CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 12: Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings approaches the puck as Michal Handzus #26 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows along side during the NHL game on April 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Blackhawks open series vs Red Wings


There were plenty of upsets in round one, but yesterday was devoid of major surprises as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings comfortably beat the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks respectively.

Will that trend continue or will a low seed make it to the Conference Finals? Let’s take a look at tonight’s action:

Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks host Detroit Red Wings (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)

The Detroit Red Wings will head to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 campaign, so this was their last chance to meet Chicago in the playoffs as division rivals.

The Blackhawks swept their season series, but the Red Wings managed to push them to overtime in three of their four meetings. That naturally suggests that we might be in for some close playoff contests, but so much of that depends on Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and captain Henrik Zetterberg.

Those two players are huge to this team and when they’re playing at their best, Detroit is capable of stealing games from a team like the Blackhawks. Aside from them, Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula is the x-factor in this series. He’s coming off of a disappointing season, but he started to heat up towards the end of the first round and played a role in Detroit advancing.

It seems almost inaccurate to label any player on the Blackhawks as an x-factor, simply because the team is so deep. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane didn’t score a single goal in the first round (although they did combine for seven assists), but Chicago still had no problem dispatching the Minnesota Wild.

Only three Chicago players participated in all five games and didn’t end up with at least a point and all of them – Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival, and Brandon Bollig – made defensive contributions. The Red Wings might be able to match the Blackhawks in terms of top-end talent, but it’s Chicago’s depth that makes them the heavy favorites in this series.

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

1 Comment

While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks