Morning Skate 413: Stanley Cup playoff preview

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Morning Skate 413: Stanley Cup playoff preview

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com
WILMINGTON, Mass. The time has finally come. Its Stanley Cup prediction time at the Morning Skate, and -- before its all said and done -- Ill leave all of the playoff picks as well as conference finals and Stanley Cup winner. What the heck. Ill throw the Conn Smythe winner in there as well.There may not be many upsets in the first round given the matchups, but I dont really see the No. 1 seed in either the East or the West making it through to the finals. How do you like them apples?Without further ado, heres the Stanley Cup playoff picks along with the links from the afternoon before the greatest tournament in pro sports gets started tonight.
EASTERN CONFERENCEWashington Capitals (No. 1) vs. New York Rangers (No. 8) The Caps are rolling and the Rangers dont even belong in the playoff after backing in. Losing Ryan Callahan was the final straw for the Blueshirts, who will be lucky to push it past four or five games with Washington. Pick: WashingtonPhiladelphia Flyers (No. 2) vs. Buffalo Sabres (No. 7) I love the way the Sabres played down the stretch, and I have serious questions about Philly rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Couple that with the way the Flyers limped down the stretch and question marks surrounding Chris Pronger, and I smell a Buffalo upset in seven games. Pick: BuffaloBoston Bruins (No. 3) vs. Montreal Canadiens (No. 6) The most anticipated playoff match in either conference, and one that could really weaken the Bs in an extended postseason run if it gets too gnarly. Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara are too big and strong for the Habs at the end of the day, but it wont be easy. Bruins in six games with a sweet celebration on the Bell Centre ice. Pick: Boston Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 4) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 5) The most difficult series to handicap given so many variables. No Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for the Pens and some pretty soft defensemenplayoff inexperience for the Bolts in their first postseason look since 2007. Pittsburgh will have a hard time mustering any offense, and that will doom them at the end of the day in a competitive seven-game series. Pick: Tampa Bay
WESTERN CONFERENCEVancouver Canucks (No. 1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (No. 8) This is the one team that Vancouver didnt want to play, and this has all the makings of the Blackhawks finally pulling it all together. Does anybody doubt that Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Co. will shift into another gear now that the postseason has arrived? Itll go seven games, but the Canucks are going to be bitterly disappointed. Pick: ChicagoSan Jose Sharks (No. 2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (No. 7) The Jumbo Joe Thornton factor wont come into play in the first round against a Kings team crippled without Anze Kopitar. The Sharks have so much talent and firepower, and will overwhelm the Kings in five games. Pick: San JoseDetroit Red Wings (No. 3) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (No. 6) The Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg to start with a knee injury, but something tells me theyll be able to blind the Desert Dogs with the shine from their previous Stanley Cup bling. It shouldnt take more than five games. Pick: DetroitAnaheim Ducks (No. 4) vs. Nashville Predators (No. 5) Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne against the gritty, gutty Predators that just keep on trucking in the non-traditional hockey market. Nashville is a great story, but Carrie Underwood wont be singing any Stanley Cup tunes this time around provided Anaheim gets something resembling decent goaltending. Pick: AnaheimEastern Conference Final: Capitals vs. BruinsWestern Conference Final: Red Wings vs. Sharks.Stanley Cup Final: Red Wings defeat the Bruins in six games.Conn Smythe winner: Jimmy Howard And now on to the links: Dandy Don Cherry talked about his keys to the HabsBruins series, and you wont be surprised who he likes.A good look at Philadelphia Flyers and noted Finnish flash Ville Leino by Philly.com. Leino really burst onto the scene during last years run to the Cup Finals.NHL draft maven Kirk Luedeke goes over the dizzying number of options for the Bs at the No. 9 spot in the first round after locking the selection into place.Marc Crawford takes the high road after getting whacked by the Dallas Stars when his team didnt show up in a do-or-die final game of the season.Carey Price and Scott Gomez are they keys to a series win over the Bruins, according to NHL.com writer Arpon Basu.The USA Today marvels at all three California hockey teams making it into this years Western Conference field of eight.The defense never rests in the NHL, and the Toronto Globe and Mail is determined to prove it.Brian Burke opens up to the Globe and Mail about some of the extreme difficulty hes experiencing watching another Leafs team that wasnt good enough for playoff muster.Hockey Prospectus examines what it takes for a hockey team to have success in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and its an interesting read.A hockey family experiences an encounter with Sidney Crosby as he attempts to come back from his concussion, and comes away a heart-warming feeling about Sid the Kid.ESPN.coms Michael Wilbon goes in depth with Alexander Ovechkin as his team tries to change the way they do business headed into this years Stanley Cup playoffs.Last but not least, who doesnt love the Separated at Birth photo gallery with celebs and hockey players SI.com has postedjust in time for the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs.Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.