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.”
Apr 24, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
He’s listed with an upper-body injury, which may or may not be related to the puck he took in the face in Game 1.
Apr 24, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
“We know what to expect from him.”
Apr 24, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
“It’s our puck battles. It’s our willingness to play in those areas and make it a tough game. “
Apr 24, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
Kings captain will play on the top line for tonight’s elimination game.
Apr 24, 2014, 2:16 PM EDT
“Since March 20, 2011, I’ve been a changed player. I’ve approached the game differently. I think differently about the game.”
Apr 24, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
Mikael Granlund became only the fifth NHL player in the last 75 years to score his first career playoff goal in a 1-0 overtime game.
Apr 24, 2014, 12:41 PM EDT
3-4 month timetable for recovery.
Apr 24, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
Seems like a good thing to write about after last night’s game in Columbus.
Apr 24, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT
His first start of the series.
Apr 24, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
“They played hard, but for us it was more what we weren’t doing than what they were doing.”
Apr 24, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT
Detroit hosts Boston at the Joe tonight.
Apr 24, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT
Toews won it last year, Bergeron the year before that.
Apr 24, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Would be his series debut, and first game since the Sochi Olympics.
Apr 24, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
Will Andersen or Hiller start in Game 5?
Apr 24, 2014, 9:01 AM EDT
“I think he likes the big stage.”
Apr 24, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT
Elsewhere, Detroit will play Boston and Colorado will face the Wild.
Apr 24, 2014, 1:59 AM EDT
The Blackhawks gave the Blues a taste of their own medicine.
Apr 24, 2014, 12:52 AM EDT
Another memorable moment for the American star.
Apr 24, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
The NFL defensive back strategy.
Apr 23, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT
Nice gesture … bad sign?
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- Cooke: I didn’t intend to collide knee-on-knee with Barrie 61
- On ‘score effects,’ and the challenges of playing with the lead 8
- MacKinnon: Avs ‘shut ourselves down’ in Game 3, not Wild 23
- Bergeron, Kopitar and Toews named Selke finalists 31
- Report: Zetterberg to return to Detroit lineup tonight (Update: Game-time decision) 60
- Kane’s OT goal ties Blackhawks – Blues series at 2-2 34
- Stars chase Andersen, tie series with Ducks 2-2 21
- Penguins blow three-goal lead, Columbus evens series 94
- NHL suspends Matt Cooke for seven games 104
- Video: Seabrook ejected for charging Backes; will face hearing (update) (153)
- Bad luck strikes twice: Lightning goal waved off, Stamkos takes knee to head (137)
- Keith doesn’t remember if he taunted Backes after Seabrook hit (125)
- Video: Lucic spears DeKeyser from behind (118)
- Flyers want to ‘punish’ McDonagh (113)