Michal Handzus #26 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates with teammates Patrick Kane #88 and Patrick Sharp #10 after Handzus scored in the second period of Game Two of the Western Conference Final during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center on June 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Kings 4-2.
(June 1, 2013 - Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

Cup finals questions: Can both teams stay so remarkably healthy?

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When people talk about how deep the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are, it’s partially because of how well these teams were assembled, but it’s also due to how close they are to operating at 100% going into the Stanley Cup finals.

Obviously, the Boston Bruins don’t have Marc Savard (concussion), but beyond that the only player on either team that isn’t available for Game 1 is the Bruins fourth-line center, Gregory Campbell.

Will that streak of relatively good health last for what’s left of the playoffs? Maybe, but it’s far from certain.

At this time of the year, these guys will play through a lot. In fact, not too long after Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews or his Bruins counterpart Zdeno Chara lifts the Stanley Cup over his head, we will probably start to learn of players that were battling through significant injuries.

Still, this figures to be a close series that’s sure to feature a lot of big hits and blocked shots. The fact that both teams are so good at killing penalties and mediocre to bad with the man advantage, means that they can feel a little more comfortable playing aggressively.

Hopefully both sides will stay healthy, but if guys do go down, the silver lining is that these teams have players that can step up if need be. The Boston Bruins did just that when they lost defensemen Wade Redden, Andrew Ference, and Dennis Seidenberg, so we know they’re deep in terms of blueliners.

Boston is already shorthanded as far as forwards go, but they do have a promising youngster in Jordan Caron if they need him. Tyler Seguin could also stand to take on more responsibilities if one of Boston’s top players gets hurt, given that Seguin has been logging just 15:14 minutes per game in the postseason.

The Blackhawks have some solid forwards that can step up if need be, as evidenced by the fact that Viktor Stalberg might not even make their Game 1 lineup. They also have Daniel Carcillo ready and waiting. However, they might be less prepared to handle the loss of a key defenseman.

Chicago was able to endure Duncan Keith’s recent one-game suspension, but his replacement, Sheldon Brookbank, had a minus-two rating and logged just 6:50 minutes.

Probably the worst case scenario for either team is that they lose a goaltender, although in Chicago’s case, they do have an accomplished – albeit rusty – backup in Ray Emery.

For more 2013 Cup finals questions, click here.

 

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.