PHT’s Stanley Cup Final picks, once again featuring The Coin

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If you’re still not familiar with The Coin thing — a 1972 Eisenhower Dollar that we used in the opening three rounds — click here to get up to speed (and bask in all its coinly glow.)

The Coin continued its dominance in the conference finals, accurately predicting that the Bolts and ‘Hawks would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Coin improved to 10-4 overall this postseason. Other staff members (of the animate variety) to pick Tampa Bay-Chicago were Brough, Dadoun, Tucker and O’Brien. That leaves our records at:

Jason Brough: 9-5
Mike Halford: 8-6
Ryan Dadoun: 10-4
James O’Brien: 10-4
Cam Tucker: 11-3
Dhiren Mahiban: 9-5

Onto the Final…

Brough: Bolts in 7 (Preseason pick: Tampa Bay)

Easy pick for me. I chose the Lightning in October, and I don’t see any reason to abandon them now. Okay, maybe I see one reason: the Blackhawks. That’s a pretty good team they’ve got in Chicago. And I guess I haven’t been entirely impressed with the Lightning, who’ve been blown out four times at home in these playoffs and were, frankly, lucky to escape the first round. So that’s two reasons. But I’m a stubborn man and I truly do believe the Lightning have all the necessary pieces to upset the favored ‘Hawks.

Halford: Bolts in 7 (Preseason pick: Pittsburgh)

While I love a good narrative, I’m not fully buying into the “inexperienced Bolts will eventually succumb to the veteran Blackhawks” thing. Why? Well, a big part of the reason Tampa Bay’s here is because its young guys have defied expectations, and achieved success quicker than expected — including the coach (five years ago, Jon Cooper was in the USHL finals.) Tampa’s passed every test this postseason, including a historic win at MSG in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolt are skilled, they’re fast, they’re deep and, as the first three rounds have shown, they’re ready.

O’Brien: ‘Hawks in 6 (Preseason pick: Chicago)

Remember when the Islanders beat the Gretzky Oilers back in the 80’s, and “The Great One” remarked about the beat-up dynasty members icing themselves in the locker room rather than spraying each other with champagne after besting them for the Cup? This will be a modern version of that series: the Blackhawks will teach the Lightning how to win. Also: when in doubt, choose the West over the East.

Dadoun: ‘Hawks in 7 (Preseason pick: St. Louis)

Chicago doesn’t have the best goaltender in the NHL, but neither does Tampa Bay and at least Corey Crawford is more thoroughly battle tested. The Blackhawks’ bottom-two defensemen are questionable, but with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the charge, they don’t necessary need to be deep to outplay the Lightning. Tampa Bay has plenty of offensive weapons, but Chicago has more proven big-game forwards.

Tucker: ‘Hawks in 6 (Preseason pick: Chicago)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have proven to be an exciting group with a promising future. But they’re facing a Blackhawks team that’s loaded with Stanley Cup champions, led by Jonathan Toews, who had his best moments in these playoffs when it mattered most in the Western Conference Final. Both Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford have gone through ups and downs in these playoffs, but Crawford has settled into a groove after the opening round, while Bishop’s struggles are more recent, and against a goal-strapped New York team. And the Blackhawks have a decidedly more dangerous lineup than the one Bishop faced against the Rangers.

Mahiban: ‘Hawks in 7 (Preseason pick: Chicago)

Chicago’s experience will prevail over the youth and inexperience of Tampa. The Blackhawks’ core pieces know what it takes to win at this time of year. The Bolts, meanwhile, are reminiscent of the 2008 Penguins when a young Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup final only to lose to Detroit. The experience served the Pens’ young core well as they made it back to the big dance a year later, topping the Wings.

Coin: ‘Hawks

/drops mic

Letang cleared for workouts, Dupuis still being assessed

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The Pittsburgh Penguins got some good news about Kris Letang (concussion), but Pascal Dupuis’ future is still hazy, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Letang has gotten the OK to participate in workouts without any restrictions. That doesn’t mean he’s fully recovered, but he might be 100% by the time training camp starts. A healthy Letang is naturally a very big asset for Pittsburgh. He had 11 goals and 54 points in 69 games while averaging 25:29 minutes per contest in 2014-15.

Getting Pascal Dupuis back would be a big deal as well, but the 36-year-old forward’s future is still very much in question. He hasn’t played since Nov. 15 because he was diagnosed with a blood clots. He’s been skating for months now and the Penguins hope to know more about his availability soon.

“The next step is, there are certain medications you can go on that may allow you to play, or may not allow you to play,” Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said.

“That’s the next step now, to see if there’s a medication that gives him enough recovery time that he’s available to play every day. That’s what we’re waiting to see.”

Related:

Dupuis thinks he can play again, but ‘it’s not up to me’

Letang (concussion), Dupuis (blood clots) to be ‘retested’ over next two weeks

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The next 14 days will be fairly important ones for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Defenseman Kris Letang and forward Pascal Dupuis — who were shut down this season due to a concussion and blood clots, respectively — are set to undergo medical tests over the next two weeks in the hopes of clearing up their playing futures.

“We will hopefully know something then,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said, per the Tribune-Review. “[We’re] keeping our fingers crossed.”

Dupuis, 36, was shut down in mid-November with a blood clot in his lung. While he said he feels he can return to action, he did acknowledge the decision was “not up to me,” and that a series of medical tests would be required before he could be cleared.

A regular linemate of Sidney Crosby, Dupuis is heading into the third of a four-year, $15 million deal that carries an average annual cap hit of $3.75M.

As for Letang, he was shut down in early April after suffering his fourth concussion in three years on this hit from Arizona captain Shane Doan:

The 28-year-old also suffered a stroke last season — one that, remarkably, only sidelined him for 10 weeks — yet insists that he’ll be ready to go for training camp in the fall.

More, from the Tribune-Review:

[Letang] hasn’t considered having his career cut short by head injuries.

“No concern,” he said. “I’m on my way to coming back. I’m just going through the protocol. I’ll be back on the ice. I missed only a bunch of games once, when I got (a concussion) in Montreal (in 2011). I never missed time for a concussion after that. I’m not really scared.”

Letang said he will be ready for next season.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Oh yeah. Right from training camp.”

It’s likely the prognoses for both Letang and Dupuis will affect how Rutherford addresses free agency and potential offseason trades. The Penguins missed Dupuis’ production up front — in his last full season, the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, he had 38 points in 48 games — and Letang was the biggest injury on a blueline that was decimated in the second half of the season, to where the Pens dressed just five d-men for a couple of games down the stretch.

2015 Masterton Trophy finalists: Dubnyk, Hammond, Letang

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The Professional Hockey Writers Association named the three finalists for the 2015 Bill Masterton Trophy on Thursday: Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, Ottawa Senators netminder Andrew Hammond and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.

The award goes to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” It’s tough to think of three better nominees for the 2014-15 season.

Dubnyk, 28, went from a ruinous season in 2013-14 (being cast off by the Edmonton Oilers and eventually finding himself in career limbo) to a Vezina Trophy finalist this season. You can read more about his journey here.

Hammond, 27, came into the season as an unknown. He was an undrafted free agent with little on his resume, only to lead the Senators to one of the most unlikely playoff bids in recent memory (if ever). He also earned a lifetime supply of free McDonald’s, so he’s not without awards already. (Though he’d probably take a new contract over unlimited McGriddles.) The Senators have more on “The Hamburgler” here.

Letang, 28, overcame the greatest odds physically. He suffered a frightening stroke last season – and has dealt with plenty of more traditional injuries over the years, including unfortunate concussion issues – only to post possibly the best season of his NHL career in 2014-15. Check out more from the Penguins, including some heartfelt quotes from the Penguins.

All three players present inspirational stories, but only one will bring home the Masterton this year.

Friedman: Penguins need to ‘think about’ trading Malkin

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The Pittsburgh Penguins came up short in the playoffs again, falling in five games to the New York Rangers while scoring just eight goals total.

And you know what another playoff disappointment for the Penguins means — no shortage of ideas on how to fix them.

While the jobs of the coach and GM appear safe, at least one prominent NHL insider — Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman — believes it’s time for the franchise to “think about” trading Evgeni Malkin.

“If you can get two or three pieces including a guy that can play with (Sidney) Crosby, don’t you have to think about it?” Friedman said Monday on Sportnet radio. “At what point do you say, yeah, we won the Stanley Cup, but that was six years ago? These two guys together make $18.2 million, and we keep losing in the playoffs because we don’t have enough support pieces.”

Remember that the Penguins also have defenseman Kris Letang signed to a hefty contract. In fact, Crosby, Malkin and Letang are each top-25 cap hits in the NHL.

Now, for the record, the Penguins say they have “no interest” in breaking up Crosby and Malkin, so all this could be a complete non-starter.

‘Tis that time of the season, though.