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Empty Netter Assists - 04-18-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Playoff Stuff
Penguins
- Blue Jackets

-Expect the Penguins' third line to have multiple looks.

-Can the Penguins and Blue Jackets finally become a true rivalry?

-"I didn’t like the response form Kris on the penalty he took on Jenner there. I think he got a message, whether it was a voice or not playing or a nice talk. He got a message." - Dan Bylsma on limiting Kris Letang's (right) shifts in Game 1 after he took a retaliatory penalty against Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner..

-Even is he was shut out in Game 1, the Penguins are wary of Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen.

-“I have to be better. Four goals is a lot, but it’s already past me.” - Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on Game 1.

-“I think we’re getting close. Anybody who knows me knows how badly I want to be out there.” - Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umbeger, a native of Plum (No, really!), on his status for Game 2.

-"Any time you get traded, you feel like you're not wanted or you're being cast off somewhere else, but I chose to just look at it positively. At the time, Columbus was a struggling franchise, last place at the time, so I knew I was going somewhere that I knew I was going to get a chance to play and I had a chance to establish myself as an NHL regular. So the move for my career's been great. Now that we've got ourselves back in the Stanley Cup mix, it couldn't have worked out better." - Blues Jackets forward and former Penguin Mark Letestu.

-After the Jump: Dramatic overtime wins in Colorado and St. Louis and Ryan Getzlaf is sporting a classic hockey face.

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Sharks - Kings preview - 04-15-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Sharks vs. Kings

Sharks Leading Regular Season Scorer: Joe Pavelski, 79 points (41 goals, 38 assists).

Kings Leading Regular Season Scorer: Anze Kopitar, 70 points (29 goals, 41 assists).

Sharks Expected Starting Goaltender: Antti Niemi, 39-17-7, 2.39 GAA, .913 SV%.

Kings Expected Starting Goaltender: Jonathan Quick (below), 27-17-4, 2.07 GAA, .915 SV%.

Sharks Regular Season Statistics

Kings Regular Season Statistics

Sharks Injuries: Right winger Adam Burish (finger) is out. Left winger Raffi Torres (undisclosed) is on injured reserve.

Kings Injuries: Defenseman Drew Doughty (shoulder) is questionable.

Sharks with Stanley Cup bling: Adam Burish, RW; Tyler Kennedy, RW; Antti Niemi, G; Brad Stuart, D.

Kings with Stanley Cup bling: Dustin Brown, RW; Jeff Carter, C; Kyle Clifford, LW; Drew Doughty, D; Matt Greene, D; Dwight King, LW; Anze Kopitar, C; Trevor Lewis, C; Alec Martinez, D; Willie Mitchell; D; Jordan Nolan, C; Jonathan Quick; G; Mike Richards, C; Jarret Stoll, C; Slava Voynov, D; Justin Williams; RW.

Something worthwhile about the Sharks: The Sharks averaged the most shots on net in the NHL this past regular season at 34.8 per game.

Something worthwhile about the Kings: The Kings had a goals against average of 2.05 this past regular season, best in the NHL.

Something useless about the Sharks that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The first coach to guide the Sharks to a postseason appearance was former Penguins coach Kevin Constantine in 1993-94.

Something useless about the Kings that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Former Penguins defenseman Marty McSorley is the Kings' all-time leader in postseason penalty minutes with 190.

Former Penguins on the Sharks: Jim Johnson, assistant coach; Tyler Kennedy, RW.

Former Penguins on the Kings: Glen Murray, development consultant; Jake Muzzin, D (Muzzin is a former Penguins draft pick who never played for the organization); Luc Robitaille, president business operations.

Who needs to be the difference for the Sharks: Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, etc. The Sharks are a big puck possession team and they love to shoot the puck. Their star players will need to find a way to overcome the Kings' suffocating defense.

Who needs to be the difference for the Kings: Jonathan Quick. The Kings' success in recent seasons has been primarily due to their defense and Quick. Quick steals has a habit of shutting down opponents in the postseason. If the Kings hope to move past the Sharks, he'll have to do the same.

Best Sharks YouTube Video We Could Find: Sharks center Jamie Baker's eventual game-winning goal against the Red Wings in Game 7 of a 1994 Western Conference quarterfinal series:

Best Kings YouTube Video We Could Find: Kings center Mike Krushelnyski scoring a series-clinching overtime goal in a 4-3 win against the Flames in Game 7 of a 1990 Smythe Division semifinal series:

EN Prediction: This will be the best series in the first round of the playoffs. It will come down to goaltending. With the Sharks on the fence between Niemi and Alex Stalock, we'll take the safe pick and go with Quick. Kings 4-3.

(Photos: Marianne Helm/Getty Images and Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

 

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Avalanche - Wild preview - 04-15-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Avalanche vs. Wild

Avalanche Leading Regular Season Scorer: Matt Duchesne, 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists).

Wild Leading Regular Season Scorer: Jason Pominville, 60 points (30 goals, 30 assists).

Avalanche Expected Starting Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov (right), 41-14-6, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%.

Wild Expected Starting Goaltender: Ilya Bryzgalov, 12-9-8, 2.68 GAA, .909 SV%.

Avalanche Regular Season Statistics

Wild Regular Season Statistics

Avalanche Injuries: Defenseman Tyson Barrie ("upper body") is probable. Defensemen Jan Hejda ("upper body"), Cory Sarich (back), left winger Cody McLeod (ankle/knee) and center John Mitchell (concussion) are questionable. Center Matt Duchene (knee) is out. Left winger Alex Tanguay (hip) is on injured reserve.

Wild Injuries: Centers Kyle Brodziak (undisclosed), Mikael Granlund ("upper body") and goaltender Darcy Kuemper ("lower body") are questionable. Goaltender Nicklas Backstrom (abdomininal) and defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) are out. Goaltender Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis) and left winger Jason Zucker (knee/quadicreps) are on injured reserve.

Avalanche with Stanley Cup bling: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G; Maxime Talbot, C; Alex Tanguay, RW.

Wild with Stanley Cup bling: Ilya Bryzgalov, G; Matt Cooke, LW; Mike Rupp, LW.

Something worthwhile about the Avalanche: The Avalanche led the league in one-goal wins with 28.

Something worthwhile about the Wild: The Wild's penalty kill had a success rate of 78.8 percent in the regular season, worst among any team in the postseason.

Something useless about the Avalanche/Nordiques that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Former Penguins left winger Wilf Paiement holds the Avalanche/Noridques franchise record for fastest goal at the start of the playoff game. He scored 29 seconds into an 8-4 loss against the Bruins in a 1982 Adams Division semifinal series.

Something useless about the Wild that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Former Penguins right winger Richard Park scored the Wild's first postseason overtime goal in a 3-2 win against the Avalanche in a 2003 Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Former Penguins on the Avalanche: Nate Guenin, D; Maxime Talbot, C.

Former Penguins on the Wild: Matt Cooke, LW; John Curry, G; Chuck Fletcher, general manager; Matt Moulson, LW (Moulson is a former Penguins draft pick who never played for the Penguins); Mike Rupp, LW; Darryl Sydor, assistant coach; Mike Yeo, head coach.

Who needs to be the difference for the Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov. With the team's already thin defense, Semyon Varlamov needs to steal goals against a pretty impressive collection of offensive skill up front for the Wild.

Who needs to be the difference for the Wild: Zach Parise (above) and Ryan Suter. The prizes of the 2012 free agent crop, Parise and Suter were brought to Minnesota to win. This is when they need to earn their pay.

Best Avalanche/Nordiques YouTube Video We Could Find: Nordiques center Dale Hunter scoring a series-clinching overtime goal in a 3-2 win against the Canadiens in Game 5 of a 1982 Adams Division semifinal:

Best Wild YouTube Video We Could Find: Wild left winger Andrew Brunette scoring a series-clinching overtime goal in a xx win against the Avalanche in Game 7 of a 2003 Western Conference quarterfinal:

EN Prediction: Neither teams enters this series completely healthy. That said, the Avalanche's injuries on defense are more crucial than any injuries the Wild is dealing with. Minnesota's talented forwards can take advantage of Colorado's issues on defense and pull off the upset. Wild, 4-2.

(Photos: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images and Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

 

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Blues - Blackhawks preview - 04-17-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Blues vs. Blackhawks

Blues Leading Regular Season Scorer: Alexander Steen (right), 62 points (33 goals, 29 assists).

Blackhawks Leading Regular Season Scorer: Patrick Sharp, 78 points (34 goals, 44 assists).

Blues Expected Starting Goaltender: Ryan Miller, 25-30-4, 2.64 GAA, .922 SV%.

Blackhawks Expected Starting Goaltender: Corey Crawford, 32-16-10, 2.26 GAA, .917 SV%.

Blues Regular Season Statistics

Blackhawks Regular Season Statistics

Blues Injuries: Centers David Backes ("lower body"), Patrik Beglund (shoulder), Vladimir Sobotka (undisclosed), left winger Brenden Morrow (foot) and right winger T.J. Oshie (head) are questionable. Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko (hand) is out.

Blackhawks Injuries: Center Jonathan Toews ("upper body") is probable. Right winger Patrick Kane (left leg) and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder) are on injured reserve.

Blues with Stanley Cup bling: None.

Blackhawks with Stanley Cup bling: Bryan Bickell, LW; Brandon Bollig, LW; Sheldon Brookbank, D; Corey Crawford, G; Michal Handzus, C; Niklas Hjalmarsson, D; Marian Hossa RW; Patrick Kane, RW; Duncan Keith, D; Nikolai Khabibulin, G; Marcus Kruger, C; Nick Leddy, D; Johnny Oduya, D; Michal Rozsival D; Brandon Saad, LW; Brent Seabrook, D; Patrick Sharp, LW; Andrew Shaw, C; Ben Smith, RW; Jonathan Toews, C; Kris Versteeg, LW.

Something worthwhile about the Blues: The Blues had a penalty kill percentage of 85.7 percent this past regular season, best among any team in the postseason.

Something worthwhile about the Blackhawks: The Blackhawks had an average of 8.5 penalty minutes per game this regular season, lowest among any team in the postseason.

Something useless about the Blues that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Former Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson holds the Blues' record for most consecutive postseason shutouts. He had three straight shutouts against the Blackhawks a 2002 Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Blackhawks.

Something useless about the Blackhawks that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The postseason first hat trick scored against the Penguins was by Blackhawks left winger Bobby Hull in a 6-5 win by the Blackhawks in Game 4 of a 1972 quarterfinal series.

Former Penguins on the Blues: Ty Conklin, goalie development coach; Jordan Leopold, D; Brenden Morrow, LW.

Former Penguins on the Blackhawks: Dennis Bonvie, professional scout; Marian Hossa (right), RW; Norm Maciver, assistant general manager; Michal Rozsival, D.

Who needs to be the difference for the Blues: Ryan Miller. Throughout the history of the Blues, they have never truly had a franchise goaltender capable of carrying the team to the Stanley Cup. Miller was brought in to St. Louis to do that. Arguably, no player in the playoffs has higher expectations placed upon him.

Who needs to be the difference for the Blackhawks: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson, etc. The Blues are an aggressive team on the forecheck and like to make life miserable for opposing defensemen. Chicago's battle-tested defensemen will need to withstand the constant assault they will be under in this series.

Best Blues YouTube Video We Could Find: Blues center Craig Janney scoring a series-clinching overtime goal in a 4-3 win against the Blackhawks in Game 4 of a 1992 Norris Division semifinal series:

Best Blackhawks YouTube Video We Could Find: Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews scoring a game-tying short-handed goal late in regulation in an eventual 2-1 loss to the Canucks in Game 7 of a 2011 Western Conference quarterfinal series:

EN Prediction: The Blackhawks' stars - Kane and Toews - are healed up from some injuries late in the regular season while the Blues are limping into the postseason with a handful of injuries. The Blackhawks will take advantage and move a step towards defending their title.

(Photos: Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 04-17-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Playoff Stuff
Penguins

-Dave Moinari's recap from last night's game. “They’re a good team. They play hard and they have a good goaltender. They’re a well-balanced team. And it’s going to be a tough series.” - Brandon Sutter.

-The Columbus Dispatch's recap. “I’ve seen him make that save 1,000 times. A thousand times. It’s one that got by him.” - Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on goaltender Sergei Bobovsky allowing a game-winning goal to Brandon Sutter.

-The Associated Press' recap. "We have to learn from it but we found a way to win. Obviously we didn't start the way we wanted, getting down two goals. I think we have to clean up some things." - Sidney Crosby.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-A good look at Sutter being stripped of a puck by Columbus' Fedor Tyutin on a breakaway against Bobrovsky:

-Happy times for Brooks Orpik and Brandon Sutter:

-Brooks Orpik doing his thing:

-A hockey night in Pittsburgh:

-Evgeni Malkin just hanging out:

-Kris Letang battled Columbus' Ryan Johansen for this puck:

-Tanner Glass was kind of spaced out here:

-Marc-Andre Fleury snagged this puck:

-Happy times for the Blue Jackets:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Fleury speaks:

-Matt Niskanen speaks:

-Sutter speaks:

-"It's not tough. Honestly, in the playoffs, you leave your ego at the door. Whatever happens, you're trying to get 16 wins. That's the end goal." - Beau Bennett on being moved from the first to the third line.

-"Right now, I guess the big question for me is, who's going to be the most unhappy when we go golfing the next time." - Dan Bylsma on his friendship with Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards.

-The Penguins assigned Chris Conner to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a conditioning assignment.

We know their power play is dangerous. We have to make sure we stay disciplined. That’s the difference in the game.” - Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky on taking penalties.

-After the Jump: The Flyers will start the playoffs without their starting goaltender and a wild Game 1 between the Canadiens and Lightning.

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