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Surprising Canucks or Flames will reach 2nd round

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

NHL.com

One of two teams that didn't reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season is guaranteed to be in the Western Conference Second Round this season.

The Calgary Flames haven't been in the playoffs since the 2008-09 season and haven't won a playoff round since 2004, when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Vancouver Canucks missed the playoffs last season after making it for five consecutive seasons, including twice as the Presidents' Trophy winner. Like the Flames, the Canucks haven't won a playoff round since they last reached the Stanley Cup Final, which was in 2011.

The past two times the Flames and Canucks have met in the playoffs, the winner of the series went on to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

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Why the Senators will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Ottawa Senators were the best team in the NHL from Feb. 10 through the end of the season. It stands to reason they can continue to be the best in the NHL until the middle of June.

Every team wants to be playing its best hockey going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Senators certainly can say they are.

Ottawa went 23-4-4 in their final 31 games to climb from 14 points out entering their game against the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 10 to make their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ottawa went on its run because it got surprisingly elite goaltending from Andrew Hammond and used the confidence gained from that to play fast and aggressive in all three zones, particularly through the middle of the ice.

In doing so, the Senators got some luck on their side and turned a bad trend of losing one-goal games into a positive trend by winning them. They were 10-12-9 in one-goal games through Feb. 8; they went 11-0-4 in one-goal games from Feb. 10 through the end of the season, including 7-4 in games extended past regulation.

There are four big reasons the Senators went on their big run, and why they have it in them to take this the distance in the spring.

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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 - NHL.com 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.

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Why the Jets will win the Stanley Cup

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

David Satriano - NHL.com 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."

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Rapidly maturing Horvat is X-factor for Canucks

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

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com 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."

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Coaching rematch when Predators meet Blackhawks

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

NHL.com

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).

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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 - NHL.com 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.

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Goaltending issues cloud Detroit's playoff outlook

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

Paul Harris - NHL.com 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.

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Predators' Weber happy to see playoffs again

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

Robby Stanley - NHL.com 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.

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Rangers' Nash ready to forget painful playoff past

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

Dan Rosen - NHL.com 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.

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Quote of the Day

It's very special, obviously; there is draft day and then there's the day that you sign your first deal. It's been a crazy couple of weeks and I'm very honored to be able to do that."

— Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid on signing his first professional contract