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

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing. 

Bruins’ new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility to open Sept. 8.

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Bruins’ new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility to open Sept. 8.

The Bruins’ new practice facility has been years in the making and they will finally get to officially open the doors to Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton next month. 

The B’s players will start informal captain’s practice skates at the new facility on the New Balance property in these final days of August, but the team announced on Friday that the new facility will be officially opened to the public on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney and a number of players will be on hand for the opening ceremony and ensuing open house for the media. Also planning to attend from New Balance will be Owner and Chairman Jim Davis and NB Development Group LLC Managing Director Jim Halliday, along with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. 

Following the formal portion of the event, Warrior Ice Arena will host the “Boston Youth All-Star Game featuring Bruins Alumni” which will feature local squirt players from the Boston communities of Allston-Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, Hyde Park, South Boston and West Roxbury mixed in with members of the Bruins alumni. 

The Youth All-Stars will team with Bruins alumni and they will play the first official game before the ice is turned over to the current Bruins players for their training camp later in the month.

The Warrior Ice Arena gets its name from the Warrior brand of hockey equipment that is now a division of New Balance and comes with a 79-foot high Warrior hockey stick that greets visitors at the front entrance doors.

Warrior Ice Arena will be the B’s new and permanent practice home after the Bruins spent 25-plus years practicing in the suburbs of Boston at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.