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Why the Islanders will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

David Satriano - Staff Writer

The Achilles' heel of the New York Islanders for the past decade has been goaltending and defense. But general manager Garth Snow bolstered each of those positions with offseason trades, which is why the Islanders will win the Stanley Cup.

The last time New York made the playoffs, two seasons ago, they were ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in six games, mainly because they allowed 25 goals, including at least four goals in five of the games.

In order to ensure that won't happen again, Snow traded for goalie Jaroslav Halak in May and signed him to a four-year contract. Halak rewarded that faith with an Islanders record for wins in a season and a half-dozen shutouts.

Why the Jets will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Ducks vs Jets - 2015 SCP First Round

David Satriano - Staff Writer

The Winnipeg Jets qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild card team from the Western Conference, but that won't stop them from making noise in the coming weeks and months.

The city of Winnipeg hasn't seen a playoff team in 19 years, since 1995-96 when the original Winnipeg Jets lost in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, so you can expect the fans to provide a huge boost. The MTS Centre is already regarded as one of the more intimidating buildings in the NHL. The Jets should be able to feed off the crowd and take care of business at home, where they were 23-13-5 during the regular season.

"For all those people back home, it's a great night for them," coach Paul Maurice said after the Jets made the playoffs. "And they're going to get to see some really exciting hockey."

Rapidly maturing Horvat is X-factor for Canucks

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins has admitted he wasn't comfortable having 19-year-old center Bo Horvat in his lineup to the start the season. Now he's counting on Horvat to play a big role in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Horvat slowly earned Desjardins' trust throughout an impressive rookie season, going from less than 10 minutes of ice time per game in his first month to averaging almost 14 minutes since March 1. His line is playing third-line minutes, gaining confidence offensively while earning tougher defensive matchups from his coach.

Horvat has 10 of his 13 goals and 16 of his 24 points since the All-Star break. During a recent nine-game stretch without a point, Desjardins said he was more impressed by Horvat's play in his own end, including when he was matched up against Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter during a crucial 2-1 shootout win against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

"That line's job is to play against some of the other teams' top lines," Desjardins said. "I was able to play them against Kopitar and Carter, and if you can play a 19-year-old against those guys, they are doing a great job, whether they score or not."

Coaching rematch when Predators meet Blackhawks

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Predators vs Blackhawks - 2015 SCP First Round

The Chicago Blackhawks are hoping history will repeat itself five years later.

The run to the Stanley Cup in 2010 started with a six-game series against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Nashville is again in Chicago's way to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only this time the Predators have home-ice advantage.

Nashville is back in the playoffs under first-year coach Peter Laviolette after failing to qualify in their final two seasons with Barry Trotz, the only coach in Predators history until Laviolette came aboard.

Chicago is in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season under coach Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup twice (2010, 2013) and reached the Western Conference Finals another two times (2009, 2014).

Zidlicky's offensive game an X-factor for Detroit

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Lightning vs Red Wings - 2015 SCP First Round

Paul Harris - Correspondent

The ability of defenseman Marek Zidlicky to create offense from the blue line was well known when the Detroit Red Wings sent a conditional draft choice to the New Jersey Devils for him at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline last month.

But Zidlicky, 38, has also shown in his time in Detroit that he doesn't shy away from physical play, despite being listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds.

A prime example came in the Red Wings 2-1 los to the Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena on April 5.

Zidlicky took exception to the way that Washington forward Tom Wilson hit him along the boards and let Wilson and the referees know about it. It was a game where many of the bigger Capitals were banging the Red Wings around with body checks.

Goaltending issues cloud Detroit's playoff outlook

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Lightning vs Red Wings - 2015 SCP First Round

Paul Harris - Correspondent

DETROIT -- This is the Detroit Red Wings dilemma going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Do they go with a struggling veteran golatender who has a solid playoff track record or a talented young netminder with moxie, who has won some big games but has shown he still has work to do on the craft of consistently keeping the puck out of the net in the NHL?

Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek?

Howard had an outstanding first half of the season and was selected to play in the All-

Star Game. But only hours after the All-Star participants were announced, Howard injured his groin against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10 and missed a month.

Mrazek stepped in and won eight of 11 decisions.

Predators' Weber happy to see playoffs again

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Predators vs Blackhawks - 2015 SCP First Round

Robby Stanley - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber was not a happy man at the end of the 2013-14 regular season.

His team had just missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career, and the only NHL coach he'd ever known, Barry Trotz, was fired after the season.

"We've got to get back to the postseason," Weber said. "Two years in a row is unacceptable. We know that. We're not an expansion franchise anymore."

Weber has led the Predators back to the playoffs this season and is looking to make a deeper run toward the Stanley Cup than ever before. He's the leader of one of the deepest defense corps in the NHL and believes that depth can be an advantage in the postseason.

Rangers' Nash ready to forget painful playoff past

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Three goals in 25 games and a shot off a stick shaft in overtime of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. That was New York Rangers forward Rick Nash in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. That's what he can't hide from now, with a new postseason set to begin.

"I've had thousands of people be on top of me and it is what it is," Nash said. "At the end of the day you just gotta try to be better next time."

Next time is here for Nash, who realizes that scoring a career-high 42 goals this season and being a dominant player, a potential Hart Trophy finalist, won't mean much if he doesn't score to help the Rangers win the Stanley Cup this spring.

High-scoring rookie forward Lee is Islanders X-factor

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

Left wing Anders Lee was the victim of a numbers game at the start of the 2014-15 season. Instead of being with the New York Islanders, he started the season in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Lee took the demotion in stride and was back with the Islanders within two weeks. Since then, the 6-foot-3, 227-pounds forward has garnered consideration for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie; he finished second among first-year players with 25 goals.

"It's been a really good year," Lee said. "I think I'd be ecstatic to look where I'm at right now. If I asked myself if I'd be in this spot at the end of the year, would I be happy? I think absolutely. I think I'd take that. It was a little bit hectic at first, but things settled down and have fallen into place."

Tavares' development as a leader propels Islanders

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The memory of Brooks Orpik, the low-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, eliminating the New York Islanders from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an overtime goal at Nassau Coliseum in the spring of 2013 haunts John Tavares.

It's lingered for the Islanders captain, especially after he sustained a knee injury while representing Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which left him out of the equation as New York failed to qualify for the postseason last season.

"I think that's what you play for," Tavares said. "It was a series we probably felt we deserved a better fate, but in a few areas we weren't as good as Pittsburgh. We're a young team and I think we just want to keep pushing for that next level. Obviously, you want to win the Cup and you want to compete for it. Watching the playoffs as a kid, you see how much fun each and every round gets, and I think that's what drives everybody."

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Quote of the Day

[Stamkos] is a great teammate and a great leader, that's why he's got the 'C'. He brings that tremendous work ethic to the rink and he's one of the top players in the game. I know if I put the passes where they are supposed to be, there's a very good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net.

— Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin on linemate Steven Samkos
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