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(Page 120 of 169)
Features

Cup contenders Blues, Blackhawks clash early

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:00 AM / Blues vs Blackhawks - 2014 SCP First Round

NHL.com

The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks have been two of the top teams in the NHL all season, but a late-season slide by both will result in one of them being out of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs after the first round.

St. Louis and Chicago each finished with at least 107 points, but both finished behind the upstart the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division. The Blues and Blackhawks will stage the second opening-round series in Stanley Cup Playoffs history where both teams have at least that many points. The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators also had at least 107 in 2007.

The Blues were in position to not only win the Central but the Presidents' Trophy as the top team in the NHL as recently as April 3, but six straight losses to end the season left St. Louis in second place in the division. There is uncertainty about what the roster will look like for Game 1, because six regulars were out of the lineup at the end of regular season.

When healthy, the Blues were a defense-first machine that could score a lot of goals when needed. Coach Ken Hitchcock's philosophy combined with the talent and depth general manager Doug Armstrong assembled looked like a team primed to challenge the Blackhawks for division and NHL supremacy.

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Why the Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:00 AM / Lightning vs Canadiens - 2014 SCP First Round

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

Perhaps no team filled as many holes in their lineup so well at the NHL Trade Deadline as the Montreal Canadiens, and that is a big reason they will win the 25th Stanley Cup in franchise history this June.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin acquired defenseman Mike Weaver from the Florida Panthers the day before the deadline, setting the stage for his real home run a day later with the acquisition of forward Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders.

The arrival of Vanek gives the Canadiens something they have lacked for years, a top-end first line which can score consistently and provide relief to the team's other lines by attracting the opposition's top defensive stoppers on a nightly basis.

Vanek has combined with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais to become one of the NHL's most-potent offensive trios, and while losing Alex Galchenyuk for the duration of the first round with a lower-body injury hurts, the other lines have been rendered more effective because of how strong the top line has been.

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Why the Dallas Stars will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 1:58 AM / Ducks vs Stars - 2014 SCP First Round

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Dallas Stars entered the 2013-14 season with hopes of ending a five-year hiatus from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They were led by a new general manager in Jim Nill, who arrived in Dallas after spending the previous 15 seasons as the assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings. It was there where Nill was able to learn from one of the best minds in the business in general manager Ken Holland.

Nill's first order of business was to find a successful coach, one with a track record and the ability to get the most from his players. Lindy Ruff, who guided the Buffalo Sabres for 15 years and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, became the Stars' new coach.


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X-Factor: Bruins need Smith to regain scoring touch

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 1:52 AM / Bruins vs Red Wings - 2014 SCP First Round

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

When the Boston Bruins traded Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars in July, the headline piece coming back was forward Loui Eriksson.

However, the player who made the biggest impact was the one no one expected. And after an up-and-down 2013-14 season, the Bruins still aren't sure what they'll get from Reilly Smith in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But if the 23-year-old forward can deliver like he did early in the season, it would make the Bruins' quest to return to the Stanley Cup Final a bit easier.

Smith had three goals in 40 games in parts of two seasons with the Stars, so his addition to the Bruins' opening-night roster was a bit of a surprise. He rewarded the team's faith with points in six of his first eight games and played well defensively on a checking line with Chris Kelly.

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Wild have new look going up against Avalanche

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 1:47 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

NHL.com

It took until the very last day of the NHL regular season to determine that these teams would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Colorado Avalanche became the 2013-14 Central Division champions when the St. Louis Blues lost 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon. Led by first-year coach Patrick Roy, it was yet another remarkable achievement by the Avalanche this season after they finished with the second-fewest points in the NHL in 2012-13.

The Minnesota Wild have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. After signing forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts in the summer of 2012, the Wild ended a four-year playoff drought but were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round in five games.

When the puck drops on Game 1, it will be the first time the Avalanche and Wild have shared the same sheet of ice since Jan. 30. They played five games against each other in a two-month span, with two of the games requiring shootouts. Colorado finished 4-0-1 against Minnesota; rookie Nathan MacKinnon had two game-winning goals.

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Playoffs latest chapter in big year for Stars' Benn

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 1:30 AM / Ducks vs Stars - 2014 SCP First Round

Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- This has already been a landmark season for Jamie Benn.

In September, the Dallas Stars left wing was named captain. In February, Benn represented Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, scoring two goals for the gold-medal winner.

Friday, after the Stars defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-0 at American Airlines Center, Benn learned what it felt like to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time when Dallas qualified for the postseason, snapping a six-year playoff drought.

"Obviously, proud of the way our team played, excited for what's to come. It's a great opportunity for this group of guys that we have," Benn said. "We know that we can beat any team. We have a confident group."


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Sharks' Vlasic finds spotlight with his effective ways

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 12:59 AM / Sharks vs Kings - 2014 SCP First Round

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- While playing hockey as a young boy in Montreal, San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was different from most of the other kids on the ice, who loved scoring goals and racking up points.

Vlasic produced plenty of points, but what drove him was his absolute hatred for giving up goals.

"I wasn't big on points," Vlasic said after a morning skate at SAP Center. "I did get a lot growing up, but I remember between 7 and 11 or maybe even earlier that that, every time I was on the ice for a goal against I'd cry because I hate being minus. I was big on making sure that didn't happen. It's still big for me."

He doesn't cry as much these days, but not much else has changed in Vlasic's approach to the game. He still despises giving up goals.

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Why the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 12:55 AM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

The Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup this year because they lost out on a chance to play for it last season.

The humiliation from a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final hasn’t been forgotten and the pain remains fresh for a team that won three-quarters of its regular-season games in 2012-13 but saw its postseason dreams end in disappointment and recrimination.

Pittsburgh could do nothing right against the Bruins, managing just two goals in the four games, and none from its two superstars: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

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Penguins seeking chemistry from third, fourth lines

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 12:50 AM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a familiar position after another successful regular season.

The Penguins enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's second seed. They only spent one day out of first place in the Metropolitan Division after October, trailing the Washington Capitals by one point on Nov. 18.

Top center Sidney Crosby finished as the NHL's scoring champion, while linemate Chris Kunitz broke his previous career highs of 26 goals and 61 points. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, facing pressure stemming from a lackluster postseason and without a veteran backup after a training-camp injury to Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), enjoyed one of his best regular seasons.

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Why the Kings will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 12:50 AM / Sharks vs Kings - 2014 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Los Angeles Kings were overwhelmed by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final last season. They couldn't compete with Chicago's skill and didn't have enough firepower to match the Blackhawks, especially with Mike Richards missing three games because of a head injury.

Jonathan Quick and L.A.'s defense didn't bend much, but without enough offensive support, Chicago eventually extinguished the Kings from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a five-game series, including a double-overtime Game 5.

That won't happen to the Kings this spring, not against Chicago or any team. Los Angeles is the best possession team in the NHL, as deep as anyone down the middle, and is backed by a world-class goaltender. That hat trick of attributes will lead the Kings to their second Stanley Cup championship in three years.

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Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential