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Top Line NHL playoff update: Martin St. Louis ready for Broadway; more links

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Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers

Little Martin St. Louis (26) may finally be ready to come up big for the Rangers. (Scott Levy/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

• After a slow start in New York, Martin St. Louis says he’s ready for his game to be judged.

• There could be a new man behind the mask for the Flyers when they take on the Rangers in Game 2 on Sunday.

• Maybe Wayne Simmonds was right. Maybe gingers should stick to being gingers.

• Maybe the offensive explosion we’ve seen over the first two nights of the playoffs isn’t such a surprise, considering the questions that were being asked coming into the tournament.

• Bruce Arthur argues the subtle genius of Steven Stamkos could be the difference in the series with the Canadiens.

• Poise under pressure eluded the Lightning in their Game 1 loss to the Canadiens. Sean Gordon explains how negating Montreal’s aggressive forecheck will be the key to addressing that in Game 2.

• Two months after they teamed up to lead Canada to gold in Sochi, coaches Mike Babcock and Claude Julien will match wits as the Red Wings take on the Bruins. Are there any secrets left between them?

Boston has had a fairly stout penalty kill for years now, but it’s not the Bruins penalty killers who are worrying Babcock.

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  • Published On Apr 18, 2014
  • 2014 NHL playoffs: Bruins don’t scare Red Wings; more on tonight’s games

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    Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings

    The return of Pavel Datsyuk (13) makes the Red Wings a much more formidable foe. (Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    While the rest of the hockey world rushes to anoint the Bruins as “Most Likely To Hoist The Cup,” many of Boston’s die-hard fans are more inclined to curb their enthusiasm … at least until after the opening round.

    At play here is more than just the legendary fatalism of New England sports fans, the caution born of heartbreaks caused by Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner, Eli Manning and David Tyree/Mario Manningham and –for Bruins fans in particular — “Too many men on the ice.” Indeed, the first round has become almost an annual tripwire for the Bruins, with lower seeds extending them to overtime of Game 7 in each of the past three springs. They survived the scares in 2011 and ’13. But in 2012, one round is as far as their playoffs went.

    So a spike in the collective anxiety of New England is understandable as the Presidents’ Trophy winners take on the Red Wings on Friday night in the opener of a series that could be treacherous for the Stanley Cup favorites.

    It’s not just that Detroit was the only team to beat Boston three times in regulation this season, or even that the Red Wings’ puck possession game is the Kryptonite to the Bruins’ physically punishing style. It’s that these Wings might be better than they were at any time during the regular season. They’re still missing some key players — word now is that Henrik Zetterberg has almost no chance of skating in this series — but Detroit is deeper and healthier than it has been almost all year.

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  • Published On Apr 18, 2014
  • Sharks get to Jonathan Quick, Kings early, hang on for 6-3 Game 1 Win

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    The Sharks' relentless forecheck did not make it an easy night for Jonathan Quick. (Nick Lust/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Sharks’ relentless forecheck did not make it an easy night for Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. (Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Asked before the game what it would take the upend the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose’s Joe Thornton said simply, “Score some goals on Quick.”

    The Sharks did just that, beating Jonathan Quick three times in the first period on the way to a 6-3 win in their series opener on Thursday night.

    Thornton got the hosts on the board just 3:06 in with a deft deflection of a Joe Pavelski backhander, but it was a pair of goals from rookie Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau in the final 52 seconds of the frame that set the stage for a rout.

    The Sharks built their lead up to 5-0 in the second, sending Quick to the showers after 40 minutes. And while the Kings rallied with three goals to make the score interesting in the third, the end result was never really in doubt.

    Here are some observations after tonight’s contest and a look ahead to Sunday’s Game 2.

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  • Published On Apr 18, 2014
  • NHL Playoffs injury updates: Oshie out, Zetterberg skating

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    A couple of quick hits from today’s morning skates:

    In St. Louis, coach Ken Hitchcock has confirmed that the Blues will be missing two top-six forwards for their opener against the Blackhawks

    Vladimir Tarasenko took part in line drills, so he’s expected to be in the lineup, as is David Backes. But with the forwards ailing, the pressure is definitely on the St. Louis defense to clamp down on the odd-man rushes — and on goalie Ryan Miller to come up with the big stop.

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  • Published On Apr 17, 2014
  • Top Line: Sidney Crosby dives again; Is shotblocking worth it? More links

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    Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

    Diver down: Only this time, Sidney Crosby committed no crime in the Penguins’ playoff opener. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • There goes Sidney Crosby diving again.

    • After watching the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf take a biscuit in the mush, Jason Kay asks the obvious question: Does shot blocking do more harm than good?

    • It’s not always easy to predict which teams will get great goaltending or have their stars go on hot streaks in a series, but James Mirtle says controlling possession is one trait that defines a long playoff run.

    • It’s been a dozen years since the Blues and the Blackhawks last met in the postseason. Jeremy Rutherford says built-up hostilities should make their first-rounder a nasty affair.

    • But Bernie Miklasz thinks that puck possession, not punishment is St. Louis’ key to victory against Chicago.

    Sochi snubs may have dinged some egos in San Jose, but the downtime they provided may be the key to the Sharks’ Stanley Cup aspirations.

    Marian Gaborik produced a 61.4 percent Corsi rating over the regular season’s final seven games. Ian McLaren says that stat suggests that the veteran winger could be a difference maker for the Kings against San Jose.

    • Steve Mason is out for the Flyers’ opener against the Rangers, and that suits an old buddy just fine.

    • Philly won’t have much of a home ice advantage when the series shifts to the City of Brotherly Love.

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  • Published On Apr 17, 2014
  • NHL Playoffs: Ducks survive comeback scare against resilient Stars

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    Tyler Seguin (left) and the Stars battled back before falling short against Anaheim. (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

    Tyler Seguin (91) and the Stars battled back before falling short against the Ducks. (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    If ever there was a playoff game where both teams could say they got what they needed, the Ducks’ 4-3 win over the Stars was it. Anaheim dominated early and held serve at home to take a 1-0 series lead, but Dallas shook off some early jitters and nearly clawed back from a four-goal deficit. The Stars are still in a 1-0 hole, but by establishing their game over the final 25 minutes they proved that they can hang with the higher-seeded Ducks in this series.

    Some observations after the opener:

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  • Published On Apr 17, 2014
  • Buffalo Sabres release advanced stats guru Jim Corsi in coaching shuffle

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    Advanced hockey stats guru Jim Corsi

    Famed for his fancy stats work, Jim Corsi also made chicken salad out of the Sabres goalies this season. (Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    Ted Nolan’s no different than any other boss. Given a choice, he’d rather surround himself with people he knows and trusts. So it’s long been expected that he’d sweep out the staff he inherited from Ron Rolston last November.

    That axe finally fell today in Buffalo where four of Rolston’s former assistant coaches were told they won’t be needed next season.

    Among the casualties was Jim Corsi, the team’s goaltending coach for the past 16 seasons and a man revered by the advanced stats crowd for creating the eponymous rating that affixed value to shots for and against.

    It’s hard to believe it was a competence issue with Corsi. Buffalo’s goalies posted a .918 save percentage, a decent number on its own that looks a whole lot better in the context of the team’s porous defense and the six-man deep goalie rotation that included three rookies.

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  • Published On Apr 16, 2014
  • Top Line: Future is now for Marc-Andre Fleury; more NHL playoffs links

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    Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins

    All eyes will be on Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins try to avoid another playoff pratfall. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • With one year left on his deal and his 30th birthday coming up fast, Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance in the playoffs will determine whether he has a future with the Penguins.

    The Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov might want to go online and check out Steve Kasper’s highlight reel before they take on their Game 1 assignments.

    Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has led teams to six division titles and won 300 NHL games faster than anyone in history, but he’s never gotten past the second round of the playoffs … and it’s killing him.

    • Just 22, Tyler Seguin has a Stanley Cup ring and 42 playoff games under his belt, but he’s a different player for the Stars than the one who stumbled through a one-goal-in-22-games drought with the Bruins last spring.

    • The adaptability of coach Darryl Sutter has the Kings poised to challenge for their second Stanley Cup in three years.

    Matt Moulson of the Wild isn’t asking for much. Just a Stanley Cup and his own bed.

    Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche says that he was “pretty successful” during two playoff runs as a junior — yeah, a Memorial Cup with 24 goals and 61 points in 34 games is pretty successful. Now the challenge is to prove that he can be a big-game player in his first shot at the NHL postseason.

    • One Flyers player will stand up during the wedding of a Rangers player this summer. He’s hoping to bring a buddy named Stanley as his plus one. The groom objects.

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  • Published On Apr 16, 2014
  • Bruins can blame Zdeno Chara if Henrik Zetterberg helps Red Wings beat Bruins

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    Zdeno Chara (left) and Henrik Zetterberg remain friendly off the ice, but that may be on pause this week. (Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

    Zdeno Chara (left) and Henrik Zetterberg are friendly off the ice, but that may be on pause this week. (Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    Henrik Zetterberg is closing in on a return to action after more than two months on the sidelines, just when his Detroit teammates need him the most.

    But if he comes back in time to help the Red Wings knock off the heavily favored Bruins in their first-round playoff series, Boston fans will have to vent their rage toward one of their own:

    Team captain Zdeno Chara.

    Turns out that Big Z felt sorry for Zetty when the Swedish star was forced to withdraw from the Olympics after just one game with back pain so severe that it required immediate surgery.

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  • Published On Apr 15, 2014
  • 2014 NHL playoffs preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

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    Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens faces Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Ligntning

    The showdown between Carey Price (left) and Steven Stamkos (right) will be a key to the series. (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Regular season recaps

    Nov. 12: Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (SO)

    Dec. 28: Canadiens 2, Lightning 1 (SO)

    Feb. 1: Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

    April 1: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1

    Notable injuries

    Lightning: G Ben Bishop (wrist, day-to-day), F Ondrej Palat (upper body, day-to-day), F Valtteri Filppula (lower body, day-to-day), F Ryan Malone (personal/legal, day-to-day)

    Canadiens: F Travis Moen (concussion, out indefinitely), F Alex Galchenyuk (lower body, out indefinitely), F Brandon Prust (upper body, day-to-day)

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  • Published On Apr 15, 2014


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