Series at a glance: New York-New Jersey Eastern Conference finals preview

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Schedule

All times Eastern; *if necessary

Game 1: Monday, May 14, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 2: Wednesday, May 16, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 3: Saturday, May 19, at New Jersey (1 p.m., NBC)
Game 4: Monday, May 21, at New Jersey (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*Game 5: Wednesday, May 23, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*Game 6: Friday, May 25, at New Jersey (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*Game 7: Sunday, May 27, at New York (8 p.m., NBCSN)

Three storylines to follow

1. The rivalry. 

By “rivalry” we mean this, mostly:

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As for individual beefs…

— John Tortorella vs. Peter DeBoer is a good one. Following the March line brawl, DeBoer called Torts a hypocrite. Torts responded by telling DeBoer to shut up.

— Brandon Dubinsky’s got issues with both David Clarkson and Ryan Carter. Just one catch: Dubi missed the entire second round series against Washington with a lower body injury.

— Mike Rupp and Cam Janssen have fought twice this year. So too have Brandon Prust and Eric Boulton. Sadly, it doesn’t look like either will get to the trilogy stage as Janssen and Boulton haven’t played at all this postseason.

— Martin Brodeur’s hatred of the Rangers dates all the way back to the 1992 playoffs vs. New York:

“I was part of the whole seven games,” Brodeur said. “I was on the bench. I was in the locker room. I got to hate the Rangers early on, got the taste of it. And all (this) year with what happened and all the new faces, we’ve got a little bit of that feeling.”

— And finally…if you’re talking the Devils-Rangers playoff rivalry, you have to mention this:

2. R&R.

The Devils haven’t played since Tuesday — they’ll have six full days off before beginning the series. That’s a far cry from the Rangers, who will have less than 48 hours to recover from their grueling seven game series against Washington (that, including all the overtime, was more like an eight-gamer.)

Also worth noting: New York has played 14 games in its first two series. Since the NHL playoffs expanded beyond two rounds in 1968, no team has won the Stanley Cup after playing the maximum 14 games in the opening rounds.

3. The goalies.

As two of the longest-tenured starters in the East, Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist have developed a friendly rivalry with one another. (The fact they play across the Hudson River from each other doesn’t hurt, either.) Individually, both have plenty at stake.

For Lundqvist, this is the crowning achievement of his career — while he’s enjoyed plenty of regular season success, he’s never played in a conference final.

For Brodeur, it could be his last kick at the can — he just turned 40 last week and his six-year, $31.2 million contract expires on July 1.

Records (reg. season)

No. 1 New York: 51-24-7, 109 points (1st in Atlantic) | No. 6 New Jersey: 48-28-6, 102 points (4th in Atlantic).

Leading playoff scorers

New York: Brad Richards (6G-5A-11PTS) | New Jersey: Ilya Kovalchuk (5G-7A-12PTS)

Starting goalies

New York: Henrik Lundqvist (7-6, 1.73 GAA) | Washington: Martin Brodeur (8-3, 2.05 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series tied 3-3

Dec. 20: New York 4, at New Jersey 1
Jan. 31: at New Jersey 4, New York 3, SO
Feb. 7: New Jersey 1, at New York 0
Feb. 27: at New York 2, New Jersey 0
Mar. 6: at New Jersey 4, New York 1
Mar. 19: at New York 4, New Jersey 2

Playoff history

New York leads 4-1

1992: New York 4-3 (Patrick Division semis)
1994: New York 4-3 (Eastern Conference finals)
1997: New York 4-1 (Eastern Conference semis)
2006: New Jersey 4-0 (Eastern Conference quarters)
2008: New York 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarters)

2012 playoffs

New York: Def. Ottawa 4-3 (EC quarters), Def. Washington 4-3 (EC semis) | New Jersey: Def. Florida 4-3 (EC quarters), Def. Philadelphia 4-1 (EC semis)

2011 playoffs

New York: Lost to Washington 4-1 (EC quarters) | New Jersey: Did not qualify.

Stanley Cups

New York: Four (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994) | New Jersey: Three (1995, 2000, 2003)

Injuries

New York: Brandon Dubinsky (foot), Steve Eminger (ankle), Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Michael Sauer (concussion) | New Jersey: Jacob Josefson (wrist), Henrik Tallinder (leg)

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Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

***

In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)

‘Old Time Hockey’ video game takes a bit of an early beating from reviewers

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From the sound of things, “Old Time Hockey” is a video game with a lot of heart, but maybe not the skills to make it to the big time.

While “NHL 17” is pumped out by publishing giant EA Sports, this title is very much an independent labor of love by a company called V7 Entertainment. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy provided a great interview with the developers here. It’s worth noting that the game reminds one of 8-bit titles in another way: lacking an NHL license, these teams are instead fictional. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as much as it provides the title with its own unique “flavor.”

It’s hard not to get behind a scrappy development, especially in an age where sports video game options are so scarce. Some leagues barely see any licensed games any longer (see: the MLB, which feels woefully misrepresented these days), and the arcade-style that “Blades of Steel” and other old-school games popularized is even tougher to come by.

Combine these factors with an aesthetic inspired by “Slap Shot” and “Old Time Hockey” seems like it could really scratch an itch … except, it sounds like the puck missed the net.

So far, reviews are pretty mixed for the title, which is currently on PC and Playstation 4 (with planned releases on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).

While there are a few good reviews here and there, the general reception is of disappointment.

A Sporting News review states that “the promising premise falls apart quickly.” Game Informer slams a “slew-footed story mode.” PC Gamer notes that, with EA not releasing an NHL game on that platform since 2008, there was a need here … but it wasn’t met.

Does that mean there’s no fun to be had? Not necessarily, but it’s a bummer that the game might be off the mark, especially since V7 Entertainment seems to have its heart in the right place.

Then again, maybe those who want that “NHL 94” fix merely need to dig a little. As this Vice article points out, there’s still an active community playing the sort of game that scratches the itch that “Old Time Hockey” – perhaps – can’t quite reach.