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X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

X-Factor: Seidenberg the unsung half of top pairing

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

Everyone marvels at Zdeno Chara's famous workout regimen and incredible physical fitness.

His long-distance cycling, climbing of Mt. Kilimanjaro and near-30-minute average ice time each season are all front-and-center in the story of the NHL legend. With less fanfare, however, another Boston Bruins defenseman combined with Chara to gut out nearly 30 minutes of ice time a night to help the Bruins win last season's Stanley Cup.

Dennis Seidenberg averaged 27 minutes, 37 seconds to Chara's 27:39 as the two formed a No. 1 defense pair that kept opposing snipers at bay through most of Boston's monumental run. This year, Seidenberg hopes he can repeat that feat.

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X-Factor: Talented Stewart could fly under the radar

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

After back-to-back 28-goal seasons, Chris Stewart was one of those players labeled to have a breakthrough campaign, one in which eclipsing the 30- or 40-goal plateau seemed reachable.

But heading into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stewart hasn't even reached the 20-goal mark, which was far below what was expected of the power forward.

Chris Stewart
Right Wing - STL
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 30
SOG: 166 | +/-: 1
But in the 200-foot game of coach Ken Hitchcock, there have to be concessions made by some players. Playing both ends of the ice can take away from a player's personal stats.

"He's got a lot of talent, and I think he'd be the first to admit that this year hasn't been perfect for him," Blues winger Jamie Langenbrunner said of Stewart. "But he's also learned to play a lot more of a team game. It's one thing to go out and score 30 goals when you don't have to play in your own end and do that; but playing for Hitch, that's not going to happen.

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X-Factor: Resurgent Backstrom changes look of Caps

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Nicklas Backstrom was averaging more than a point per game in early January. He was cruising toward being the team MVP for the Washington Capitals, a bright light on a team full of struggling offensive players. Then, Rene Bourque stuck out his elbow and connected with Backstrom’s head, and the Capitals spent three months without their No. 1 center.

Backstrom had a concussion, and the recovery was long and frustrating. He was stymied when he couldn’t return in short order, and eventually went home to Sweden to get away and refresh mentally.

Alex Ovechkin is the face of the franchise, but Backstrom is the team’s most important player.
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X-Factor: Karlsson holds keys for Sens in postseason

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

To say that 2011-12 was a breakout season for Erik Karlsson would be putting it mildly.

The Senators expected big things from Karlsson when they took him with the No. 15 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. He was OK as a rookie in 2009-10 and improved to 13 goals and 45 points the following season -- though his minus-30 rating hinted at problems in the defensive zone.

But a young player's third season is often the one in which the light goes on, and few lights have been shining brighter this season than Karlsson's.

The 21-year-old has been far and away the NHL's biggest point producer among defensemen. He joined Hall of Fame members Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin as the only players in NHL history to lead all other defensemen in scoring by more than 20 points. He's the biggest reason the Senators have gone from No. 13 in the East this past season to seventh -- and back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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X-Factor: Staal rounding back into form on blue line

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

For two seasons, Marc Staal was the Rangers' No. 1 defenseman, leading the team in minutes played while slowly improving the offensive side of his game.

However, concussion symptoms stemming from a hit during the previous season kept him out of the team's first 36 games of the 2011-12 campaign, and Staal has been playing catch-up ever since making his season debut in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

Coach John Tortorella says Staal will need an offseason and full training camp to return to his earlier form, but the 25-year-old has been improving throughout the second half of this season. Staal is showing more confidence in terms of joining the rush and has been playing more than 20 minutes per game since mid-February.

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X-Factor: Samuelsson brings experience to table

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

The Florida Panthers are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in a dozen seasons in large part because of all the newcomers brought in this past summer.

But they also added some veterans after the start of the 2011-12 regular season, and a couple of those veterans could wind up playing key roles in the postseason.

One is them is center John Madden, a member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams (two in New Jersey and one in Chicago).

Signed on Jan. 4, the 38-year-old Madden got off to a slow start with the Panthers, battled a minor lower-body injury and became a healthy scratch on a few occasions. But he’s become a regular part of the lineup as the fourth-line center.

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X-Factor: Kovalchuk in search of playoff breakthrough

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

In nine career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Ilya Kovalchuk has more penalty minutes than points. It is a statistical anomaly of the highest order considering the dynamic Russian wing has averaged better than a point per game in close to 800 regular-season appearances.

Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 83
SOG: 310 | +/-: -9
In his defense, the sample size is rather small. Kovalchuk was assessed 19 penalty minutes during the opening round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Atlanta Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers. He had two goals, six points and six penalty minutes in five postseason games with the Devils in 2010 when the team lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.

But judging by his extraordinary play this season, this postseason might be different for Kovalchuk when it comes to his ratio of points to penalty minutes in the postseason. That's precisely what needs to happen in order for the Devils to make a serious run at the ultimate prize in the end.

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X-Factor: Stalberg gives Hawks added scoring punch

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

It's becoming a more common sight for the Chicago Blackhawks.

An opposing defenseman heads back to get a puck in his own zone, thinking he's in the clear. Suddenly, a blur in a Blackhawks uniform comes motoring along and beats the defenseman to it -- scooping the puck himself and heading for the net at top speed.

That blur's name is Viktor Stalberg and the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Swedish forward is starting to make a name for himself across the League in just his second full season. Blessed with overpowering speed, the 26-year old Stalberg has become an "X-Factor" as the Hawks head into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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X-Factor: Ericsson now quite relevant for Red Wings

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- Jonathan Ericsson is another one of those Detroit Red Wings who make people marvel at the team's European scouting system.

The 28-year old defenseman, who signed a three-year contract extension this past summer to stay in Detroit, was selected in the ninth round (No. 291) of the 2002 NHL Draft. By the way, that also happened to be the last pick in that draft. The NHL Draft has since been shortened to seven rounds.

The NFL would've labeled Ericsson "Mr. Irrelevant" and mockingly honored him with all kinds of fun gift packages. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Ericsson, however, just began his journey to the NHL in relative obscurity.

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X-Factor: Carter is wild-card to Kings' success

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Jeff Carter
Center - LAK
GOALS: 21 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 34
SOG: 184 | +/-: -12

As this season progressed and the Los Angeles Kings, expected to be a contender for the Stanley Cup after adding Mike Richards and Simon Gagne in the offseason, one thing became pretty clear -- they needed to score more goals.

Jonathan Quick was producing a Vezina Trophy-quality season in net, but the Kings were unable to find a place among the top teams in the Western Conference because the offense was severely deficient. General manager Dean Lombardi went searching for an upgrade as the trade deadline approached and he landed Richards' old friend, Jeff Carter, from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Carter had six goals and nine points in 16 games for the Kings after his arrival. Nothing spectacular, but his presence was clearly felt. The Kings, who were 30th in the NHL in goals before the trade, started scoring like a team closer to the top of the offensive standings.

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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players