Patrick Kane

Rangers are 2/1 Cup favorites; Lundqvist favored to win Conn Smythe

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The latest Stanley Cup odds, courtesy online bookmaker Bovada:

New York Rangers — 2/1
Chicago Blackhawks — 11/5
Anaheim Ducks — 12/5
Tampa Bay Lightning — 19/4

Now, there’s always some smart guy who mentions it in the comments section, so we might as well beat him to the punch:

No, the odds aren’t always exactly what the oddsmakers believe to be 100-percent true. In this case, there’s possibly been a slight adjustment based on the size of New York’s fan base compared to, say, Tampa Bay’s. Generally, people like to bet on their favorite teams, and an Original Six team like the Rangers, in a big city like New York, has a lot of fans.

Then again, maybe Tampa Bay’s the long shot of the four because the oddsmakers just don’t think the Lightning have been very good in the playoffs. (Which they really haven’t been.)

Anyway, here are the Conn Smythe Trophy favorites:

Henrik Lundqvist — 4/1
Patrick Kane — 17/2
Corey Perry — 9/1
Jonathan Toews — 19/2

Size matchup will be one to watch when Blackhawks meet Ducks

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According to the NHL’s media website, the Chicago Blackhawks have an average weight of 197.3 pounds. Kris Versteeg is the lightest at 176 pounds, which is only slightly lighter than Patrick Kane (177), Teuvo Teravainen (178), and Andrew Shaw (179). There are a few heavy skaters, like Bryan Bickell (223) and Brent Seabrook (220), but for the most part, this is not a gigantic team we’re talking about.

And then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks’ next opponent, who boast an average weight of 207.5 pounds. Sure, Sami Vatanen, at just 180 pounds, isn’t very heavy, but Patrick Maroon (231), Ryan Getzlaf (218), and Corey Perry (213) definitely are. Did we mention those three play on the same line?

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is fully cognizant of the size disparity between the two teams. He’s not too worried about it, though.

“I think size and talent is great. But size alone is not the answer,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “We’ve seen that more than ever with the modern game here in the last few years. It’s never been more friendly for a smaller player to play because it’s really a skill game now. If you have size in addition to that, that’s great. We like big players, too. We don’t have an aversion to that at all. Anaheim does it really well with the players they have. But there’s not one way to win.”

That being said, the size matchup will certainly be one to watch when the ‘Hawks and Ducks kick things off in the Western Conference finals. The undersized Flames had all sorts of trouble handling the big Ducks in their second-round series.

Here’s but one example of what size and strength can do:

The key for the Blackhawks will be to avoid getting cornered like that. The solution? Quick feet. Quick decisions. Quick passes. Or, as Mike Babcock likes to say, “Play fast.”

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they’re fully capable of doing just that — and that starts with their star defenseman, Duncan Keith.

Save for the goalies, no player is likely to get more ice time in this series than the “freak” Keith, and no player’s performance may be more pivotal. Expect the Ducks to do everything they can to get to him. 

Just don’t expect them to find it easy.

Kings forward Dustin Brown, one of the NHL’s best at getting in on the forecheck, knows what it’s like to try and hunt down Keith.

“For me, it’s just his skating ability,” said Brown. “He has the ability to get himself out of trouble. He’s a real big part of that team from the back end. He’s one of those guys that plays against top guys but also has the offensive side of the game. He’s the best offensive guy on the back end and he really helps those forwards with their transition game because of his heads-up play and he moves the puck really quick.”

Despite stunning Wild finish, ‘Hawks eliminate them for third straight year

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The Minnesota Wild went into this series hoping this year would be different. After being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, Minnesota certainly seemed to be in a better position.

The Wild finished the season with a 28-9-3 run. They beat the Central Division winning St. Louis Blues in six games. They had more experience this time around. They weren’t dealing with goaltending injuries. Surely this year would be different.

No.

Chicago forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp played at their typical high level while goaltender Corey Crawford successfully put his rough first round behind him. At the other end of the ice Devan Dubnyk, who got a Vezina Trophy nomination off the strength of his superb second half in 2014-15, couldn’t consistently hold his own against the Blackhawks.

In a last gasp, the Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes of play, but it was too late as their season ended with a 4-3 loss to Chicago. In the end, Marian Hossa’s shorthanded goal on an empty net proved to be the winner. Before that, Kane provided the Blackhawks with a key insurance goal midway through the third period:

Chicago has become the first team to eliminate the same opponent in three consecutive years since Toronto did that to Ottawa in 2000-02, per the NHL Communications Department.

This also means that the Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the fifth time in seven years. That’s a remarkable stretch of playoff success, especially in the salary cap era.

Questions remain for Chicago going forward, not the least of which is what its defense will look like if Michal Rozsival misses a lengthy period of time due to what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. For now though, Chicago can take a breather as it waits to see who will emerge victorious from the series between Calgary and Anaheim.

For a playoff overview and all tonight’s biggest stories, click here.

PHT Morning Skate: ‘Business as usual’ tonight for Bishop

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Ben Bishop will make starts on consecutive nights for the first time this season tonight as the Tampa Bay Lightning look to complete the sweep of their second round series with the Montreal Canadiens. Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter discuss the issues Bishop will face playing on back-to-back nights in the Florida heat.

With Patrick Kane scoring five goals through the first three games of the Blackhawks series against the Wild, a Wikipedia editor got a little creative with Minnesota’s Wikipedia page. (SI.com)

Ducks Patrick Maroon draws inspiration from young Kings’ fan battling cancer. (Bar Down)

“I wanted to prove I don’t belong in the stands” – Caps’ forward Andre Burakovsky on his two-goal performance in Game 4. (ESPN.com)

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss what the Rangers need to do to address their scoring woes heading into Game 5.

Yeo: ‘I hate the word — I’ve never been swept’

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The day after a hugely disappointing loss to Chicago — one that put his team down 3-0 in the series and on the brink of a sweep — Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo was blunt in explaining what motivates him.

“I hate the word — I’ve never been swept.” he explained. “That’s pretty motivating in itself.”

For Yeo and the Wild, their third crack at the ‘Hawks has been anything but charmed. After bowing out of the ’13 playoffs in five games and six games last year, they were poised to give Chicago all it could handle this postseason, especially coming off an Round 1 victory in which the dispatched of a quality Blues team.

But little’s gone right for Minnesota.

Much of that is due to Corey Crawford, who’s been razor sharp for most of the series and, even when he hasn’t, the Wild failed to capitalize; in Game 1, when they put three past Crawford in a furious second-period rally, Teuvo Teravainen’s long-range shot eluded Devan Dubnyk for what proved to be the decisive tally.

“I didn’t pick it up until it was about 5-6 feet in front of me and just kind of a flash and that’s why I kind of just waved at it and missed it,” Dubnyk said of the goal. “The way it came up the wall, I didn’t see it come off the guy’s stick and I didn’t pick it up at all, but that’s my job.”

That’s a microcosm of Minnesota’s fate throughout the series — play a tight game, have it decided by one or two plays. It’s tough not to think Minnesota deserves a better fate or, at the very least, a 2-1 series deficit; in Game 3, the Wild were largely the better team — outshooting Chicago 30-22 — but the decisive moment came from Patrick Kane, who scored the game’s lone goal with a tricky shot in the first period.

This is probably why Yeo used the words he when discussing a sweep. The Wild feel they probably should’ve won at least one game this series… and are adamant they still can.

“The motivation’s not part of it. We wouldn’t even be here if we didn’t have that kind of pride,” Yeo explained. “How we approach it right now is what matters most.

“For me, I’m just doing everything I can to make sure our guys are ready. I’m ready to coach the best game I can tomorrow.”