The disparity is huge. Duncan Keith is averaging 32:03, Kimmo Timonen just 10:22. The most ice time among Blackhawks defensemen, versus the least.
Partly by design and partly by necessity, Keith has been a workhouse for Chicago in these playoffs.
“He’s a freak,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said, per NHL.com. “He’s one of those athletes you don’t see every day. He’s as physically fit and prepared as they come, and he’s a guy that obviously loves playing hockey.”
Keith had three points in Game 6 versus Nashville, including the winning goal on a play that perfectly illustrated the 31-year-old’s ability to walk (dance?) the line and open shooting lanes:
Don’t expect the Blackhawks to lean any less on Keith in their series versus the Wild. Chicago’s defense has been under the microscope a lot this season, with inconsistent play from veterans Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival. The addition of 40-year-old Timonen has not done anything to quell concerns.
Said captain Jonathan Toews of Keith: “It’s huge for him to be as dynamic as he is offensively. But the minutes and the style that he plays, he means a lot to our team.”
Even without Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers will still pose a speedy challenge for the Washington Capitals when the two teams kick off their second-round series tonight at MSG.
“I think [Carl] Hagelin and [Chris] Kreider jump out as probably their top speed guys,” Caps d-man Brooks Orpik said, per NHL.com. “I think from video we have watched it’s more the way they play than the individual speed. If you turn the puck over, the transition from their defense to the forwards with those stretch passes is good. It forces teams to play fast so that’ll be really important. We need to manage the puck well so they don’t hit us with that transition speed.”
It’s that quick-strike potential on offense that made the Rangers one of the top-scoring teams during the regular season, despite not boasting the best possession numbers.
As Orpik noted, not only can some of the Rangers really skate, their coach, Alain Vigneault, demands his players move the puck quickly.
“It’s about making good, clean passes to our forwards to help them get up the ice,” d-man Keith Yandle learned upon joining the Rangers from Arizona, per NHL.com.
But remember, these are Barry Trotz’s Capitals now. Washington plays with the kind of patience and structure that can stifle a good offense, as we saw Monday when John Tavares and the New York Islanders were held to just 11 shots.
“They really respect the way their coach wants them to play,” said Rangers center Derrick Brassard, per CBS New York. “They have a really good structure now. Their players are willing to pay the price. They’re competing real hard. That’s why they’re having a lot of success this year.”
Related: Here’s the second-round schedule
The latest Stanley Cup odds, per Bovada:
New York Rangers — 13/4
Chicago Blackhawks — 4/1
Anaheim Ducks — 9/2
Minnesota Wild — 11/2
Montreal Canadiens — 13/2
Tampa Bay Lightning — 15/2
Washington Capitals — 9/1
Calgary Flames — 12/1
Gotta be honest, nothing looks too tempting there. I picked the Lightning to win it all, and I guess 15/2 isn’t a terrible payout. But did anyone think Tampa Bay looked great against Detroit? I didn’t.
If I absolutely had to make a bet — taking into consideration both the team and potential winnings — I’d go with Washington at 9/1. Heading into the playoffs I wasn’t sure how Evgeny Kuznetsov would fare as a second-line center. Well, we all know what he did against the Isles. To be sure, the Rangers will be a really tough out, but I think they’ll miss the speed and play-making ability of Mats Zuccarello.
Related: PHT’s Round 2 picks, once again featuring The Coin