May 1, 2013, 11:24 AM EDT
Will Cory Schneider sink or swim?
Schneider finished the regular season with great numbers (17-9-4, .927 SV%), and he was especially good in March and April as Roberto Luongo was relegated mostly to the bench. But Schneider only has four career playoff starts — a pittance of big-game experience compared to the man he supplanted. The 27-year-old’s ability to handle stress and maintain an even keel will be paramount if the Canucks are going to have success. This, of course, assumes Schneider actually plays. He’s been nursing a “body” injury that’s kept his status for Game 1 up in the air.
Can Antti Niemi steal the show?
For all the talk about the Canucks’ goaltending — and lord knows there’s been enough of it — let’s not forget about the guy in the Sharks’ crease. Niemi, who backstopped the ‘Hawks to a Stanley Cup in 2010 (beating Vancouver along the way), put together a Vezina-caliber season in San Jose, starting 43 games and posting a .924 save percentage. “I think the lockout, in the long run, it’s been a good thing for me,” said Niemi recently. “I just got stronger. My legs got stronger.”
Can San Jose keep killing penalties?
The last time these two teams met, in the 2011 Western Conference finals, the Canucks rode their league-best power play to a five-game win. Vancouver scored nine times with the man advantage in that series. In 2013, however, the Canucks had just the 22nd-best PP (15.8%), while the Sharks dramatically improved their penalty killing, finishing the season ranked No. 6 (85.0%). To be fair to the Canucks, they did show some improvement late in the season, scoring on seven of their last 25 PP opportunities (28.0%). New addition Derek Roy has given them another play-maker up front.
What kind of hockey will we see?
Two years ago, the Canucks and Sharks were among the highest-scoring and most entertaining clubs in the NHL. But things, for better or worse, have changed since then. “We are not a run-and-gun team anymore,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin told CBC.ca recently. “You’ve got to be good in your own end. When healthy, I think this is as good a team as we have ever had.” Meanwhile, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle put it this way: “Today’s game, there’s not so much pretty plays passing up and down the ice as much as there used to be. Playing quick is getting it out as quick as you can and playing in their zone.”
What’s at stake?
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault acknowledged Tuesday that his team’s window to win won’t stay open forever. If Vancouver bows out in the first round for the second straight season, the Vigneault coaching era may well be over. Likewise, there will be calls for Todd McLellan’s job if the Sharks don’t get to the second round. This is San Jose’s ninth straight postseason appearance, and the club has yet to advance past the third round. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Dan Boyle can all become unrestricted free agents after the 2013-14 season.
Apr 17, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT
The trio was big in Wednesday’s Game 1 victory over the Jackets.
Apr 16, 2014, 11:23 PM EDT
It’s bad enough to inspire Jon Cooper’s pity, though.
Apr 16, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT
“We aren’t here just to go to school. We’re here to win.”
Apr 16, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT
After all that star power in regulation …
Apr 16, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
Pittsburgh scores three unanswered goals to win.
Apr 16, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT
The West’s No. 1 seed takes on the final wild card qualifier.
Apr 16, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT
Did the Penguins deserve a power play or penalty shot?
Apr 16, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT
Get used to these stories of toughness.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:11 PM EDT
Updated with bonus goals for your enjoyment.
Apr 16, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Tomas Plekanec spoils Tampa Bay’s lead.
Apr 16, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT
In case there was any doubt.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT
Unproven goalie vs. a gold-medal goalie in Game 1.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
A battle between a scrappy underdog and a perplexing favorite.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT
A little less grit against the Anaheim Ducks.
Apr 16, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
Not Brandon Pirri.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
“He gives us the best chance to win, so he’ll be the one starting.”
Apr 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
But both acknowledge they’ve heard the rumblings.
Apr 16, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
22-26-7 with a .901 save percentage.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Sacco, Forton, Numminen and Corsi are out.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT
Top seeds don’t have it easy in the first round.
- Weise gives Canadiens 1-0 series lead with overtime win 6
- Penguins outlast Blue Jackets, take Game 1 22
- Emery to start Game 1 versus Rangers 79
- Bulletin-board material: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup 35
- PHT staff picks: Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup? 57
- 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: PHT’s Round 1 picks 35
- Pressing Question: Can the Blackhawks avoid the Stanley Cup hangover? 10
- Florida wins ’14 NHL draft lottery, will pick first overall 42
- Philly mum on Mason’s availability for Game 1 vs. Rangers 26
- Pressing question: Can the Blues get back on track? 16
- That’s a raise: Flyers sign MacDonald to six-year, $30 million extension (91)
- Emery to start Game 1 versus Rangers (79)
- Lightning’s Malone arrested for DUI, cocaine possession (73)
- Update: Daniel Sedin in stable condition, hospitalized after scary hit (58)
- PHT staff picks: Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup? (57)