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 20, 2013, 4:07 PM EST
The play of 19-year-old Olli Maatta has helped the Penguins keep rolling.
Dec 20, 2013, 3:56 PM EST
“We didn’t have a belief we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” said a Denver DA spokesperson.
Dec 20, 2013, 3:51 PM EST
Also, Dan Girardi’s acting skills.
Dec 20, 2013, 3:26 PM EST
Leafs haven’t done well since the start of 24/7.
Dec 20, 2013, 3:06 PM EST
Should be in Saturday to face Toronto.
Dec 20, 2013, 2:42 PM EST
James van Riemsdyk scored on Mike Smith… we think.
Dec 20, 2013, 1:37 PM EST
He went two years between NHL contests.
Dec 20, 2013, 1:24 PM EST
TSN’s Darren Dreger believes it’s likely.
Dec 20, 2013, 1:14 PM EST
Pittsburgh defenseman returned to practice on Friday.
Dec 20, 2013, 12:46 PM EST
Will take on the Devils in Jersey.
Dec 20, 2013, 12:31 PM EST
“We have players turning right back into the defensemen when he’s already committed to the hit.”
Dec 20, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Acquired from Edmonton yesterday.
Dec 20, 2013, 11:55 AM EST
“You want ‘em both?”
Dec 20, 2013, 11:54 AM EST
Four straight solid starts for the 36-year-old veteran who fell on hard times last season.
Dec 20, 2013, 11:32 AM EST
He’ll face the Panthers tonight.
Dec 20, 2013, 11:13 AM EST
Canucks lost 4-1 to Dallas last night.
Dec 20, 2013, 11:07 AM EST
Meanwhile, Darryl Sutter says it shouldn’t have been a major penalty.
Dec 20, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
Impressing a legend is lofty praise.
Dec 20, 2013, 9:36 AM EST
He won the Stanley Cup and an Olympic bronze medal.
Dec 20, 2013, 9:00 AM EST
Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl was injured on the play.
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- Carlyle on HBO presence: ‘It’s not normal what we’re living right now’ 1
- Orpik: First days after Thornton attack were ‘miserable’ 52
- Video: Dustin Brown ejected for kneeing, Tomas Hertl won’t return (update) 63
- No supplemental discipline for Caps’ Wilson 31
- Habs healthy scratch Briere for first time this season 7
- Chiarelli says he’s not trading Marchand 21
- Schenn to play tonight; Oates maintains Wilson hit was ‘totally clean’ 54
- Video: ‘The message is not being heard’ when it comes to illegal hits, suspensions 53
- Updated: NHL suspends Thornton 15 games for Orpik attack (155)
- Janssen: Orpik should’ve fought Thornton, then ‘everything would have quieted down’ (123)
- Reports: Thornton will appeal 15-game suspension (107)
- Lucic addresses fight video, says he’s ‘disgusted and outraged’ by Vancouver (103)
- Cam Neely questions length of Thornton’s suspension (78)