.

Season series: Boston 3-1-0, Toronto 1-2-1.

The skinny: Boston won only three of its final 10 games, blowing a shot at the No. 2. But this matchup of Original Six teams and conference foes should perk things up; it is the first time in 40 years these teams have met in the playoffs. Boston had six players with 10 or more goals, led by LW Brad Marchand (18-18—36) and C Tyler Seguin (16-16—32). G Tuukka Rask finished third with a .929 save percentage for Boston, which was third overall in goals against (2.21). The Maple Leafs are in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Former Gopher Phil Kessel led the Leafs and was eighth in the NHL with 52 points (20-32—52); he has 15 points in 15 career playoff games. C Nazem Kadri and LW James van Riemsdyk each had 18 goals. But a key will be the play of G James Reimer, who finished with 19 wins despite a 2.46 GAA.

 

 

 

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(2) ANAHEIM VS. (7) DETROIT

Records: Ducks 30-12-6, 66 points; Red Wings 24-16-8, 56 points.

Season series: Detroit 2-1-0.

The skinny: Neither team scored in bunches, at least relatively speaking. Anaheim was eighth in the NHL in goals per game (2.79), and Detroit was 20th (2.54). Anaheim was 11th in goals against (2.4), while Detroit was fifth (2.27). Still, the Ducks have a depth of firepower, with Ryan Getzlaf (15-34—49), Corey Perry (15-21—36) and Bobby Ryan (11-19—30) on one line and Teemu Selanne (12-12—24), Nick Bonino (5-8—13) and Kyle Palmieri (10-11—21) on another. And don’t forget about Saku Koivu. Ducks goalies Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth each had 15 wins. The Red Wings made it into the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive time by winning their final four games by a combined score of 15-3. Detroit is led by C Pavel Datsyuk (15-34—49) and LW Henrik Zetterberg (11-37—48). But, not being the high-scoring bunch of the past, Detroit will lean on G Jimmy Howard, who had 21 wins, a .923 save percentage and a 2.13 GAA.

(3) VANCOUVER VS. (6) SAN JOSE

Records: Canucks 26-15-7, 59 points; Sharks 25-16-7, 57 points.

Season series: San Jose 3-0-0; Vancouver 0-2-1.

The skinny: The Canucks were division champs for the fifth time in six seasons despite finishing 19th in the league in scoring (2.54 goals per game). San Jose proved nearly unbeatable at home despite scoring only 2.42 goals per game. Get the feeling this might be a defensive battle between two teams in the top 10 in fewest goals allowed? Henrik Sedin (11-34—45) and brother Daniel Sedin (12-28—40) led the Canucks in scoring, and Alex Burrows led the team with 13 goals. G Cory Schneider has emerged as the leader, going 17-9-4 with a .927 save percentage and 2.11 GAA, but his status for the opener is uncertain. The Sharks lost at home in regulation only twice but were only 8-14-2 on the road. In the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, San Jose is led by C Joe Thornton (7-33—40), C Logan Couture (21-16—37), LW Patrick Marleau (17-14—31) and C Joe Pavelski (16-15—31). G Antti Niemi finished tied for the league lead with 24 wins and was seventh in save percentage (.924).

(4) ST. LOUIS VS. (5) LOS ANGELES

Records: Blues 29-17-2, 60 points; Kings 27-16-5, 59 points.

Season series: Los Angeles 3-0-0.

The skinny: St. Louis surged into the playoffs with an 11-2 April, earning a first-round series against a Kings team they have had trouble beating. The Kings swept the Blues in the conference semifinals last season and were 3-0-0 vs. the Blues this season. In all, L.A. has won eight consecutive vs. St. Louis. Blues G Brian Elliott started slow but finished 14-8-1; he allowed 16 goals in the final 13 games. RW Chris Stewart (18-18—36) led the Blues in goals and points, while C Patrik Berglund (17-8—25) added scoring depth. The late additions of defensemen Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester stabilized the Blues blueline. The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings again will rely on G Jonathan Quick, the MVP of last year’s playoffs. It wasn’t until late in this season that Quick, who had offseason back surgery, returned to form. But he appears set. L.A. is led by C Anze Kopitar (10-32—42), RW Justin Williams (11-22—33) and C Jeff Carter (26-7—33).

Michael Russo’s predictions

EASTERN CONFERENCE

FIRST ROUND

Penguins over Islanders in five

Senators over Canadiens in six

Rangers over Capitals in seven

Bruins over Maple Leafs in six

SECOND ROUND

Penguins over Senators in six

Rangers over Bruins in seven

CONFERENCE FINAL

Penguins over Rangers in six

WESTERN CONFERENCE

FIRST ROUND

Blackhawks over Wild in five

Red Wings over Ducks in six

Sharks over Canucks in six

Kings over Blues in seven

SECOND ROUND

Blackhawks over Red Wings in five

Sharks over Kings in seven

CONFERENCE FINAL

Blackhawks over Sharks in six

STANLEY CUP FINAL

Blackhawks over Penguins in seven









 

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  • Montreal Canadiens' P.K. Subban (76), Max Pacioretty (67), Andrei Markov (79), Brendan Gallagher (11) and David Desharnais (51) celebrate Desharnais' goal on the Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31), Ron Hainsey (6) and Mark Stuart (5) during third-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods)

  • Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, skates with the puck against the Boston Bruins during the overtime period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

  • Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63), left, collides with Ottawa Senators center Mika Zibanejad (93), right, of Sweden, in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Sunday, April 28, 2013. Senators left wing Jakob Silfverberg, background, skates behind. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf plays during an NHL hockey game against the Phoenix Coyotes in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, April 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott deflects a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • The San Jose Sharks' Raffi Torres (13) celebrates his goal with teammates Martin Havlat (9) and Brent Burns (88) against the Dallas Stars in the first period at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

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Team Irvin 7:15 PM
Team Carter
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 12 1st Qtr 4:58
Cleveland 11
Dallas 5:00 PM
New Orleans
Indiana 5:00 PM
Orlando
LA Clippers 5:00 PM
Phoenix
Minnesota 5:00 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 6:00 PM
Toronto
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Boston 7:00 PM
Golden State
Washington 7:00 PM
Denver
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Team Toews 4:00 PM
Team Foligno
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 54 2nd Half 3:12
Binghamton 46
Cincinnati 46 2nd Half 7:03
UCF 41
Maine 68 2nd Half 0:54
Hartford 57
Monmouth 60 2nd Half 1:41
Manhattan 65
Fairfield 47 2nd Half 4:23
Marist 55
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 45 2nd Half 3:33
Rhode Island 47
Duke 51 2nd Half 8:33
St Johns 61
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 35 2nd Half 3:07
Wichita State 74
Vermont 59 2nd Half 1:00
UMass Lowell 48
Seton Hall 28 1st Half 0:23
Butler 29
NJIT 24 2nd Half
South Alabama 31
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Illinois State
Louisville 3:00 PM
Pittsburgh
UMBC 3:30 PM
Albany
Niagara 3:30 PM
Iona
Notre Dame 5:30 PM
NC State
Belmont 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Creighton 6:00 PM
Villanova
Northwestern 6:30 PM
Maryland
Washington 7:30 PM
Utah
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
UCF 50 2nd Half 7:15
SMU 43
Utah 51 2nd Half 1:04
Washington 61
Delaware 21 2nd Half
Drexel 32
Hofstra 56 2nd Half 0:46
William & Mary 57
Hartford 55 2nd Half 4:14
Albany 70
Binghamton 53 2nd Half 0:12
Stony Brook 67
Towson 37 2nd Half
UNC-Wilmington 30
Wake Forest 70 2nd Half 4:28
(17) Florida State 98
Georgia Tech 64 2nd Half 0:25
Virginia 60
(22) Georgia 46 2nd Half 1:41
(5) Tennessee 54
Iona 44 2nd Half
Canisius 32
Fairfield 16 2nd Half
Monmouth 28
Northwestern 69 2nd Half 2:53
Penn State 71
Ohio State 64 2nd Half 0:45
Purdue 64
Northern Iowa 53 2nd Half 1:18
Indiana State 52
Butler 38 2nd Half 12:00
Xavier 42
Creighton 34 2nd Half
Marquette 35
Northeastern 30 1st Half 0:45
Elon 35
(2) Connecticut 48 2nd Half
Cincinnati 13
Oregon 32 2nd Half
Arizona 29
NC State 29 1st Half 0:24
(23) Syracuse 26
(7) Maryland 42 1st Half 2:18
Indiana 23
Illinois State 15 1st Half 2:31
Missouri State 28
Colorado 3:00 PM
Washington St
Tulane 3:00 PM
South Florida
(14) Kentucky 3:00 PM
Missouri
Providence 3:00 PM
DePaul
(9) Oregon State 3:00 PM
(13) Arizona State
Bradley 3:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Vermont 3:30 PM
UMass Lowell
Iowa State 3:30 PM
(8) Texas
Southern Ill 3:45 PM
Wichita State
(15) Duke 4:00 PM
(12) North Carolina
Miami-Florida 4:00 PM
(4) Louisville
(21) Minnesota 4:15 PM
(25) Rutgers
California 5:00 PM
UCLA
(11) Stanford 7:00 PM
USC
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