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NHL playoffs Eastern Conference Final preview: No. 1 Penguins vs. No. 4 Bruins

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Sidney Crosby vs. Boston Bruins in Eastern Conference Final.

The Bruins will be out to grind down Sidney Crosby with their depth. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Allan Muir


It’s been 21 years since Boston and Pittsburgh last clashed in the postseason. Now that they’re meeting again, the Bruins will look to Jaromir Jagr, the man who helped wipe them out back in 1992, to guide Boston past its old nemesis and back into the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins paid a steep price for Jagr at the deadline, but to this point the veteran has been a passenger more nights than not. The B’s are hoping the chance to suit up against his former team will bring Jagr out of his funk. If not, maybe the pressure of matching up against the player the Bruins originally tried to acquire, Jarome Iginla, will light a fire under the 41-year-old winger.

Although the Jagr-Iginla storyline is sure to be front and center heading into the series, the real key will be the game-within-a-game battle between Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron. Former Team Canada linemates and now the game’s top offensive and defensive forwards, the two will likely be joined at the hip for the duration. It’s a good bet that Crosby, free of the restrictive headgear he wore in the first two rounds, will find a way to get his points, but his challenge will lie in preventing Bergeron from doing the same.

Eastern roundtable | Western Conference Finals preview | Western finals roundtable
Key questions for each conference final | Complete postseason schedule

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  • Published On May 28, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Crosby too much for Senators as Pengiuns take Game 2

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    Sidney Crosby

    Sidney Crosby scored a hat trick in 21 minutes against the Sens on Friday night. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    The Ottawa Senators couldn’t beat the Pittsburgh Penguins even when they managed to keep Sidney Crosby off the score sheet in Game 1. So you can imagine how well things went when Sid went off for a hat trick in Game 2.

    Crosby’s three-goal game, his first in more than two years, paced Pitsburgh to a 4-3 win over the Senators Friday night. The Pens now own a 2-0 lead with the series heading back to Ottawa for Game 3 on Sunday.

    This was the Kid at his best. Crosby’s first goal came on a quick burst up the wall that left Erik Karlsson in his tracks before he wristed one by Craig Anderson just 3:16 in. His second came on a vicious snapper that beat a baffled Anderson to the short side 13 minutes later. He completed the trick 1:15 into the second, timing his release to take advantage of a moving screen out front before blasting one over the keeper’s shoulder from the top of the circle.

    That was it for Anderson, who was pulled for the first time this season. And really, that was it for the Senators as well. Sure, some sloppy play from goaltender Tomas Vokoun kept them in the game, but Crosby’s star turn was too much for Ottawa to overcome.

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  • Published On May 18, 2013
  • Sidney Crosby, Josh Harding, Adam McQuaid Masterton Trophy finalists

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    Minnesota's Josh Harding

    Minnesota Wild backup goaltender Josh Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last fall. (Andy King/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    I’ve always thought the only honor less desirable than the Masterton Trophy was being recognized at the Academy Awards ceremony during the In Memoriam reel.

    The only way to win this one is through “perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey”… with a heavy emphasis on perseverance. Translated: Your career must have been interrupted by some personal tragedy on the scale of a Lifetime Network movie of the week to qualify.

    At least the stories of Sidney Crosby, Adam McQuaid and Josh Harding all have happy endings. The three were honored today as the finalists for this year’s award, as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

    All hockey fans know Crosby’s story: The world’s top player finally returned to the ice in full health this season after missing extensive portions of the previous two due to concussion symptoms. Performing at a level unseen in nearly two decades, Crosby was running away with the scoring title when adversity struck again. Literally. This time, he was hit in the face by a slap shot. The injury derailed his season and his Art Ross dreams, but determination to return in time for the postseason highlighted his dedication to the game.

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  • Published On May 14, 2013
  • Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares are 2013 Hart Trophy finalists

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    Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares are the NHL's 2013 Hart Trophy nominees

    There are compelling cases to be made for all three of this season’s Hart Trophy nominees. (AP/AP/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    There really ought to be an asterisk on the Hart Trophy to designate the years in which it is awarded to the NHL’s best player instead of, as stipulated by the rules, “the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.”

    Some years, that player is one and the same. This won’t be one of those years because Sergei Bobrovsky isn’t among the finalists. And there is no one in this league who more demonstrably had a greater impact on his team’s fortunes than Bob.

    That’s not to overlook the achievements of the three players who made the cut: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin of Washington, and New York Islanders’ star John Tavares. You can make a solid argument for any of them as the league’s top performer.

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  • Published On May 10, 2013
  • Crosby, Ovechkin and St. Louis are 2013 Ted Lindsay Award finalists

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    Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Martin St. Louis are the 2013 Ted Lindsay Award nominees.

    NHL players will have a tough choice among Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Martin St. Louis. (AP Photos)

    By Sarah Kwak

    There was little surprise in the NHL Players’ Association’s announcement of the finalists for the 2013 Ted Lindsay Award, given to the “most outstanding player,” as voted by the players themselves. Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin, and Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, all previous winners of this award, made strong cases at various points of the season, and each achieved remarkable milestones even with the short schedule.

    Crosby scored at a rate of 1.56 points per game, a pace that only he, Jaromir Jagr, Eric Lindros and Mario Lemieux have bettered since 1995. A position switch from left wing at the start of the season revived Ovechkin’s stagnant offensive production, and at right wing, the Great 8 exploded with 23 goals in his final 23 games. From March 14 to the end of the regular season, Ovechkin scored nearly twice as often as the next highest scorers (23-12) and regained his title as league’s most fearsome sniper, winning his third Rocket Richard Trophy. And then there’s St. Louis, who at age 37, outscored both Crosby and Ovechkin — not to mention the rest of the league. Playing against some kids who are half his age, the 14-year vet scored 60 points in just 48 games, a career-high per game pace.

    So with such impressive cases for each, how does one begin to rate which performance is the most outstanding?

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  • Published On May 09, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Islanders down Penguins 6-4, send series back to Pitt tied at 2

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    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury allowed huge rebounds and was consistently out of position in Game 4. (Getty)

    By Sarah Kwak

    Well, it turns out that the 5-0 blowout from Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders was a pretty misleading opening act. Since that game, which the Penguins dominated, each meeting has been a wildly exciting and competitive contest. You want sound goaltending, by-the-book defense, blocked shots or clogged neutral zones? Change the channel. At this point, this series is all about entertainment value.

    Game 4 on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum delivered another frenzied night, as the Penguins and Isles traded goals all contest. New York finally took a lead midway through the third period, when John Tavares banged in his own rebound for the game-winner as the Isles defeated Pittsburgh 6-4 to tie up the series at two games apiece.

    Some observations:

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  • Published On May 07, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Sidney Crosby returns to action tonight for Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Sidney Crosby and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma

    Isles be damned: Pens coach Dan Bylsma may use Sidney Crosby on a killer power play unit. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    Plenty of excitement in Pittsburgh where it was announced that injured forward James Neal is out of the lineup for Game 2 tonight against the Islanders.

    Oh, and Sidney Crosby is drawing back in.

    Obviously, getting the league’s fourth-leading scorer back in uniform could be a game-changer for a Penguins team that managed to beat New York by just five goals in the series opener on Wednesday night, and for hockey poolsters who risked a third-round pick on Crosby not knowing if he’d suit up in the playoffs after sitting out the final 12 games of the regular season with a broken jaw.

    On the other hand, it’s probably not the best news for all the Islanders who remember the last time Crosby made a high-profile return from injury.

    Back in 2011, he suited up against the Isles after spending a year recovering from a career-threatening concussion. Sid scored less than six minutes into that one on his way to a four-point night.

    Crosby told reporters that he expected to be “a little nervous,” after sitting out so long, but if the Islanders offer up the same passive resistance they did in Game 1, he should get over those jitters in no time at all.

    By the way, the Pens practiced a first power play unit this morning that featured Crosby with Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang.

    We’ll keep an eye on the Isles in case Evgeni Nabokov and Kevin Poulin suddenly come down with the flu.

  • Published On May 03, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Sidney Crosby out for Penguins’ opener vs. Islanders

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    Sidney Crosby is still waiting for medical clearnance to play for the Penguins.

    If and when he’s cleared to play, Sidney Crosby will be sporting a face shield to protect his jaw. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    It’s official: Sidney Crosby will not play for the Penguins tonight in Game 1 in Pittsburgh.

    Crosby has been out of action since taking the full force of a Brooks Orpik slap shot to the face back on March 30. He told reporters on Wednesday morning that he failed to get medical clearance from a doctor to rejoin the team and that there was no timetable for his return.

    “He said everything looks good, he just wasn’t prepared to let me play,” Crosby said. “Obviously I would love to have the chance to play tonight but that’s not the way it is and (I’ll) make sure I’m ready when the time comes.”

    PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Penguins vs. Islanders | Staff picks | X-factors | Players to watch | More

    That’s the same report that he’s been offering since he got out of the hospital. The thinking was that doctors were holding him out until the start of the playoffs in order to give him enough time to sufficiently heal. Now they’ve blown past that yard marker. Sure, he’s skating with the team and has looked good in practice, but it could still be days, or weeks, before he gets the thumbs-up from doctors. At this point, who knows?

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  • Published On May 01, 2013
  • Key questions for the 2013 NHL playoffs

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    Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin

    After an eventful regular season, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will be central playoff figures. (Getty Images)

    By Brian Cazeneuve

    The mad 48-game lockout-shortened sprint is over, and the playoff field has been set. As the grueling battle for the Stanley Cup begins, here are some important questions to ponder:

    Do the Penguins have Stanley Cup chemistry?

    Sure, the sum of their parts is scary good. GM Ray Shero took an already intimidating roster of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc Andre-Fleury and beefed it up with late-season acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Douglas Murray. Those players offer a combined 3,000 games of NHL experience to Pittsburgh.

    But here’s the cautionary tale: While the Pens’ collection of talent is now the most robust in the NHL (sorry, Chicago), the unit hasn’t been able to jell over any meaningful length of time. Crosby has been out since March 30 with a broken jaw. James Neal just returned from a concussion, and the Pens have been without Malkin and Letang for blocks of time. So how will all this talent mesh if and when it finally comes together?

    The belief is that it will all work, in part because Iginla and Morrow have played in winning situations before (both with the Canadian Olympic team that won gold in Vancouver; Iginla also with the 2002 Olympic team and 2004 Stanley Cup finalist Calgary Flames). In those cases, they had to subjugate their talents to alter their roles for team success, which they did very well. Should the Pens pool their resources effectively, the Islanders and every other opponent along the way will be hard pressed to stay competitive.

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  • Published On Apr 29, 2013
  • Choosing my 2013 All-NHL Team, Eastern Conference

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    Alexander Ovechkin is a Hart Trophy contender.

    A position switch and an attitude adjustment made Alex Ovechkin a Hart Trophy candidate. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    When the NHL announces its annual All-Star teams at the league’s awards show in June, it will stick with a formula that rings a bit untrue this season. How, after all, can someone be an All-NHL player if he hasn’t played against the entire NHL?

    In coming up with our end-of-regular season honors, we’ve decided that the lockout-abbreviated campaign with its intraconference-only games requires a different take, so our All-NHL teams will be broken down by conference to reflect the unique scheduling.

    Here are our Eastern honorees. In case you missed them, our Western winners can be found here.

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  • Published On Apr 26, 2013