May 1, 2013, 11:47 AM EDT
1. When will Sidney Crosby return?
This question will linger over this series until No. 87 is on the lineup card.
Crosby has been out of action since Mar. 30 — when he suffered a broken jaw against the Islanders, ironically enough — and the dynamic of this matchup depends largely on his availability.
Why? Crosby’s scoring exploits against the Isles, mostly.
In 41 career games, Sid the Kid’s racked up 75 points against New York — the most he’s scored against any NHL club.
He also has a history of making big returns against the Isles. In Nov. 2011, he triumphantly returned from a concussion by scoring four points (2G, 2A) in a 5-0 whitewashing — his first game back after a 10-month layoff.
2. Is it Tavares’ time?
The second major subplot in this series will be the playoff debut of John Tavares, the 22-year-old phenom that led the Isles in scoring this year and has garnered serious Hart Trophy consideration.
This has been the most successful campaign of Tavares’ four-year career. He dominated the Swiss League during the lockout and was a point-a-game player in Team Canada’s Spengler Cup win.
When NHL play resumed, he continued that point-per-game clip and finished as the league’s third-leading goalscorer (28), pushing the Isles to their first playoff appearance since 2007.
All that said, this is Tavares’ first postseason. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to the increased physical play and (presumably) being shadowed for the entirety of the series.
3. Can Iginla and Morrow be difference-makers?
It’s the latter two that will draw the most attention.
Morrow, 34, and Iginla, 35, are both looking for their first Stanley Cups, but will be counted on to play different roles than they did in Dallas and Calgary, respectively.
That’s not to say there aren’t big expectations.
Iginla has 49 points in 54 career playoff games and led the Flames to the 2004 Cup final, scoring 13 times.
Morrow’s last playoff run saw him notch 15 points in 18 games as he led the Stars to the Western Conference finals.
4. Will Fleury bounce back?
There are two Marc-Andre Fleurys.
The first is the acrobatic, flair-for-the-dramatic guy that backstopped the Pens to the 2009 Stanley Cup.
The other is the shaky, erratic guy that finished last postseason with a 4.63 GAA and .834 save percentage.
If Pittsburgh has any hopes of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Mug, the first Fleury will need to show up.
The 28-year-old acknowledged as much in speaking with NHL.com.
“That ['09 Cup] was a lot more fun than last year, that’s for sure,” he explained. “But you just learn from it. You learn from what happened in the past and try to use it to improve and be ready for these playoffs coming up.”
5. Can the Isles steal one (or more) on the road?
The top-seeded Penguins have home ice advantage, which might suit New York just fine.
The Isles have been road warriors this year, posting a 14-6-4 record away from Nassau — the third best road mark in the Eastern Conference.
The No. 8 seed knows that in order to capture this series, it’ll need to win at least one game at Consol Energy Center, where the Penguins are a stellar 18-6-0 this year.
It’s a challenge head coach Jack Capuano recognizes, and is ready to take on.
“[Pittsburgh] is ranked where they are for a reason. They’ve got some of the best players in the world,” Capuano told CBS New York. “But your ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup.
“If you’re going to get to the Stanley Cup you’ve got to beat the best teams.”
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?
Jul 23, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
They’ll feature a “skating-only” ice crew next season.
Jul 23, 2014, 7:53 PM EDT
The crash happened on Monday, according to reports.
Jul 23, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
Will their latest physics improvements make a big difference?
Jul 23, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
Can they make a compromise by Friday?
Jul 23, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
“We’ll see what happens. It’s a couple years away.”
Jul 23, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
Jim Benning, making deals.
Jul 23, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
“Any of the perceived animosity came from the outside.”
Jul 23, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT
His previously “yet-to-be-determined capacity” has been determined.
Jul 23, 2014, 12:41 PM EDT
“My style and build might be better against the bigger guys.”
Jul 23, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Won a couple of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jul 23, 2014, 10:48 AM EDT
Had seven goals with 21 assists last year for the Avs.
Jul 23, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT
The 23-year-old can now become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.
Jul 23, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
Derick Brassard and John Moore to go.
Jul 23, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Barry Trotz continues Adam Oates’ alteration, at least for now.
Jul 23, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Wednesday’s delectable spread of links.
Jul 22, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
They locked him up to a four-year deal on Tuesday.
Jul 22, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
He spent last season playing in Switzerland.
Jul 22, 2014, 9:01 PM EDT
The Cuban-American could help market the sport.
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- Stamkos shrugs off talk of LeBron-like homecoming to Toronto in 2016 23
- Avs and O’Reilly agree on two-year deal, but questions remain 30
- Rangers and Kreider avoid arbitration, agree on two-year deal 34
- 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 68
- Stars, Roussel agree on four-year, $8 million deal 3
- Vanek connected to federal gambling investigation 61
- Babcock fires back over allegations that free agents avoid him (77)
- Babcock: Cleary a ‘calculated risk’ after playing last year ‘on one leg’ (70)
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 (68)
- Vanek connected to federal gambling investigation (61)
- Report: Zuccarello wants $4.5M per on new deal, Brassard eyeing $5.5M (58)