Experienced Blackhawks lead field of Cup contenders out West

Apr 14, 2017, 01:25
Experienced Blackhawks lead field of Cup contenders out West

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In the home of 24 Stanley Cups, playoffs are expected as much as they are embraced - and then examined as a metaphor for larger discussions of language, culture and political estrangement.

The Canadian content in the Stanley Cup playoffs has gone from zero teams last spring to five this time around. This could be over quick, though the Leafs, with little to lose, could inject some fear into the Caps.

Taking Ilya Kovalchuk with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft was a strong start on June 23, 2001.

Player to watch: Senators left wing Alex Burrows.

Well, Streit has been effective throughout his career, but Markov has a sizeable edge in both games played and production while spending his entire National Hockey League tenure with the same franchise. Ottawa, conversely, had bottom-10 special teams and finished 22nd in possession. The Wild went 4-10-2 from March 2 through April 1 before putting together four straight wins to close out the regular season.

The top-seeded Blackhawks have been around for too long to believe anything matters except Game 1 on Thursday night against Nashville. This is a group that won't hit their full stride until two seasons from now. Depth additions at the trade deadline don't hurt either, nor does the unexpected return of Clarke MacArthur. The Rangers' weakness is their defense.

But Rinne hasn't been among the NHL's best in net this season.

Police have already warned this year they will keep the Red Mile family friendly. He hadn't even seen action beyond the regular season in major junior.

This should be the year for the Washington Capitals, after so many this-should-be-the-year seasons. Look for Kane and co., AKA Artemi Panarin, to light the lamp a lot this postseason, especially in the first round. They have a skillful defense and Filip Forsberg is a force up front. Can he, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and the skilled Alexander Wennberg find another gear for the playoffs? Try and stop Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin's line would perform. Kris Letang was a beast on defense. If there's one thing that is absolutely consistent with coach Joel Quenneville, it's trust. "They really added the scoring depth this year, and they're great in goal and well-coached". Minnesota Wild Yes, it's true that history is not on the Wild's side when it comes to playoff runs. In his 83 career games, he's potted five goals and 31 points while averaging over 23 minutes per game.

And that's just the start of the Hawks roster. This should be a fast, fun series regardless.

Finally, the Blackhawks are +175 to win the Western Conference this year, followed by the Wild at +400. They parted with former captain David Backes in the off-season, traded Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, lost Robby Fabbri to a season-ending injury, fired Ken Hitchcock mid-season and are now without Paul Stastny.

These two teams last met in the playoffs in 2015, with the Blackhawks besting the Predators in seven games during the opening round of the postseason. Monahan and Gaudreau fared OK in matchups against Ryan Kesler this season, but how will the Backlund-led second unit fare against Getzlaf? "He played phenomenal in Winnipeg (in the regular season finale)". A sneaky source of intrigue in this series?

What's the National Hockey League 2017 Stanley Cup bracket? Their 94 points is the fewest among playoff teams. Injuries only fuel those concerns. Although, Thornton and Couture have to get healthy this week.

Just in case you were wondering, Connor McDavid is this good and he got there quickly.

"I think the whole team feels fresh", Backstrom said. His experience has made the Canadiens more playoff-ready.

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