Gustav Nyquist, Tuukka Rask

Pressing question: Could this be the year of the upset?

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One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

Here’s hoping the answer is yes, because I picked all four lower seeds to win in the West.

The thing is, I doubt I’d feel any less uncertain (and I feel quite uncertain) if I’d done the complete opposite. To illustrate, let’s quickly run down all four series involving top seeds versus wild-card teams:

Ducks (1) versus Stars (8): Dallas has the superior possession stats, plus Anaheim will probably have a rookie in goal.

Avalanche (2) versus Wild (7): Colorado has terrible possession stats, plus Matt Duchene is out to start the series.

Bruins (1) versus Red Wings (8): Boston’s gone the distance in its last three first-round series, and now it gets a Detroit side that almost certainly would’ve finished higher in the standings if not for all its injuries.

Penguins (2) versus Blue Jackets (7): In my opinion, this would be the biggest upset if it were to happen. But is anybody all that bullish on Pittsburgh this year?

In reality, the potential for a massive upset doesn’t actually exist anymore in the NHL. It’s not like back in the day when there was no salary cap and only five out of 21 teams missed the playoffs.

The Miracle on Manchester, now that was an upset. The Kings finished the 1981-82 season with a 24-41-15 record and knocked off Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers, who finished 48-17-15.

Three decades later, when the No. 8-seed Kings beat the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks in the first round, nobody was all that shocked. In fact, a lot of people had predicted it would happen, based on the possession stats.

Earlier today, I published a fun post called “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup.” (OK, commenter wtfkwp, a real hit at parties, didn’t think it was so fun: “I’m not sure how you get paid for takes like that.”) But it really wasn’t that hard to write. There isn’t a single team without significant concerns heading into the postseason.

All of which is to say, thanks for reading PHT’s first-round predictions. But we really have no idea what’s going to happen, so you’ll have to watch the games.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.