Friday, July 31, 2015

NHL playoff previews

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (Charles Krupa/AP)
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (Charles Krupa/AP)

Bruins vs. Red Wings

Records: Boston (54-19-9, NHL-best 117 points); Detroit (39-28-15, 93 points).

Coaches: Bruins - Claude Julien (7th season, 310-163-65); Red Wings - Mike Babcock (9th season, 415-198-98).

Season series: Red Wings, 3-1.

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    Last year's playoffs: Bruins lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Red Wings lost to Chicago in the conference semifinals.

    Key players: Bruins - C David Krejci (19 goals, 50 assists, 69 points); G Tuukka Rask (36-15.6, 2.04 GAA); Red Wings - RW Gustav Nyquist (28 G, 20 A, 48 pts., 57 games); D Niklas Kronwall (8 G, team-high 41 A, 49 points).

    Outlook: Boston was second in the NHL in fewest goals allowed per game (2.08). . . . Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg, who ranks third among active players with 55 postseason goals, is recovering from back surgery and not likely to play in the series.


    Penguins vs. Blue Jackets

    Records: Pittsburgh (51-24-7, 108 points); Columbus (43-32-7, 93 points).

    Coaches: Penguins - Dan Bylsma (6th season, 252-117-32); Blue Jackets - Todd Richards (3d season, 85-70-16).

    Season series: Penguins, 5-0.

    Last year's playoffs: Penguins lost to Boston in the conference finals. Columbus didn't qualify.

    Key players: Penguins - C Sidney Crosby (36 G, 68 A, 104 points), LW Chris Kunitz (35 G, 33 A, 68 points). Blue Jackets - C Ryan Johansen (33 G, 30 A, 63 points), G Sergei Bobrovsky (32-20-5, 2.38 GAA).

    Outlook: Crosby won his second NHL scoring title with 104 points and led the NHL in assists. . . . Pittsburgh C Evgeni Malkin (23 G, 49 A, 72 points in 60 games), last played March 23 because of a foot injury, but he began skating last week, so his status will be key. . . . Pittsburgh had the NHL's best power play percentage. . . . Bobrovsky, the former Flyer, appeared in just one of the five games this year against Pittsburgh.


    Lightning vs. Canadiens

    Records: Tampa Bay (46-27-9, 101 points); Montreal (46-28-8, 100 points)

    Coaches: Lightning - Jon Cooper (2d season, 51-35-12); Canadiens - Michel Therrien (5th season, 152-119-23T, 26 OL).

    Season series: Lightning, 3-1.

    Last year's playoffs: The Canadiens lost in the first round to Ottawa. The Lightning didn't qualify.

    Key players: Lightning - RW Steven Stamkos (25 G, 15 A, 40 points in 37 games); D Victor Hedman (13 G, 42 A, 55 points); Canadiens - G Carey Price (34-20-5, 2.32 GAA), LW Max Pacioretty (39 G, 21 A, 60 points).

    Outlook: Three of the four games this season were tied 1-1 through regulation and the fourth was a 3-1 Tampa Bay win that ended with a Lightning empty-net goal. . . . D P.K. Subban led Montreal with 43 assists. . . . LW Thomas Vanek had 6 g and 15 a in 18 games for Montreal after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Islanders. . . . Lightning G Ben Bishop (.924 save percentage) missed the final three games with an upper- body injury.


    Avalanche vs. Wild

    Records: Colorado (52-22-8, 112 points), Minnesota (43-27-12, 98 points)

    Coaches: Avalanche - Patrick Roy (1st season, 52-22-8); Wild - Mike Yeo (3d season, 104-82-26).

    Season series: Avalanche, 4-1.

    Last year's playoffs: The Avalanche didn't qualify. The Wild lost in the first round to Chicago.

    Key players: Avalanche - C Nathan MacKinnon (24 G, 39 A, 63 points), LW Gabriel Landeskog (26 G, 39 A, 65 points); Wild - RW Jason Pominville (30 G, 30 A, 60 points); LW Zach Parise (29 G, 27 A, 56 points).

    Outlook: MacKinnon is a leading candidate for rookie of the year. . . . Avalanche leading scorer Matt Duchene (23 G, 47 A, 70 points) is likely out for the series with a knee injury suffered March 29. . . . Colorado G Semyon Varlamov led the NHL with 41 wins and his .927 save percentage was second among goalies who had 30 or more starts. . . . Former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov went 7-1-3 with a 2.12 GAA, a .911 save percentage, and three shutouts after joining the Wild in March.


    Blues vs. Blackhawks

    Records: St. Louis (52-23-7, 111 points); Chicago (46-21-15, 107 points)

    Coaches: Blues - Ken Hitchcock (3d season, 124-55-20); Blackhawks - Joel Quenneville (6th season, 268-127-59).

    Season series: Blues, 3-2.

    Last year's playoffs: Chicago won the Stanley Cup. The Blues lost in the opening round to Los Angeles.

    Key players: Blackhawks - LW Patrick Sharp (34 G, 44 A, 78 points), RW Marian Hossa (30 G, 30 A, 60 points); Blues - RW T.J. Oshie (21 G, 39 A, 60 points), LW Jaden Schwartz, 25 G, 21 A, 56 points, team-best plus-28).

    Outlook: Chicago forwards Jonathan Toews (upper body) and Patrick Kane (lower body) are coming off late-season injuries but are expected to be available. . . . St. Louis acquired G Ryan Miller on Feb. 28 from Buffalo and he went 10-8-1 with a 2.47 GAA. . . . Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko (21 G, 22 A) hasn't played since suffering a hand injury on March 15 and it's possible he could return for the first round.


    Ducks vs. Stars

    Records: Anaheim (54-20-8, 116 points); Dallas (40-31-11, 91 points)

    Coaches: Ducks - Bruce Boudreau (3d season, 111-55-22); Stars - Lindy Ruff (1st season, 40-31-11).

    Season series: Stars, 2-1.

    Last year's playoffs: The Ducks lost in the first round to Detroit. Dallas didn't qualify.

    Key players: Ducks - C Ryan Getzlaf (31 G, 56 A, 87 points), RW Corey Perry (43 G, 39 A, 82 points); Stars - C Tyler Seguin (37 G, 47 A, 84 points), LW Jamie Benn (34 G, 45 A, 79 points).

    Outlook: The Ducks had six players with a plus-20 or more - Perry (32), D Hampus Lindhold (29), Getzlaf (28), D Francois Beauchemin (26), D Ben Lovejoy (21), and D Bryan Allen (20). . . . Stars G Kari Lehtonen appeared in 65 games (64 starts) while compiling a 2.41 GAA and .919 save percentage. . . . The Ducks led the NHL with 3.21 goals per game.


    Sharks vs. Kings

    Records: San Jose (51-22-9, 111 points); Los Angeles (46-28-8, 100 points)

    Coaches: Sharks - Todd McLellan (6th season, 195-92-41); Kings - Darryl Sutter (3d season, 98-57-24).

    Season series: Kings, 3-2

    Last year's playoffs: The Sharks lost to the Kings in the second round. The Kings lost in the conference finals to Chicago.

    Key players: Sharks - C Joe Pavelski (41 G, 38 A, 79 points), C Joe Thornton (11 G, 65 A, 76 points); Kings - G Jonathan Quick (27-17-4, 2.07 GAA, .915), C Anze Kopitar (29 G, 41 A, 70 points)

    Outlook: Last year in the playoffs the Kings beat San Jose in seven games and five of those contests were decided by a goal, with one in OT. . . . The Kings received a boost from RW Marian Gaborik, who had 5 goals and 11 assists in 19 games since being acquired on March 5 from Columbus. . . . Three former Flyers were the second-

    through-fourth leading scorers for the Kings - C Jeff Carter (27 G, 23 A, 50 points), RW Justin Williams (19 G, 24 A, 43 points) and C Mike Richards (11 G, 30 A, 41 points).


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