Apr 30, 2013, 11:25 AM EST
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.
Dec 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
From down 0-3 to winning it all.
Dec 25, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Over 105,000 descended on Ann Arbor for an unforgettable experience.
Dec 25, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Even a disappointing Olympic finish can’t erase a star-making moment.
Dec 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Was quite the playoff run for L.A. and its 27-year-old defenseman.
Dec 25, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Check back often. It’s an all-day thing.
Dec 24, 2014, 8:59 PM EST
Only Glen Sather is ahead of him.
Dec 24, 2014, 7:51 PM EST
“It’s like a little miracle down here.”
Dec 24, 2014, 6:40 PM EST
The goal was initially credited to Martin St. Louis.
Dec 24, 2014, 5:54 PM EST
Will he eventually earn a full-time NHL roster spot?
Dec 24, 2014, 4:31 PM EST
His stint with the Lightning was brief, but memorable.
Dec 24, 2014, 3:28 PM EST
Not surprisingly, the Kings feature prominently.
Dec 24, 2014, 2:22 PM EST
League rules that Jackman wasn’t expecting to be punched, “nor should he be.”
Dec 24, 2014, 1:18 PM EST
Dec 24, 2014, 12:23 PM EST
Owner Eugene Melnyk has called the potential move a “game-changer.”
Dec 24, 2014, 11:18 AM EST
“We’re seeing some of his best hockey,” Claude Julien said.
Dec 24, 2014, 11:18 AM EST
And they’re planning to start taking deposits for the 2016-17 season.
Dec 24, 2014, 11:05 AM EST
Minnesota’s lost four straight, and six of its last eight.
Dec 24, 2014, 10:24 AM EST
Semyon Varlamov’s shutout probably makes that a more comfortable idea.
Dec 24, 2014, 9:43 AM EST
A controversial check left Buffalo winger Brian Gionta injured.
Dec 24, 2014, 8:33 AM EST
Wednesday’s collection of links.
- PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Kings win Cup, Martinez the OT hero 0
- Welcome to PHT’s top 14 stories for 2014 0
- Scott suspended four games for punch that was ‘neither predictable, nor acceptable’ 23
- Sharks’ Scott has hearing for his punch to Jackman 29
- (Video) PHT Extra: Christmas wish lists from around the NHL 2
- PHT interviews Don Maloney, who knows he has a big trade chip in Vermette 7
- Backstrom to start for Wild, who need their goalies to be ‘better’ 13
- NHL on NBCSN: Avs challenge Blues after narrow losses to St. Louis 6
- Gaudreau’s first hat trick helps Flames stun Kings 7
- Fowler after Ducks’ win vs. Sharks: ‘We never give up’ 1
- Sabres aren’t happy with league’s decision regarding Bartkowski (73)
- Report: NHL won’t hold hearing for Bartkowski hit (55)
- Video: Who are the Bruins targeting in trade talks? (47)
- Video: Bartkowski delivers controversial hit to Gionta, fights Foligno (47)
- Could Malkin be the next player to be fined for diving? (43)