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 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
He made his NHL debut with Washington last season.
Jul 25, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Friday’s collection of links.
Jul 24, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
In other words, they want him to be a shutdown center
Jul 24, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT
Eriksson’s looking to bounce back after suffering two concussions last season.
Jul 24, 2014, 9:06 PM EDT
He’ll get a fresh start after struggling with Vancouver.
Jul 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
He’s coming back after testing the free agent waters.
Jul 24, 2014, 6:57 PM EDT
It’s that time of the year.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:53 PM EDT
He started in nine games for the Flames last season.
Jul 24, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT
The Canucks selected him with one of the picks they got from the Ryan Kesler trade.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:31 PM EDT
The two sides managed to avoid arbitration despite a $1.45 million gap on a one-year deal.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Alternately known as “the guy Boston got for Vladimir Sobotka.”
Jul 24, 2014, 2:19 PM EDT
Journeyman split last season between the Rangers and Penguins.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT
Offensive d-man led all Colorado blueliners in goals last year, with 13.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT
He’s likely to be the No. 3 goalie in New York this year.
Jul 24, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
Former Colorado bench boss and Massachusetts native returns home.
Jul 24, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT
With the Wild and ‘Canes, respectively.
Jul 24, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
“Maybe it just wasn’t our time yet,” Patrick Roy said.
Jul 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Thursday’s assortment of links.
Jul 23, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Makes sense for a franchise that frequently favors puck possession.
Jul 23, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Can the STAR system help reduce concussions?
- Eller, Habs agree to four-year, $14 million contract 9
- Cory Sarich hospitalized following cycling accident, expects ‘full recovery’ 6
- Stamkos shrugs off talk of LeBron-like homecoming to Toronto in 2016 27
- Avs and O’Reilly agree on two-year deal, but questions remain 42
- Rangers and Kreider avoid arbitration, agree on two-year deal 39
- Zuccarello takes Rangers’ one year, $3.5M deal 42
- Advancement? Leafs sign Booth for one year, $1.1M 25
- Leafs hire 28-year-old stats advocate as assistant GM 30
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 69
- Stars, Roussel agree on four-year, $8 million deal 3
- Babcock fires back over allegations that free agents avoid him (77)
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 (69)
- Vanek connected to federal gambling investigation (61)
- Lucic regrets handshake-line actions, but isn’t apologizing (58)
- Report: O’Reilly wants $6.7M deal, Avs counter at $5.5M (58)