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.”
Oct 30, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
Which is important, because good defensive teams win Stanley Cups.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:13 PM EDT
For the EIHL’s Belfast Giants.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT
Just one point in his last five games.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT
Click for video proof.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
St. Louis’ health woes continue.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT
“So we need to get better or things are going to change around here probably sooner rather than later.”
Oct 30, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT
We should find out after tonight’s game.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT
Winnipeg’s won three of its last four.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:02 PM EDT
He appeared in 36 games last year.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
If you’re curious what a buyout would cost the Wings, click on the post.
Oct 30, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT
Wild still suffering from Monday’s loss to the Rangers.
Oct 30, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT
After playing a man short on Tuesday in Philly.
Oct 30, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT
Some good news for Edmonton on the injury front.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT
If he could get going, Dallas wouldn’t be as reliant on its top line.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:01 AM EDT
The numbers are even more striking when you compare Oct. 2014 to Oct. 2003
Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT
Nashville continues its strong start to 2014-15.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT
He sat out the third period for Grand Rapids because of soreness.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT
Interesting discussion between Bob McKenzie and Mike Milbury.
Oct 29, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT
Some controversial calls on a light Wednesday night.
Oct 29, 2014, 10:19 PM EDT
Detroit’s big guns came through.
- Blues lose Backes, Oshie indefinitely to concussions 1
- Red Wings take over third period, blank Ovechkin in win 7
- Video: Doc Emrick’s heartfelt words about Gordie Howe 5
- Rangers’ Moore suspended five games for ‘extremely difficult’ Haula hit 18
- Ovechkin looking to avoid career-long scoring slump tonight 11
- Nolan skates Sabres, says the time for ‘taking it easy is over’ 37
- Report: Gryba, Tropp avoid punishment after getting tossed for hits 6
- What they’re saying about the Sabres (and it’s not good) 22
- NHL on NBCSN: Caps, Red Wings battle after hotly contested 13-14 series 5
- Miller wins 300th, Canes finish Oct. without single victory 7
- Video: John Moore with an elbow to the head of Erik Haula (Updated) (62)
- Report: Varlamov being sued by ex-girlfriend (47)
- Kreider calls Brodin hit a ‘bang-bang play,’ doesn’t plan to dramatically change his game (45)
- No hearing scheduled for Kreider after Brodin hit (44)
- Kopitar out, Lombardi irate as Kings will play shorthanded vs. Flyers (40)