May 1, 2013, 11:47 AM EST
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.”
Dec 19, 2014, 1:33 AM EST
These things happen.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:10 AM EST
But they did score more than two goals in a game for first time since Nov. 28.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:35 AM EST
Because everyone likes a snack before they line up for a faceoff, right?
Dec 19, 2014, 12:31 AM EST
Last shift came early in the second period.
Video: Pacioretty taken to hospital, reportedly no hearing expected for Stoner after questionable hit
Dec 18, 2014, 11:49 PM EST
Montreal lost this game, as well.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:29 PM EST
This was a back-and-forth contest.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:52 PM EST
And Roberto Luongo’s victory ties him for 12th on the all-time list.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:29 PM EST
Dec 18, 2014, 10:15 PM EST
Left the game after the first period.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:26 PM EST
Has played five games since his return.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:51 PM EST
Dec 18, 2014, 7:44 PM EST
These two have a bit of a history.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:39 PM EST
He’ll be in the lineup when Pittsburgh takes on the Avs at home.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:33 PM EST
When Colorado takes on the Penguins at Consol.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:07 PM EST
Journeyman tough guy is back playing in North America.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
So says Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who witnessed James Neal’s cannonball on Saturday.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:05 PM EST
The Kings have lost five of their last six.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:12 PM EST
For a sixth-round pick.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:58 PM EST
“This is our adversity,” says Paul Maurice.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:57 PM EST
The Minnesota Wild have to be frustrated.
- Video: Pacioretty taken to hospital, reportedly no hearing expected for Stoner after questionable hit 4
- Video: Canadiens honor long-time captain Saku Koivu 2
- Crosby back for Pens after missing three games with the mumps 1
- Comparing the shot differentials of all 30 teams 9
- PHT interviews Jim Nill, who’s ‘not surprised’ by Stars’ early-season struggles 2
- Mark Howe on his father’s health: ‘He’s back in the ballgame’ 3
- Holland: ‘I’m not against fighting’ 8
- Preds’ Neal fined for diving 24
- After surprising start, Flames sign Hartley to multi-year contract extension 5
- Update your wallcharts: Rangers confirm Brassard has mumps 11