Apr 30, 2013, 11:25 AM EDT
1. Is Corey Crawford a Stanley Cup-caliber goalie?
Most of the time, people don’t question a goalie tandem that just won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals during the regular season. But 28-year-old starter Corey Crawford is 0-for-2 in career playoff series and really struggled last season, so people are bound to question this one. Crawford, along with backup Ray Emery, combined to give the Blackhawks a .923 save percentage in 2013, the second highest in the NHL. There were a couple of hiccups in March, but April was solid again. If Crawford isn’t up to the challenge, it will be interesting to see how quickly Joel Quenneville is willing to switch to Emery. It’s been a while, but Emery did backstop the Senators to the finals in 2007. That “what if” scenario, of course, assumes Emery is healthy enough to play. He’s been ruled out for Game 1 with a lower-body injury.
2. Can the Blackhawks get the power play going?
This might’ve been a bigger issue if Chicago hadn’t been so dominant five-on-five this season. Even with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, the ‘Hawks finished with the 19th-ranked power play, scoring on just 16.7 percent of their man-advantage opportunities. It’s a bit perplexing given all the top-end offensive talent they have, but the PP was a problem last year, too.
3. Will Dave Bolland be able to play? (And if he can, will he play well?)
Bolland missed the last three games of the regular season with a groin injury and has been ruled out for at least the first game against the Wild. The 26-year-old center has had a tough season, scoring just 14 points in 35 games despite opportunities to play with talented forwards. It appears the Blackhawks will enter the postseason with veteran Michal Handzus as their second-line center, which — no offense to Handzus — is hardly ideal. Bolland has proven himself in past playoffs and has 37 points in 49 games while playing well defensively and getting under the opponents’ skin. Chicago needs him to be that player again.
4. Can the Wild build on the last game of the season?
The pessimist may file this under “congratulations for not choking against a terrible team,” but Minnesota’s playoff-clinching victory Saturday in Colorado showed resolve, especially after Friday’s disaster against the Oilers. The Wild head into the playoffs with a 6-9-1 record in their last 16 games. Obviously, that’s not good. But head coach Mike Yeo — who may have been looking for a new job if the Wild hadn’t beaten the Avs — was feeling positive about his team after getting it done in Denver. “Let’s make it clear: We’re not done,” Yeo said. “We’re not going to sit on cloud nine and say this is a huge accomplishment. This is a step, a big step, a difficult step for us. Now that confidence is there.”
5. Can Ryan Suter shut down Chicago’s top guns?
OK, maybe “shut down” is unrealistic. How about “somewhat contain”? No NHL defenseman played more minutes than Suter did this season. The 28-year-old Norris Trophy candidate who (along with forward Zack Parise) signed for big money in the summer has so far been all his new team could ask for. Suter averaged 27:17 in ice time, scoring four goals and adding 28 assists. The rest of Minnesota’s defense will have to overachieve if the Wild have any hope of pulling an upset. Younsters Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin have zero playoff experience, so it’ll be up to Suter to lead the way.
Sep 1, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
Part one of two Labor Day “theme” posts.
Sep 1, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
The new Penguins bench boss previously coached the young defenseman.
Sep 1, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
The 25-year-old has been fighting for playing time since he broke into the NHL.
Sep 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
He might pick an opening game starter after that, but the battle for the top spot is likely to extend into the season.
Sep 1, 2014, 10:46 AM EDT
Will they have contracts by the start of the season?
Sep 1, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT
Last season’s experiment ended with Penner being traded.
Sep 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Aug 31, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
He continued to follow their summer moves after he was fired.
Aug 31, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT
The late creator of Peanuts was a big hockey fan.
Aug 31, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT
The Colorado defenseman is still a restricted free agent.
Aug 31, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT
“I think that would make it a little more equitable for match-ups.”
Aug 31, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
He spent the 2013-14 campaign in the KHL.
Aug 31, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
He served as an assistant general manager in Los Angeles before coming to Philadelphia.
Aug 31, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT
After matching a career-low in goals during the 2013-14 season, he’s hoping for big things with the Coyotes.
Aug 31, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Add depth to blue line in Albany.
Aug 31, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT
Hopes to play in the NHL in 2014-15.
Aug 31, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08, he believes they’ll be back in the postseason in 2014-15.
Aug 31, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
He’s emphasized a quick shot release the most.
Aug 31, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
GM Doug Wilson points out that he was acquired to be a “stud defenseman.”
Aug 30, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT
Stefan Matteau is in the conversation, too.
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