2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: PHT’s conference finals picks

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PHT staffers — myself (Mike Halford), Jason Brough, Joe Yerdon, James O’Brien, Ryan Dadoun and Cam Tucker — did quite well with their Round 2 picks:

Halford: 4-0 (3-5 in Round 1, 7-5 overall)
Brough: 3-1 (7-1 in Round 1, 10-2 overall)
Yerdon: 3-1 (5-3 in Round 1, 8-4 overall)
O’Brien: 4-0 (6-2 in Round 1, 10-2 overall)
Dadoun: 3-1 (6-2 in Round 1, 9-3 overall)
Tucker: 4-0 (5-3 in Round 1, 9-3 overall)

Brough and O’Brien are crushing it overall, while special Round 2 acknowledgement goes to me (the only staffer to pick ‘Hawks in 7) and Dadoun (only one to pick Kings in 7).

As for the commenters? Kingsfan68 and chanceoffleury1 both picked the Pens in 5, and that was about it for highlights.

So, onto the conference finals we go…

Western Conference

No. 1 Chicago vs. No. 5 Los Angeles

Halford: ‘Hawks in 7

Home-ice advantage rules. The ‘Hawks have it, and for as good as the Kings have been at Staples this postseason, they’re 1-5 on the road, with their lone win coming in OT.

Brough: ‘Hawks in 7

I went back and forth on this one a few times. Ultimately, I picked the Blackhawks for two reasons. First, they have home-ice advantage. Two, they have a mobile defense that may be able to mitigate the Kings’ forecheck.

Yerdon: Kings in 6

To make this easy, I think LA steals one in Chicago and holds serve at home like they have all playoffs. Quick reigns.

O’Brien: Kings in 7

If this was a regular season series, Chicago might dominate. “Conservative” officiating will do the Kings just enough favors to eke out a close win.

Dadoun: Kings in 7

The Kings and Blackhawks are both so deep and talented but, in the end, I just can’t bet against Quick right now.

Tucker: ‘Hawks in 7

The Kings know how to win, but the Blackhawks should be at their best after the scare they went through in the second round with the Red Wings. Crawford can further solidify himself as a premier NHL goalie.

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 4 Boston

Halford: Pens in 6

Worried about Boston’s back-end. Just not sure Krug and Bartkowski will handle the shift in pressure from the Rangers to the Penguins. It’s asking a lot from two guys with 35 combined games of NHL experience.

Brough: Pens in 7

I picked the Penguins to win the Cup before the playoffs started and they’ve done nothing to make me think twice, so I’ll stick with them here. But if anyone can shut down (or at least contain) Crosby and Malkin, it’s Bergeron and Chara.

Yerdon: Pens in 7

Neither team has faced someone like their opponent yet. Pittsburgh’s talent up front makes the difference in this series.

O’Brien: Pens in 6

The Boston Bruins match up remarkably well against the Penguins, but all-world firepower plus the steadiness of Vokoun equals paydirt for Pittsburgh.

Dadoun: Pens in 6

The Penguins are scoring like it’s the 1980s. This will be Rask’s greatest challenge yet and while I think he’ll look good at times, I don’t think it’ll be enough.

Tucker: Pens in 6

Goaltending is an aspect of the game the Bruins have the advantage in. But the great equalizer to goaltending is a star like Crosby. Expect a tight series but Penguins prevail.

Devils putting no pressure on Nico Hischier

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) As Nico Hischier is discovering, being taken No. 1 in the NHL Draft has its perks.

Since being selected by the New Jersey Devils with the top pick Friday night, Hischier has flown from Chicago to New Jersey, watched the New York Red Bulls play a MLS game and gone to a New York Yankees game.

And that was just Saturday and Sunday.

The Swiss center did a radio show Monday morning, met Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, visited a famous city deli to eat a new sandwich named after him and held his first major press conference at the Prudential Center, the home of the Devils.

And if you are wondering about the 2017-18 season, general manager Ray Shero says the Devils are keeping a roster spot open for Hischier. No pressure.

At least that’s what Shero and coach John Hynes are telling the kid. There’s no pressure at all.

“It’s great,” Hischier said. “Obviously as the first pick you have some pressure, but to hear that guys that are close to you and from the organization say there is actually no pressure from them, it’s all that counts.”

Hischier plans to return to Switzerland soon and start training for next season. He has a Devils development camp on July 11.

When asked about his goals for next season, Hischier says make the team and go from there.

Hynes, who saw the Devils finish last in the 16-team Eastern Conference this past season, sees Hischier as a second-or-third line center at the start of training camp. He expects to put at least one veteran on his line, adding that chemistry may determine Hischier’s linemates.

It’s a starting point.

Hynes said Hischier is competitive, skates well and knows the game. He can also play on the power play and kill penalties.

“We’re counting on him and planning on him to be a real important part of our team,” Hynes said.

Shero was quick to point out that the Devils are not expecting Hischier to put up monster numbers like Connor McDavid of Edmonton or Austin Matthews of Toronto, the last two top picks. They were franchise makers.

“The expectation we have for Nico is to be himself and I will say it will make a difference,” Shero said.

Hischier had 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season. He played the previous two seasons in the Swiss professional league.

Shero views him an unselfish player who has the ability to make the other players on the ice better.

“He is not coming here to be the savior,” said Shero, whose team won 28 of 82 games in 2016-17, and missed the playoffs the past five seasons.

Shero added it is unfair to put pressure on an 18-year-old to make a major difference in the Devils next season, joking he can’t even get his 19-year-old son to respond to the pressure of taking out the garbage at home.

“I know what I can do, but I still know I have to work hard for that,” said Hischier, who does not think he will have a hard time adjusting from living in Switzerland and Halifax to live in the New York City metropolitan area.

And if he did, Hynes offered him a solution.

“You can stay at my house and take out the trash,” he quipped.

NOTES: Hischier visited Hobby’s Delicatessen and Restaurant a couple of blocks from the Prudential Center and ate the new item on the menu: “The New Nico (hash)1. It’s grilled chicken, authentic Swiss cheese, red Jersey tomatoes with lettuce, onions, honey mustard and mayo on roll.

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.