There’s ‘no first-round upset’ anymore (so don’t be mean when our predictions are completely wrong)

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I’m passing along this quote from Blues GM Doug Armstrong for one reason and one reason only — we’ll be making our first-round predictions next week on PHT, and I’m terrified I’m going to go like 2-6 and everyone in the comments sections is going to be all “these so-called experts have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Hate the “so-called expert” slight. It’s very hurtful.

So with that in mind, here’s the Armstrong quote, via ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

“I’ll speak more for the West because that’s what I know — there’s really no first-round upset. Obviously, you think experienced teams that have done it before have an edge because they’ve done it before, it’s not their first time through this path, but at the end of the day, you see what Winnipeg is doing now, their goaltending is at the top of his game. Inexperience doesn’t matter if your goalie doesn’t let in a goal.”

Hear that, everyone? There’s no such thing as a first-round upset. Ask Doug Armstrong.

As it stands today, only one playoff series is locked in, and that’s Vancouver-Calgary in the West. Because of course those two are matched up. Two teams that most predicted wouldn’t make the playoffs. Two teams that many feel are lucky to have made it. Now we have to pick one to go through to the second round.

Now look at the wild-card situation in the West. One wild card will be Winnipeg. The other will probably be Minnesota, but could also be Chicago. Any of those three is fully capable of knocking out Anaheim or St. Louis. Heck, the Wild have the same number of regulation/overtime wins as the Ducks, and they’ve got one more than the Blues! Has Minnesota even lost a game since Devan Dubnyk got there? I’ll have to check.

The East is just as bad. I know everyone’s really down on the Bruins and Penguins right now, but if those two make it in they could beat the Canadiens or Rangers. Yes, they could. And if one of them misses and Ottawa gets in, do you bet against the Senators, a.k.a. the guys with the 22-4-4 record in their last 30 games? Oh, and how confident would you be picking an Islanders-Capitals series? Because that’s probably going to happen.

In conclusion, I went 7-1 picking the first round last year. Please remember that when I go 1-7 this year.

Also, Halford picked the Penguins to beat the Kings in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Be mean to him instead.

Unless the Penguins win the Cup.

Which they still could.

NBC Sports Group to air three games on ‘Super Saturday,’ including Wild-Blues and B’s-Bolts

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All 30 NHL teams will play on Saturday as the league puts a bow on the 2014-15 regular season, and NBC will be right in the thick of ‘Super Saturday’ with a trio of games — two of which have major playoff implications.

From the network:

NBC will regionalize coverage at 3 p.m. ET, featuring T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues hosting Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild, while Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings welcome Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks.

Coverage shifts to NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET, when Milan Lucic and the Boston Bruins travel to Tampa Bay to face Steven Stamkos and the Lightning.

The Minnesota-St. Louis game has significant postseason ramifications. Depending on results, the Wild could end up playing either Anaheim, Nashville or St. Louis in Round 1; the Blues will face either Minnesota, Chicago or Winnipeg. St. Louis could also finish as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, having already wrapped up the Central Division.

The Boston-Tampa Bay game could decide the Bruins’ season, depending on what Pittsburgh does in its final two games (versus the Isles and Sabres) and what Ottawa does in its last game against the Flyers on Saturday. If the results fall their way, the B’s could be playing for a wild card spot. This game will also be significant for the Bolts, who can still pass Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division.

Goalie nods: After 39 straight starts, Dubnyk gets a rest

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News and notes from around the crease…

“Duuuuuuubs” takes a break

For the first time since Jan. 15, the Minnesota Wild will start a goalie not named Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk, who’s made 39 consecutive starts — one with Arizona, 38 with the Wild — will be dropped from the lineup entirely tonight as Darcy Kuemper will start in goal against Nashville, with Niklas Backstrom backing up.

While kicking back and relaxing, Dubnyk can reflect on what’s been a truly impressive — and borderline unbelievable — bounce-back campaign. He’s 36-13-4 on the year with a 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage, numbers made even more remarkable given that, last year, he bounced around three different organizations and finished with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton.

For the Predators, Pekka Rinne is the likely starter.

Elsewhere…

Sens at Rangers: Andrew Hammond vs. Henrik Lundqvist

‘Canes at Flyers: Cam Ward vs. Ray Emery

Wings at Habs: Jimmy Howard vs. Carey Price

Devils at Bolts: Keith Kinkaid vs. Ben Bishop

Bruins at Panthers: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Roberto Luongo

‘Hawks at Blues: Corey Crawford (probable) vs. Jake Allen

Jets at Avs: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Reto Berra

Kings at Flames: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Jonas Hiller

Sharks at Oilers: Antti Niemi vs. Laurent Brossoit

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Eddie Lack

Cooke back for Wild after 31-game absence

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The Minnesota Wild are getting healthy at the right time.

Having just returned Jason Zucker (broken collarbone) following an eight-week absence, the Wild will get another key lineup piece back tonight as Matt Cooke (sports hernia) plays for the first time since Feb. 1.

Cooke, who’s missed the last 30 games, had four goals and eight points in 27 contests prior to getting hurt. The 36-year-old should be a welcome addition as the postseason draws near; Cooke is a known playoff performer with over 100 games of experience, capturing a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.

Of course, Cooke is better known as one of the league’s most notorious players — his questionable hits have landed him a series of suspensions, including a seven-game ban last postseason for kneeing Colorado’s Tyson Barrie in the opening round.

PHT Morning skate: Selanne enjoying retirement as a caddy

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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.

Retired NHL great Teemu Selanne was at Augusta National on Wednesday caddying for Finnish golfer Mikko Ilonen at The Masters’ Par 3 contest. (Puck Daddy)

Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling has teamed up with a fellow Chicago native in artist Jason Livery for his newest mask. The mask features several Chicago landmarks and pays tribute to movies shot in the city. (InGoal Magazine)

source:

Actor Dan Aykroyd participated in the Shoot the Puck contest at the United Center in Chicago on Tuesday. Aykroyd, who shot The Blues Brothers in Chicago, showed off his skills during the second intermission of the Wild’s 2-1 win over the Blackhawks.

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $20,000 league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts tonight at 7:00pm ET. Play Now!

Speaking of the Wild’s 2-1 win Tuesday night, the victory earned Minnesota a berth in the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Here’s a look inside the Wild’s room following the win:

The New Jersey Devils have failed to qualify for postseason action for a third consecutive season. As a result, the club decided not to hand out its team awards this season. (The Hockey News)

The Toronto Maple Leafs concluded the road portion of their 2014-15 season with a 5-0 loss Wednesday night in Columbus. The Leafs managed to compile some impressively bad numbers on the road this season outlined here. Following the game, captain Dion Phaneuf was at a loss for words to describe the latest embarrassing loss.