The Hockey Nuts Podcast, Season 1, Episode 35 is live!

Coming up on this episode of the Hockey Nuts, Steve and I get all wound up in a Playoff frenzy!  We will tell you who made it, and who plays who in the first round.  We will also make our prediction of who will win the first round.  There have been even more signings around the league.  We’ll tell you who signed, and where.  We’ll also discuss all of the other headlines of the week in a busy week of action around the hockey world.  We’ll have all the details, plus some NCAA hockey tournament talk, the KHL playoff minute, and our picks of the week, coming up next!

THN Episode 35 Show Notes

Music by Bensound at http://www.bensound.com

Rangers highlights courtesy of MSG Network.  Bruins highlights courtesy of NESN.  Hurricanes highlights courtesy of Fox Sports Carolinas.  Other highlights and clips courtesy of NBC, NBC Sports Network, CBC, Sportsnet, and the National Hockey League.

 

Opening Headlines:

  • Playoffs! Playoffs are here!  This show will be mostly about the upcoming playoffs.  We’ll get you caught up on all 16 teams and 8 match-ups, then We will give you our predictions.
  • The NCAA crowned their D1 Champion this past weekend. We’ll tell you what went down at the Frozen 4
  • If we have time, we will also give our predictions on the major NHL awards.

 

 

 

Scores

 

Final Standings:

https://www.nhl.com/standings

 

 

Break:

Where we are:

How to support the show:

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Finally, if you can’t support us financially through one of the programs we just mentioned, you can support us through the following:

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  • Get involved with the show! We are just a couple hockey fans, and we love interacting with the audience.
  • Finally, we are looking for guest hosts to come on from time to time. If you feel you can provide more insight on your favorite team or league than we are, let us know!  All you would need to join the show is a computer and Skype.

 

How to get in touch with us:

 

NHL Playoffs!

https://www.nhl.com/stanley-cup-playoffs

Eastern Conference:

Ottawa Senators (A2) vs. Boston Bruins (A3)

Season series: Ottawa 4-0-0

Last playoff meeting: None

5 storylines

Overcoming adversity: That has been the tagline for the Senators, whether it was the post-concussion syndrome of forward Clarke MacArthur, the cancer goaltender Craig Anderson‘s wife faced, or the many, many injuries that kept players out during the regular season, most recently the foot injuries to defenseman Erik Karlsson. Once the playoffs arrive, the question is whether going through all of that this season, and staying together, will bear fruit for the Senators, who might be the healthiest they’ve been all season heading into this series.

Can Brad Marchand bounce back?: It was a disappointing end to what had been the best season of the left wing’s NHL career. Marchand soared to the top of the NHL scoring race, at one point late in the season tying Sidney Crosby in goals, on his way to being mentioned in the Hart Trophy conversation. But Marchand finished the season in the press box, suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for the final two games of the season after spearing defenseman Jake Dotchin of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It left a bad taste for the Bruins, and it left Marchand one goal shy of the 40 he had told general manager Don Sweeney he would score this season after signing an eight-year contract in September.

Keeping it close: The Senators’ success this season was all about the system, all about slowing down the game and slowing down the opposition. They weren’t exactly a team that won by blowing out opponents, but rather by adhering to their defensive-minded approach. The question in the playoffs will be whether that system works for them in a best-of-7 series like it did in the regular season. It appeared that the Bruins figured out a key to playing the Senators in their final regular-season matchup, even though Boston lost 2-1 in a shootout, so that will be key to watch as well.

Enough defense: The question all season was whether the Bruins defense would be good enough. Now, after defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo each was injured in the final two games of the regular season, the question is whether they’ll be healthy enough. There’s no way to win the Stanley Cup, or even a round, without a good defense, and integrating inexperienced defensemen or moving players from the press box into the rotation is far from optimal at this time of year.

Coach vs. coach: The coaching matchup is an interesting sidenote to this series. Neither coach was in the NHL at this point last season, and yet each has led his team to the postseason. Boucher, who is in his fourth season as an NHL coach, is 11-7 in his career in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, having guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011. He has not been back since. For Cassidy, it’s been even longer. The Bruins coach was 2-4 with the Washington Capitals in the 2003 playoffs, when his charges bowed out in the first round to the Lightning. That’s not a lot of playoff experience on either side.

Charlie McAvoy:  With injuries to Brandon Carlo and Torrey Krug, the Bruins were almost forced to sign McAvoy, who is the best defenseman in their system not currently with the Bruins.

 

Keys to victory

Senators: Keeping it close. As multiple Senators mentioned after they clinched a playoff berth in a 2-1 shootout win against the Bruins on Thursday, the reason they defeated Boston that night and the reason they had succeeded all season was their ability to play a tight-checking, close game. They defeated the Bruins just that way all season, winning three one-goal games and one two-goal game.

Bruins: Breaking out. The Bruins have played a puck-possession game all season, one that can break out offensively at any time, especially when led by Marchand and Pastrnak. To win the series, Boston will have to break through the Ottawa defensive morass and use the firepower that they have to overpower the Senators’ system.

https://www.nhl.com/news/boston-bruins-ottawa-senators-playoff-preview/c-288636496

 

 

Pittsburgh Penguins (M2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (M3)

Season series: Each was 2-1-1

Last playoff meeting: 2014 Eastern Conference First Round; Penguins won series 4-2

All-time playoff series: Penguins lead 1-0

 

5 storylines

Sidney Crosby vs. Brandon Dubinsky: If Penguins center Sidney Crosby is the superhero, Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky is the villain. That’s the way it’s always been for Crosby and Dubinsky. The plot won’t change now. They have fought each other. Dubinsky has been suspended for cross-checking Crosby in the head. In many ways, this matchup could define the series because the Blue Jackets will want to play physical and grind away at the Penguins, whereas Pittsburgh will want to negate that physicality with its speed. Columbus has speed too, but trying to go speed-for-speed against Pittsburgh isn’t smart. Dubinsky will try to grind away at Crosby, who will try to be elusive and beat him in transition or with plays below the dots.

Friends turned adversaries: There’s a good chance that nobody in the NHL knows Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan better than Columbus coach John Tortorella. The same is true the other way. Tortorella and Sullivan worked together for six seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks from 2007-14. Tortorella was the coach, and Sullivan was his assistant. It was the same dynamic at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 last fall, when Tortorella was coach for Team USA and had Sullivan on his staff. They remain close friends, except for this series. “There’ll be no discussion,” Sullivan said. Maybe not, but it will be interesting to see their dynamic play out in a playoff series. It might negate any coaching advantage, or it might lead to an enticing mental game of matching wits and trying to stay ahead of what they know for sure the other is thinking.

Filling Kris Letang‘s role: The Penguins have a big hole to fill with the loss of Letang, who will miss the playoffs and potentially the start of next season because of surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. It’s impossible to replace Letang, who can play 30 minutes per game and get better with each passing minute. But the Penguins will try to cope without their top defenseman by using their depth. Sullivan said they have hard decisions to make, especially with the recent returns of Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta from injury. Pittsburgh went 13-7-3 without Letang after Feb. 25.

Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Matt Murray: Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy and a potential Hart Trophy candidate. Penguins goalie Matt Murray should be a candidate for the Calder Trophy. He’d be the first goalie to win it after winning the Stanley Cup since Ken Dryden in 1971-72. Bobrovsky has appeared in 13 NHL playoff games and is 2-6 with a 3.50 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. Murray was 15-6 with a 2.08 GAA and .923 save percentage for the Penguins in the playoffs last season. On paper, it looks like the Blue Jackets have the edge in goal because they have the Vezina Trophy contender, but it’s thin if it exists at all because of what Murray has already proven he’s capable of doing.

Doctor, doctor: The good news for Pittsburgh is center Evgeni Malkin should be back for Game 1. Malkin (upper body) has been out since March 17, but Sullivan said Sunday he is encouraged with his progress. Maatta returned Sunday after missing 25 games following hand surgery. In addition, Daley played two of the final three games of the regular season after missing 20 games because of knee surgery. However, the statuses of left wings Carl Hagelin (lower body) and Chris Kunitz (lower body) are unclear. Neither is likely to play in Game 1. Columbus rookie defenseman Zach Werenski (upper body) missed the final four games of the regular season but is expected to be ready for Game 1. If Werenski were to miss any time, it would throw the Blue Jackets’ defense pairs for a loop and prevent them from being able to match up against Crosby and Malkin the way they would like. The Blue Jackets also might not have defenseman Ryan Murray (hand), which means it’s possible rookie Markus Nutivaara will play in his place. Scott Harrington is the other option.

 

Keys to victory

Penguins: Nick Bonino’s line. The Penguins will try to come at the Blue Jackets in waves by spreading out their scoring depth. Bonino’s third line, just like last season, makes that happen. The Blue Jackets might not have enough depth on defense to keep up. It’s possible Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson could be on Bonino’s line for Game 1.

Blue Jackets: Belief. The Blue Jackets have size, depth, talent, speed, skill and goaltending. They need to have some swagger against the defending champs. They need to believe they belong, that they’re good enough, because there’s no doubt the Penguins do.

https://www.nhl.com/news/pittsburgh-penguins-columbus-blue-jackets-playoff-preview/c-288633648

 

Washington Capitals (M1) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (WC2) 

Season series: Washington 2-1-0

Last playoff meeting: None

 

5 storylines

Rookie sensation: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, 19, established himself as a Calder Trophy favorite in his NHL debut by scoring four goals against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 12. He went on to become the fourth rookie in League history to score 40 goals in a season before his 20th birthday, joining Dale Hawerchuk, Sylvain Turgeon and Mario Lemieux. The spotlight will be brighter in the playoffs, but he has responded to every challenge so far.

Alex Ovechkin peaking: Although Ovechkin’s 33 goals were his fewest in a full season since 2010-11, when he had 32, the Capitals forward has elevated his play down the stretch. He had 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in the final 15 regular-season games and averaged 4.6 shots on goal per game over the past 18 games after averaging 3.6 in the first 64. To keep Ovechkin fresh for the playoffs, coach Barry Trotz trimmed his ice time from 20:18 per game last season to 18:21 per game this season.

Going deep: One of the Capitals’ objectives after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round last season was to become more of a four-line team so they could match the Penguins’ depth. They have succeeded; they have five forwards who scored at least 20 goals, including T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin, who shared the Washington lead with 33 goals, and 11 who scored at least 12. The offseason additions of Lars Eller (12 goals) and Brett Connolly (15) paid off in filling out the third line with Andre Burakovsky (12). The Maple Leafs also have five forwards with at least 20 goals, including Matthews and Nazem Kadri (32), and nine who have reached 10.

Man-advantage: The series will feature two of the top four power plays in the League. The Maple Leafs were second (23.8 percent), and the Capitals were tied for third with the Penguins (23.1 percent). The Capitals acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27 to strengthen their depth on defense and because of his skill on the power-play point with his right-handed shot. After taking some time to adjust, Shattenkirk has taken the Capitals power play to another level. They went 12-for-34 (35.3 percent) over the last 12 games of the regular season.

On a roll: The Capitals finished the regular season strong, going 11-2-1 in their final 14 games. That’s in sharp contrast to a year ago when they coasted over the final month of the season, going 7-5-4 in their final 16 games, and never were able to flip the switch and find their top level when the playoffs began. In clinching a playoff berth, the Maple Leafs went 12-5-1 in their final 18.

Keys to victory

Capitals: Focus. Although the Capitals can’t win the Stanley Cup in this series, they can lose their chance to win it if they get distracted by the big picture or by talk of past early-round exits. They have tried in vain in the past to say their history has no impact. The first step toward proving that is taking care of business in this series, and then moving on to the next one.

Maple Leafs: Youth. The Maple Leafs’ inexperience can be a negative, but they can use it to their advantage if they play with the same youthful enthusiasm they’ve had all season. They might be young enough not to realize they’re big underdogs in the series and the playoffs are a bigger stage.

https://www.nhl.com/news/washington-capitals-and-toronto-maple-leafs-series-preview/c-288634214

 

Montreal Canadiens (A1) vs New York Rangers (WC1)

Season series: Canadiens 3-0-0

Last playoff meeting: 2014 Eastern Conference Final; Rangers won series 4-2

All-time playoff series: Rangers lead 8-7

 

5 storylines

The King vs. the Savior: The marquee matchup is in goal, one that did not occur in 2014. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist and Montreal’s Carey Price are two of the best in the world, and whoever plays better likely will move on to the second round. This showdown in the Eastern Conference Final three years ago was cut short when Price was injured in Game 1 in a collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider. Lundqvist is 14-17-3 in the regular season against the Canadiens, one of three NHL teams he has a losing record against (Ottawa Senators, 15-17-3; St. Louis Blues, 4-5-0).

The speedy game-breakers: The Canadiens and Rangers each possess a player who can be the difference at any moment thanks to his blazing speed. Montreal forward Paul Byron and New York forward Michael Grabner were two of the most surprising players in the League during the regular season, and each did it turning seemingly innocuous loose pucks in the neutral zone into breakaways. Grabner scored 27 goals, and Byron had 22, but what is remarkable is that neither of them scored a power-play goal and each of them has scored once shorthanded.

Rangers’ scoring depth vs. Canadiens’ shutdown players: Under Julien, the defense pairing of Shea Weber with Andrei Markov and the forward line of Tomas PlekanecBrendan Gallagher and Byron consistently was used against the opposing team’s top lines. The problem the Rangers present is that they make it difficult for opposing teams to identify what the top line is. New York coach Alain Vigneault spreads his offense across three balanced lines, and whoever doesn’t have to face Montreal’s top shutdown unit should have an easier time producing.

Rangers’ lack of depth on defense: As deep as they are up front, the Rangers defense represents their biggest question mark heading into the playoffs. After Ryan McDonagh, it gets very thin with a combination of Dan GirardiMarc StaalNick HoldenBrendan SmithKevin Klein and rookie Brady Skjei filling out the top six. The Canadiens have a clear advantage in this area, and that could be what makes the difference in the goaltending showdown.

The Kreider factor: Canadiens fans definitely have not forgotten what happened to Price in 2014. There is no doubt Kreider will be a target of the Bell Centre crowd throughout the series, and the fact that Kreider’s 28 goals led the Rangers this season should accentuate his villain role on the road.

 

Keys to victory

Canadiens: Secondary scoring. New York will focus its attention defensively on the top line of Max PaciorettyPhillip Danault and Alexander Radulov, so it is vital that Montreal’s second and third lines contribute offensively, particularly the line of Alex GalchenyukAndrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen. With the Plekanec line drawing most of the difficult assignments, providing offensive support for the top line will fall largely on the Shaw line. They’ve been good since they were put together March 23, particularly the rookie Lehkonen, but that needs to continue.

Rangers: Relentless pressure. New York’s primary advantage is up front and their ability to come at you in waves, with very little drop-off from their first forward line to their third. The Rangers need to accentuate that and force the Canadiens to defend for long stretches, something Montreal hasn’t done much under Julien, in order to wear Price down over time.

https://www.nhl.com/news/montreal-canadiens-new-york-rangers-playoff-preview/c-288628298

 

 

 

Western Conference:

Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs. San Jose Sharks (P3)

Season series: Edmonton 3-1-1

Last playoff meeting: 2006 Western Conference Semifinal; Oilers won series 4-2

All-time playoff series: Oilers lead 1-0

5 storylines

Sharks’ health: The statuses of San Jose centers Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are unknown. Couture took a puck to face March 25 against the Nashville Predators and missed the final seven games of the regular season. Thornton sustained a knee injury against the Vancouver Canucks on April 2 and missed the final three games. Couture, who had 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists), and Thornton, who had 50 points (seven goals, 43 assists), finished third and fourth on the Sharks in scoring, so it will be a big loss if either misses any more time.

Connor McDavid: The Oilers captain has an unmatched combination of pure speed and ability to make plays at that speed. Having never played a game in the NHL playoffs, McDavid has stayed away from claiming to know how the postseason goes. The focus surely will be on whether he can continue to create the same opportunities for himself and regular linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon once the playoffs begin.

Brent Burns: The Sharks defenseman is a unique talent, incorporating size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), mobility, physicality and offensive instincts. Burns’ 76 points led the Sharks, and his 29 goals were tied with Joe Pavelski for most on San Jose. Will the Oilers hound him, pressure him and try to hit him? Or will they go more for the containment strategy?

Todd McLellan vs. his former team: McLellan guided the Oilers to the playoffs in his second season as their coach. Prior to being hired by Edmonton, McLellan coached the San Jose for seven seasons, qualifying for the playoffs in the first six. Will his extensive knowledge of the Sharks, especially their veteran players like Thornton, Burns and Pavelski, be an advantage?

Experience factor: Much of the discussion about this series will center around the Sharks’ big advantage in postseason experience. San Jose’s roster has combined for 1,169 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs compared to 342 for Edmonton. Almost one-third of the Oilers’ total is from left wing Milan Lucic, who has played in 101 NHL playoff games, including winning the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011. Beyond that, 16 Oilers have played 10 or fewer NHL postseason games, and 11 of 23 have no NHL playoff experience.

 

Keys to victory

Oilers: Handling the pressure. Edmonton had the best record against the Western Conference (33-11-6) and the Pacific Division (20-6-3), and was the only Western Conference team to win 20 games in its own division. But the playoffs are a different animal, and maintaining structure and discipline when postseason emotions get ramped up will be a new challenge for a young team.

Sharks: Health. San Jose is a savvy, experienced team that knows all about the price required to win in the playoffs. The heartbreak it experienced last season losing in the Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games is sure to be an additional motivating factor this spring. Given that the Sharks know how to get the job done and were able to handle adversity in the 2016 playoffs, having Thornton and Couture available to give them a complete roster may be the most important thing in the first round.

https://www.nhl.com/news/edmonton-oilers-san-jose-sharks-series-preview/c-288637270

 

Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs. Calgary Flames (WC1)

Season series: Anaheim 4-1-0

Last playoff meeting: 2015 Western Conference Second Round; Ducks won series 4-1

All-time playoff series: Ducks lead 2-0

 

5 storylines

Impact of April 4: Will there be any repercussions from the final regular-season game between the Ducks and Flames? Emotions erupted after Flames defenseman Mark Giordano‘s knee-on-knee hit knocked Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler out of the game in Anaheim. Fowler sprained his right knee and will be out for 2-6 weeks.

Epic home streak: Almost lost in the controversy of the April 4 game between the Ducks and Flames was that the Anaheim’s regular-season winning streak against Calgary at Honda Center was extended to 25 games. The Flames (0-20-5) haven’t won in the regular season in Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004. Calgary is going to have to find a way to break the curse. The Flames dropped all three games in Anaheim against the Ducks in the playoffs two years ago in the second round. In 2006, the Flames defeated the Ducks 5-2 in Game 3, at Anaheim on April 25 in the first round.

Depth perception: The Ducks hold the edge in terms of scoring at the top end. Four players scored more than 20 goals this season: Rickard Rakell (33), Patrick Eaves (32; 11 with Ducks, 21 with Stars), Jakob Silfverberg (23) and Ryan Kesler (22). Sean Monahan (27) and Mikael Backlund (22) were the only Flames with more than 20 goals. However, 12 Flames scored 10 or more goals compared to nine for the Ducks.

Matthew Tkachuk ready for prime time: The son of former NHL player Keith Tkachuk doesn’t act like a rookie or play like one. After sparking London of the Ontario Hockey League to the 2016 Memorial Cup, the 19-year-old never looked out of place at the NHL level and never hit the rookie wall. Tkachuk’s 48 points (13 goals, 35 assists) were fifth on the Flames.  “This is going to be a new experience for him,” Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said on “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday. “The one thing we know is the lights won’t be too bright for him. This is a guy who rises in big game and big moments. He’s not shy to be on the big stage.”

Coaching contrast: One of the advantages held by the Ducks is in playoff coaching experience. It’s vast. Gulutzan will be coaching in his first NHL playoff game — the Stars did not qualify for the postseason in his two seasons in Dallas. For the Ducks, Randy Carlyle has coached in 69 NHL playoff games — 62 with the Ducks and seven with the Toronto Maple Leafs — and won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. Few coaches are better at the matchup game than Carlyle.

Keys to victory

Ducks: Anaheim, which finished the season with a 14-game point streak (11-0-3), needs prompt success. A long, tough series works against the Ducks, who have been eliminated from the postseason each of the past four seasons at home in Game 7. The Ducks have been able to retool their roster in a subtle manner, but their defense will be tested with the absence of Fowler.

Flames: Calgary is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, but its stay will be short-lived if it can’t get past the demons of Honda Center. With the Ducks holding home-ice advantage, the questions about the Flames’ inability to win in Anaheim will begin immediately. Calgary will need to win at least one game on the road in order to advance.

https://www.nhl.com/news/anaheim-ducks-calgary-flames-series-preview/c-288636912

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks (C1) vs. Nashville Predators (WC2) <

Season series: Chicago 4-1-0

Last playoff meeting: 2015 Western Conference First Round; Blackhawks won series 4-2

All-time playoff series: Blackhawks lead 2-0

 

5 storylines

Blackhawks chasing dynasty status: Chicago is attempting to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, third in five. If successful, the Blackhawks will have won four championships since 2010. Six players on the current roster have won each of the previous three: Toews, Kane, Keith, Marian HossaBrent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The last team to win the Cup three times in a five-year span was the 1990 Edmonton Oilers (who also won it in 1987 and 1988).

Subban in the spotlight: Subban was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in a trade for franchise defenseman Shea Weber by general manager David Poile to give the Predators a more dynamic presence in the attacking end. The Predators played 14 playoff games last season. In eight of them, they scored two or fewer goals. Nashville averaged 2.90 goals per game this season, up from 2.73 in 2015-16.

Depth charges: The Predators may have the deeper offensive lineup in this series, at least on paper. Nashville had 12 players score at least 25 points; Chicago had 10. The Predators also had a dozen players score at least 10 goals; the Blackhawks had seven. However, Nashville will have to prove this advantage on the ice.

No substitute for experience: The Blackhawks have played in so many big games that almost nothing fazes them. Toews and Hjalmarsson each has played in 124 playoff games for Chicago, followed by Kane (123), Keith (122), Seabrook (119), Hossa (103) and Crawford (83). Nobody has played more playoff games with the Predators than Rinne, who has 48 appearances. Subban has played in 55 NHL playoff games, all with the Canadiens.

Not very special: Neither team was very good on the power play or the penalty kill in the regular season. Nashville finished 16th in the NHL on the power play (18.9 percent), and Chicago was 19th (18.0 percent). However, the Blackhawks went 6-for-15 on the power play against the Predators, who scored on five of 16 man-advantage opportunities in the season series. Nashville was 15th on the penalty kill (80.9 percent), and Chicago was 24th (77.7 percent).

 

Keys to victory

Blackhawks: Consistency. The Blackhawks are the better team. They are the top seed in the West, they finished 15 points ahead of the Predators, and they have a much finer playoff pedigree. If Chicago can stay focused and play the game that it has played for much of the second half of the season, there is no reason it can’t win this series.

Predators: Good goaltending. Rinne, 34, has said he does not know how many more opportunities he will get in the playoffs as Nashville’s No. 1 goalie. If he wants this to be a long run, he is going to have to be spectacular and improve upon his 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 48 NHL playoff games.

https://www.nhl.com/news/blackhawks-predators-playoff-preview/c-288628080

 

Minnesota Wild (C2) vs. St. Louis Blues (C3) 

Season series: St. Louis 3-2-0

Last playoff meeting: 2015 Western Conference First Round; Wild won series 4-2

All-time playoff series: Wild lead 1-0

 

5 storylines

Devan Dubnyk does it again: His first half was better than his second, but Dubnyk had another solid season, becoming the first goalie in Wild history to win 40 games in a season, posting a 2.25 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. It could be enough to earn him some votes for the Vezina Trophy as the League’s top goalie, but Dubnyk surely is more interested in helping the Wild win the Stanley Cup for the first time.

Vladimir Tarasenko‘s explosiveness: Tarasenko is a threat to score every time he’s on the ice. The 25-year-old nearly scored 40 goals for a second straight season, falling two shy. He played a huge role in helping the Blues reach the conference final last spring, when he had 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 20 playoff games.

Eric Staal‘s resurgence: Some may have thought Staal’s best days were behind him, but the three-year, $10.5 million contract he signed with the Wild on July 1 has proved to be a bargain; the 32-year-old center had 65 points (28 goals, 37 assists) in his first season with the Wild. Staal, who helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in 2006, brings a winning pedigree and likely will play in all situations for the Wild this postseason.

Jake Allen shines in second half: It’s been an up-and-down season for Allen, who struggled at times during the first half and was left behind for a three-game road trip to help get him out of his mental funk. But the 26-year-old goalie bounced back in a big way in the second half, winning 16 games from Feb. 2 until the end of the regular season.

Ryan Suter‘s always out there: If you’re a Blues fan and don’t know much about the Wild’s No. 1 defenseman, you’ll know plenty by the end of this series. Suter is a workhorse for the Wild and has no issues in playing in excess of 30 minutes per game. With the playoffs upon us, expect his workload to only increase.

Keys to victory

Wild: Veteran leadership. The Wild aren’t short on players who have been involved in long playoff runs, particularly Staal and Parise, who helped the New Jersey Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. Those two will need to lead the way for Minnesota, which never has reached the Cup Final.

Blues: Shoot the puck, early and often. There is going to be an enormous amount of pressure on Dubnyk to perform after he faltered a bit in the second half, and an early goal in Game 1 could go a long way. That’s where someone such as Tarasenko could really set the tone.

https://www.nhl.com/news/minnesota-wild-st-louis-blues-playoff-preview/c-288619676

 

 

 

Transactions

 

04/05/2017  Ryan Collins (D) Univ. of Minnesota Columbus Blue Jackets
04/06/2017  Dennis Cholowski (D) St. Cloud State Univ. Detroit Red Wings
04/06/2017  Nick Caamano (F) Flint Firebirds Dallas Stars
04/07/2017  Vladimír Sobotka (F) Avangard Omsk St. Louis Blues
04/07/2017  Jansen Harkins (F) Prince George Cougars Winnipeg Jets
04/07/2017  William Lagesson (D) UMass (Amherst) Edmonton Oilers
04/08/2017  Sean Malone (F) Harvard Univ. Buffalo Sabres
04/10/2017  Beck Malenstyn (F) Calgary Hitmen Washington Capitals
04/10/2017  Charlie McAvoy (D) Boston Univ. Boston Bruins
04/10/2017  Ziyat Paigin (D) Bakersfield Condors Edmonton Oilers
04/10/2017  Shane Starrett (G) Air Force Academy Edmonton Oilers
04/10/2017  Gabriel Fontaine (F) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies New York Rangers
04/10/2017  Tyler Moy (F) Harvard Univ. Nashville Predators
04/11/2017  Carson Soucy (D) Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth Minnesota Wild

 

  • Doug Weight will remain as coach of the New York Islanders. The Islanders went 24-12-4 after Weight replaced Jack Capuano on Jan. 18, the NHL’s second-best record from Jan. 19 until the end of the season. Although the Islanders ended the season with a six-game winning streak, they finished one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.  Weight, who admitted Wednesday that when he first got the job he wasn’t sure if being a coach was something we wanted to do long-term, will also continue to serve as assistant GM.  Weight said he’ll probably make changes to the coaching staff. Assistant Bob Corkum joined Weight on the bench after Capuano was fired; Greg Cronin has been an assistant since the 2014-15 season.
  • Ken Hitchcock will be named coach of the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the Dallas Morning News and Sportsnet reported. Hitchcock, who was fired as coach of the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 1, coached the Stars for seven seasons and won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999.  He has a 781-474-88 record in 20 NHL seasons with the Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Blues. Hitchcock won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach in 2011-12, his first season with St. Louis.  The Stars announced Sunday that Lindy Ruff’s contract would not be renewed.  At a press conference Monday, general manager Jim Nill said he was looking to hire a veteran coach and had already spoken to three candidates. He told NHL Network Radio on Tuesday that he was moving quickly and said he was hoping to have his new coach in “three to four days.”  Hitchcock coached Dallas from 1996-2002 and is the Stars’ all-time leader in victories with a 277-154-60-12 record.
  • Willie Desjardins was fired as coach of the Vancouver Canucks on Monday along with assistant coaches Doug Lidster and Peary Pearn one day after Vancouver finished the season with 69 points (30-43-9), second-fewest in the NHL. In three seasons with Vancouver, Desjardins had a record of 109-110-27. After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first season, the Canucks have missed the past two.  Vancouver finished the season on an eight-game losing streak and also had a nine-game losing streak earlier in the season.
  • The Florida Panthers are putting Dale Tallon back in charge of their hockey operation. Tallon was named general manager in place of Tom Rowe, who will no longer serve as coach, the Panthers announced Monday. Tallon, who will retain his title as president of hockey operations, was GM from 2010-16.  Rowe will remain with the Panthers as a special adviser to Tallon. Eric Joyce and Steve Werier will continue as assistant general managers.  Rowe replaced Tallon as GM on May 16. He took over as coach after Gerard Gallant was fired Nov. 28. Rowe went 24-27-10 in 61 games, and the Panthers finished 14 points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.  President/CEO Matt Caldwell said the lack of a clear decision-maker hurt the Panthers.  Still need a coach…

Injuries

  • The Buffalo Sabres are hoping forwardKyle Okposo will be able to return next season after an illness caused him to miss the final six games of this season.  Okposo, 28, reportedly was hospitalized at Buffalo General Hospital because of an undisclosed ailment on April 2.
  • Playoff bound teams suddenly have players healthy just in time for game 1!

Milestones/Records/Honors/Deaths:

  • Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbomand Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending April 9.  Anderson went 3-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout to guide the Senators (44-28-10, 98 points) to seven out of a possible 10 standings points and a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division.  Klefbom led the NHL with seven assists/points in four games to propel the Oilers (47-26-9, 103 points) to three victories and a second-place finish in the Pacific Division.  Point shared second place in the NHL with 4-2-6 in four games as the Lightning (42-30-10, 94 points) wrapped up their season with three victories in four starts.
  • The 2016-17 National Hockey League regular season concluded on Sunday with Edmonton Oilers centerConnor McDavid capturing his first career Art Ross Trophy as the League’s scoring champion, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby claiming his second career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s goal-scoring leader and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals winning his first career William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltender who plays at least 25 games for the club allowing the fewest goals. McDavid finished the season with a League-leading 100 points (and 70 assists) in 82 games, besting Crosby (44-45-89 in 75 GP) and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (34-55-89 in 82 GP) for his first career Art Ross Trophy.  Crosby scored a League-high 44 goals in 75 games to capture his second career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, adding to the one he shared with Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos in 2009-10. Crosby – who finished ahead of Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (40 G in 74 GP) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (40 G in 82 GP) for the award – recorded eight multi-goal performances, highlighted by his 10th career hat trick March 19 vs. FLA.  Holtby saw the most action on a Capitals team that allowed a League-low 182 goals, 13 fewer than the Columbus Blue Jackets. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner claimed his first career William M. Jennings Trophy as well as the second in franchise history, following the tandem of Al Jensen and Pat Riggin in 1983-84.
  • Defenseman Will Butcher (COL) of the University of Denver won the Hobey Baker Award on Friday, given annually to the player voted to be the best in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey. Union College forward Mike Vecchione and Northeastern forward Zach Aston-Reese were the other finalists.  Butcher, whose NHL rights are held by the Colorado Avalanche, is the first defenseman to win the award since Matt Gilroy of Boston University in 2009, and sixth in history.  Butcher had 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 42 games this season, and his plus-27 rating ranks ninth in the nation.  The 22-year-old was named National Collegiate Hockey Conference player of the year and offensive defenseman of the year, helping Denver win the NCHC regular-season championship. Butcher and defenseman Matt Carle (2006) are the only players from Denver to win the award.  Butcher was a fifth-round pick (No. 123) by Colorado in the 2013 NHL Draft.  Vecchione, 24, who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers on March 31 and made his NHL debut April 4, tied for the NCAA lead with 63 points (29 goals, 34 assists) in 38 games.  Aston-Reese, 22, tied with Vecchione for the scoring lead with (31 goals, 32 assists) in 38 games and signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 14.  Jimmy Vesey (Harvard) of the New York Rangers won the award last year. Jack Eichel (Boston University) of the Buffalo Sabres won it in 2015, and Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) of the Calgary Flames won it in 2014.
  • Announced retirements this week – Patrik Elias, Shawn Thornton, Bryan Bickell.

Suspensions/Fines: 

  • Anaheim Ducks forwardNick Ritchie has been suspended for two games, without pay, for roughing Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival during NHL Game No. 1203 in Anaheim on Thursday, April 6, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced Friday.  The suspension includes the Ducks’ final regular-season game as well as their first game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The incident occurred at 6:00 of the third period. Ritchie was assessed a match penalty.  Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Ritchie will forfeit $4,967.59.
  • Boston Bruins forwardBrad Marchand has been suspended for two games, without pay, for spearing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin during NHL Game No. 1179 in Boston on Tuesday, April 4, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced Thursday.  The incident occurred at 19:20 of the first period. Marchand was assessed a major penalty for spearing and a game misconduct.  Marchand is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, will forfeit $109,756.10.  Finished w/39 goals.

NHL Debuts:

 

Other Interesting Stories:

  • The National Hockey League announced today the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, used to determine the order of selection for the first 15 picks in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, will be held on Saturday, April 29 in Toronto. The results of the Draft Lottery will be announced shortly after 8 p.m. ET, during live coverage of the event on NBC, CBC and TVA. Coverage on CBC begins at 7:30 p.m., ET. The 2017 NHL Draft Lottery will consist of three drawings: the 1st Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting third overall.  Participants in the Draft Lottery include the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play in the 2017-18 season, and all other Clubs that did not qualify for this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs (or Clubs that acquired the first-round picks of those non-Playoff Clubs).  The Golden Knights will be afforded the exact same lottery odds as the team finishing the regular season in 28th place — or with the third-worst regular-season record. They will be guaranteed no lower than the sixth overall selection.  https://www.nhl.com/news/2017-nhl-draft-lottery-to-be-held-april-29/c-288660422
  • Brandon center Nolan Patrick is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2017 NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting revealed its final list of the top North American skaters and goaltenders, and top international skaters and goaltenders Tuesday.  Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), the son of former NHL player Steve Patrick and nephew of former NHL player James Patrick, is No. 1 despite missing 35 regular-season games because of an upper-body injury and all four WHL playoff games because of a lower-body injury.  The No. 1 skater on Central Scouting’s international list is forward Klim Kostin (6-3, 196) of Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kostin had shoulder surgery performed in January and hasn’t played since. Like Patrick, Kostin proved in earlier viewings that he has the necessary tools to excel at the next level.  Center Nico Hischier of Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is No. 2 among North American skaters, followed by center Casey Mittelstadt of Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota, center Gabriel Vilardi of Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League and center Michael Rasmussen of Tri-City (WHL).  The top North American goalie is Boston University freshman Jake Oettinger (6-4, 212), who was No. 3 in the midterm rankings. He led Hockey East with a 2.09 goals-against average in league games and became the ninth BU goaltender named to a Hockey East All-Star Team.  Keith Petruzzelli (6-5, 180) of Muskegon, who was No. 1 in the midterm ranking, is No. 2, followed by Ian Scott (6-3, 172) of Prince Albert (WHL).  Center Elias Pettersson (6-1, 165) of Timra in Sweden is No. 2 on Central Scouting’s final ranking of international skaters, followed by center Lias Andersson (5-11, 198) of HV 71 (SWE), defenseman Miro Heiskanen (6-0, 183) of HIFK in Finland, and center Martin Necas (6-1, 180) of Brno in Czech Republic.  Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (6-4, 196) of HPK in Finland is the No. 1 international goaltender, followed by Olle Eriksson-Ek (6-2, 196) of Farjestad (SWE) and Adam Ahman (6-0, 165) of HV 71 (SWE).
  • Hilary Knight scored in overtime to give the United States a 3-2 win against Canada in the gold-medal game at the IIHF Women’s World Championship at USA Hockey Arena 1 in Plymouth, Michigan on Friday. Knight blocked a shot in the defensive zone and trailed Kendall Coyne up the ice. Coyne then made a drop pass to Knight, who shot past Canada goalie Shannon Szabados.  The United States won a world championship on home ice for the first time.  Meghan Acosta gave Canada a 1-0 lead one minute into the game, but Kacey Bellamy tied it 1-1 a little more than three minutes later.  Bellamy’s goal 42 seconds into the third period gave the United States a 2-1 lead. Canada tied it 2-2 on Brianne Jenner’s power-play goal with a little more than 10 minutes left.  The United States outshot Canada 40-30. U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley made 28 saves; Szabados made 37.  The United States and Canada have a history of overtime games in this tournament. Each had won three times, including a 1-0 win by the U.S. team last year. Knight scored an overtime winner to defeat Canada in 2011.  Finland defeated Germany 8-0 to win the bronze medal.

The Hockeynuts.com Power Rankings:

https://www.nhl.com/standings

Team (last week)

  1. Washington (1)
  2. Chicago (2)
  3. NY Rangers (6)
  4. Anaheim (8)
  5. Pittsburgh (3)
  6. Minnesota (7)
  7. San Jose (10)
  8. Boston (14)
  9. Columbus (4)
  10. Montreal (5)
  11. Edmonton (9)
  12. St Louis (12)
  13. Calgary (13)
  14. Ottawa (15)
  15. Nashville (16)
  16. Toronto (11)

 

  1. NY Islanders (17)
  2. Tampa Bay (18)
  3. Philadelphia (19)
  4. Winnipeg (22)
  5. Carolina (20)
  6. Los Angeles (21)
  7. Florida (24)
  8. Dallas (23)
  9. Detroit (26)
  10. Buffalo (25)
  11. New Jersey (28)
  12. Arizona (29)
  13. Vancouver (27)
  14. Colorado (30)
  15. Las Vegas (31)

 

NHL Awards Predictions (if there is time)

  • Hart Trophy – Wayne: Connor McDavid,  Steve:
  • Lady Byng Trophy – Wayne: Brad Marchand (JK) Vladimir Tarasenko (12 PIM, 75 pts)
  • Vezina Trophy – Wayne: Sergei Bobrovsky, Steve:
  • Calder Trophy – Wayne: Auston Matthews, Steve:
  • Norris Trophy – Wayne: Brent Burns, Steve:
  • Bill Masterton Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Each team nominated 1 player) – Wayne:  Shawn Thornton, Steve:
  • Ted Lindsay Award (NHLPA best player) – Wayne: Sidney Crosby, Steve:
  • Jack Adams Award: Wayne:  Todd McLelland, Steve:
  • Selke Trophy (Defensive forward): Wayne:  Patrice Bergeron, Steve:
  • King Clancy Trophy (player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community Each team nominated 1 player) Wayne:  Jordan Staal (Staal Family Foundation), Steve:

 

NCAA Minute:

 

NCAA Tournament Down to Frozen Four – Discuss tournament http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/icehockey-men/d1

 

 

Rankings:

 

Pairwise:

http://www.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-rankings/d-i-men/   #14 is the cut line.

 

http://www.uscho.com/ncaa/mens-division-i-ncaa-tournament/

 

CHL Playoffs:

 

All European Leagues are in their playoffs or are just starting their playoffs.  We’ll get you league winners as they come in.  We’ll be covering the following:

Other Minor Pro Leagues in North America

 

KHL Minute:

KHL Playoffs!  http://en.khl.ru/

 

A look at the standings:  http://en.khl.ru/standings/

Steve:

 

Picks of the week:

Steve:  Bryan Bickell’s final week of his career

 

Wayne:  Talk about perfect timing.  The game that would close Joe Louis Arena forever after 37 years also happened to be the 1,000th career game of beloved Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg.  It was a celebration on top of a celebration and of course Zetterberg gave the fans a thrill, scoring a second period goal and sending the crowd into a frenzy.  Before their game against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, the Red Wings held a ceremony for Zetterberg, where he was given gifts and pre-recorded messages from teammate Niklas Kronwall, Swedish hockey legends Henrik LundqvistErik Karlsson and Nicklas Backstrom and former Red Wings greats Pavel Datsyuk and Steve Yzerman.  Flanked by his wife Emma, son Love and father Goran, and Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Ken Holland and Detroit legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay, Zetterberg received a Tiffany crystal from the NHL, and the Red Wings gave him a Rolex watch.  Zetterberg also received a golf-lover’s dream from his teammates. Kronwall and Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader handed Zetterberg the itinerary for an all-inclusive golf trip that includes five rounds at Merion Golf Club in Haverford, Pennsylvania, which has hosted the U.S. Open golf tournament five times, and Pine Valley in New Jersey, which was ranked as the world’s top golf course for 2017 by Golf Digest.  Zetterberg became the seventh player in Red Wings history to play 1,000 games, and he ranks seventh in franchise history in points. He boosted his career point total to 904 with the goal and an assist of Tomas Tatar‘s first-period goal.  He was named the game’s first star after the 4-1 victory.  ALSO…  Detroit Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan couldn’t have picked a better time to end a scoring slump.  Sheahan scored his first two goals of the season, including the final goal in Joe Louis Arena history, in a 4-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.  Sheahan flicked a wrist shot over Devils goaltender Cory Schneider at 7:09 of the first period. He was playing in his 80th game and was on pace to become the first NHL forward to finish a season with more than 100 shots and no goals.  He scored on Frans Nielsen‘s pass with his 107th shot, getting cheers from the Detroit fans and a celebration from his teammates. The goal came one year after he scored his previous goal against the New York Rangers on April 9, 2016.  “There are a lot of things I will remember about my career, and scoring the last goal here will definitely be one of them,” he said. “I’ll have that for the rest of my life.”  “I can’t remember the last time I’ve been that happy to see a guy get a goal,” veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Maybe when Nick (Lidstrom) finally got a hat trick. That’s the only thing I can think of that is close.”  Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was just as pleased at Sheahan’s second goal.  “He’s gone through so much this year and had so much bad luck, but he’s out there helping us every game,” Zetterberg said. “We were all so happy to see him get one, and then he gets the last one ever in this building.  “That was perfect.”

 

 

 

Listener Feedback

 

 

Close the show

 

Next Week’s scheduled stream: Wed., 4/19 6:30 PM.

 

Topics for Next Week:

 

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