No. 1 PENGUINS (36-12-0) vs.
No. 8 ISLANDERS (24-17-7)
No. 1 PENGUINS (36-12-0) vs.
No. 8 ISLANDERS (24-17-7)
2013 series record: Pittsburgh 4-1.
Playoff History: New York 3-0. Last meeting: New York 4-2 in 1993 Patrick Division finals.
PITTSBURGH: The Penguins were 23-4 in their final 27 games but will need to be on their game to avoid a third straight first-round exit. Sidney Crosby (jaw) could soon receive medical clearance to play in games, and the team is getting healthier all over: James Neal scored three goals Saturday after missing eight games with a concussion, and Evgeni Malkin returned earlier in the week from an upper-body injury. Deadline acquisitions Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla have helped Pittsburgh offset its injuries.
N.Y. ISLANDERS: The Isles are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and will be looking for their first series win since they reached the conference finals in 1993. John Tavares emerged as a legitimate MVP contender by scoring 28 goals and adding 19 assists in 48 games. He carried New York to this long-awaited playoff berth as the club is gearing up for its move in two years to Brooklyn.
OUTLOOK: Islanders are ready for playoffs, but not quite ready to knock off playoff-tested Pittsburgh. Penguins in 5.
No. 2 CANADIENS (29-14-5) vs.
No. 7 SENATORS (25-17-6)
2013 series record: Both teams 2-1-1.
Playoff History: First meeting.
MONTREAL: The Canadiens closed the regular season with a 4-1 win in Toronto on Saturday, but they sort of stumbled to the finish — going 4-6 in their last 10 games. Most alarmingly is Montreal yielded 29 goals in those six losses. Carey Price was in goal for nine of 10 games before the finale vs. Toronto. The Canadiens’ offense is spread out with eight players in double figures in goals — topped by 16 by Michael Ryder, and followed by 15 each from Max Pacioretty and rookie Brendan Gallagher.
OTTAWA: The Senators haven’t gotten out of the first round since 2006, but their chances this year are bolstered by the recent return of Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson, who missed 31 games with an Achilles injury sustained Feb. 13 at Pittsburgh. He had a team-high 27:11 of ice time Thursday in an overtime win at Washington in his return and added two assists. Ottawa was 6-3 in its final nine games.
OUTLOOK: This backyard brawl could go back and forth for quite a while. Ottawa will be still standing at the end. Senators in 7.
No. 4 BRUINS (28-14-6) vs.
No. 5 MAPLE LEAFS (26-17-5)
2013 series record: Boston 3-1-0.
Playoff History: Boston 8-5. Last meeting: Boston 4-0 in 1974 quarterfinals.
BOSTON: The Bruins squandered a chance to win the Northeast and claim the No. 2 seed in the East by losing in overtime at Washington on Saturday and at home to Ottawa on Sunday in the regular season finale. The skid goes back even further as Boston was 2-5-2 in its last nine games. Jaromir Jagr should be recovered from the flu symptoms that kept him out of the final two games, enough to provide more playoff experience up front.
TORONTO: Maple Leafs Coach Randy Carlyle said he was “mystified” by his club’s 4-1 home loss to Montreal in the regular season finale on Saturday. He will have a short time to figure things out before opening the first-round playoff series at Boston on Wednesday. Toronto managed only one shot in the second period, despite having three power plays. In addition to Phil Kessel (20 goals), the Maple Leafs will look to Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk to carry the offense. Both Kadri and van Riemsdyk had 18 goals.
OUTLOOK: Boston outlasts Toronto in matchup of skidding clubs. Bruins in 7.
No. 1 BLACKHAWKS (36-7-5) vs.
No. 8 WILD (26-19-3)
2013 series record: Minnesota 2-0-1.
Playoff History: First meeting.
CHICAGO: The Blackhawks tore through the Western Conference and claimed the Presidents’ Trophy for the second time. They’re one of the most balanced teams in the league, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews tying for the club lead with 23 goals. Marian Hossa was next with 17 as Chicago led the West with 155 goals — second to Pittsburgh overall. The defense was the stingiest in the NHL, allowing 102 goals behind the goalie tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.
MINNESOTA: Much was expected after the team’s big free-agent signings of forward Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer. Parise led the club with 18 goals, and his Stanley Cup playoff experience from New Jersey should help his teammates. Suter was third on the team with 32 points, including 28 assists. Suter has made five previous playoff appearances with Nashville. The biggest challenge falls to goalie Niklas Backstrom, who will try to stop the high-powered Blackhawks.
OUTLOOK: If Chicago is going to be seriously tested on the way to the finals, it won’t be by the Wild. Blackhawks in 5.
No. 2 DUCKS (30-12-6) vs.
No. 7 RED WINGS (24-16-8)
2013 series record: Anaheim 2-1-0.
Playoff History: Detroit 3-2. Last meeting: Detroit 4-3 in 2009 conference semifinals.
ANAHEIM: If not for the Blackhawks, the Pacific Division champion Ducks would likely be the odds-on favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup finals. Only Chicago (77) and Pittsburgh (72) had more points than Anaheim’s 66. The Bruce Boudreau-led Ducks aren’t overly powerful on offense, despite a slew of players known for goal scoring. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led the team with 15 goals each, and Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan combined for only 23.
DETROIT: It wasn’t easy, but the Red Wings managed to get into the playoffs for a 22nd straight season, clinching their spot with a win in the regular season finale. This time, Detroit will be without retired stalwart defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who anchored the teams that won four Stanley Cups. The Red Wings managed only 124 goals in the regular season, with Pavel Datsyuk posting team-highs with 15 goals and 49 points. Henrik Zetterberg was second with 48 points.
OUTLOOK: The Red Wings returned to the postseason again, but won’t stick around too long. Ducks in 6.
No. 3 CANUCKS (26-15-7) vs.
No. 6 SHARKS (25-16-7)
2013 series record: San Jose 3-0-0.
Playoff History: Vancouver 1-0. Last meeting: Vancouver 4-1 in 2011 conference finals.
VANCOUVER: The Canucks enter the playoffs as the Northwest Division champion for the fifth time in six seasons. They might have to make the most of home-ice advantage because the Sharks have only two regulation losses in San Jose and five other defeats in overtime or shootouts. The Canucks mustered just 127 goals this season. Alex Burrows led the team with 13 goals, Daniel Sedin was next with 12, followed by twin brother Henrik with 11. Henrik Sedin had a team-best 45 points.
SAN JOSE: Logan Couture had a team-high 21 goals in 48 games, only 11 fewer than his career best of 32 in 79 games of the 2010-11 season. Joe Thornton was limited to seven goals, but he topped the team in scoring thanks to his 33 assists. Patrick Marleau (17 goals) and Joe Pavelski (16) will be needed to produce if San Jose hopes to advance. The rest is left up to workhorse goalie Antti Niemi, who tied for the NHL lead with 24 wins.
OUTLOOK: San Jose is used to long playoff runs. Its success over Vancouver continues into the playoffs. Sharks in 6.
No. 4 BLUES (29-17-2) vs.
No. 5 KINGS (27-16-5)
2013 series record: Los Angeles 3-0-0.
Playoff History: St. Louis 2-1. Last meeting: Los Angeles 4-0 in 2012 conference semifinals.
ST. LOUIS: The Blues surged in April to secure home-ice advantage in the first round, but their 12-3 mark in the final month also put them into a matchup with perhaps their biggest nemesis. St. Louis was swept by the Kings in last year’s playoffs and didn’t beat them in this regular season, either — including two losses in Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES: The Kings won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title last year, and they did it from the No. 8 seed. So it is hard to discount them this time as they start the tournament three slots higher. If they are going to make another deep run, it stands to reason that goalie Jonathan Quick will be why. Quick earned Conn Smythe Trophy honors last year as the playoff MVP when he went 16-4 with a minuscule 1.41 GAA. Jeff Carter paced the offense with 26 goals, and Anze Kopitar led with 32 assists and 42 points. Dustin Brown scored 18 goals and fell one point shy of being the fifth Kings player with 30.
OUTLOOK: Los Angeles is ready for another lengthy playoff stay. It starts here. Kings in 7.
— Associated Press