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 27, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT
But are any teams mulling his return?
Jul 27, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
Where he’ll work as a community liaison.
Jul 27, 2015, 7:22 PM EDT
“I want to go free.”
Jul 27, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
24-year-old forward would require waivers to be sent down…
Jul 27, 2015, 5:22 PM EDT
“I’ll have to start thinking about it more and more in the next couple of weeks.”
Jul 27, 2015, 4:28 PM EDT
Hence the six-year, $39 million contract.
Jul 27, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
Looking to become a full-time NHLer after suffering a series of injuries at the start his pro career.
Jul 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
The alignment debate rages on.
Jul 27, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT
Russ Brandon takes over.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
Click to see the full list.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT
Click to see who’s still left.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT
Hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:19 AM EDT
No arbitrator required.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
He calls it the six-year, $25 million contract “good for both sides.”
Jul 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Jul 26, 2015, 11:02 PM EDT
The only certainty is short-term.
Jul 26, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT
Playing between Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon would excite plenty of people.
Jul 26, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
Holdovers are noticing a summer of improvements for Buffalo.
Jul 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
The two sides avoided arbitration on Sunday.
Jul 26, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Columbus hasn’t had a long history of being a “cap team.”
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 50
- Wilson signs with Preds, leaving just four arbitration cases to go 2
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million 62
- Deal with the Devils: New Jersey re-signs Larsson to six-year contract 14
- Stepan seeks $7.25M in arbitration, Rangers counter at $5.2M 24
- Capitals investment: Holtby signs five-year, $30.5M deal 21
- Redemption time? Montreal, Semin agree to one-year deal 26
- Full autonomy: Lamoriello’s place in Leafs’ chain of command 26
- Lamoriello’s departure removes any doubt: Devils are Shero’s team 21
- With Lamoriello hire, Leafs hammer home their culture change 23
- Post expansion, could NHL realign with eight divisions? (138)
- NHL to ‘focus exclusively’ on expansion bids for Las Vegas and Quebec City (89)
- He’s baaaaaack: Leafs pull a stunner, hire Lamoriello as GM (Updated) (84)
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million (62)
- Ah, arbitration: Holtby reportedly asking for $8 million, Caps countering at $5.1 million (59)