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.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:38 PM EDT
Penguins GM considers his new winger in the same class as Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:28 PM EDT
So long, Boston University.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT
29-year-old forward will look to get his career back on track.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT
Some smaller signings to pass your way…
Jul 1, 2015, 2:57 PM EDT
Still needs to sign a new deal, but Columbus will match any offer sheet.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
All the signings from what promises to be a busy day.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT
The torch has been passed.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
Bit of an odd twist.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:06 PM EDT
Both spent the last few seasons playing in Russia.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT
One of the Senators’ main penalty-killers last season.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT
One year, $1.25 million.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT
Former Jets forward scores a big-money deal.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:29 PM EDT
27-year-old never really panned out in Boston.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
Having already signed former Canuck Brad Richardson.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:11 PM EDT
Nice raise after playing for $700,000 in Pittsburgh last season.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:08 PM EDT
End of an era in Toronto. A premier goal-scoring winger heads to Pittsburgh.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT
Finnish forward coming off a strong first season in St. Louis.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:56 PM EDT
Jul 1, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT
Steve Mason has a new backup.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:48 PM EDT
One of the prized UFA d-men, off the market.
- ‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’ 0
- PHT’s 2015 free agent frenzy tracker 30
- Kassian traded to Habs for Prust; Hodgson signs with Preds 12
- Blockbuster: Kessel traded to the Penguins 115
- Oilers get Sekera for six years, closing in on Letestu 7
- Avalanche sign veteran d-man Beauchemin for three years 6
- Neely was ‘surprised’ that Hamilton didn’t want to sign with Bruins 14
- NHL, Coyotes deny report that team is moving to Vegas 32
- Report: Richards’ border incident involved oxycodone 63
- Trade: Bieksa headed to California — but it’s Anaheim, not San Jose 25
- Blockbuster: Kessel traded to the Penguins (115)
- Trade: Flyers send Rinaldo to Bruins for 2017 third-rounder (105)
- Trade: Jackets land Saad, Anisimov and Dano headed to Chicago (93)
- Bypassing a buyout? Kings terminate Richards’ contract for ‘material breach’ (90)
- Trade: Flames land Dougie Hamilton for package of picks (75)