04/13/2009 12:32 AM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
A pair of rematches, Broadway and a grueling goaltending battle highlights the Eastern Conference storylines.
A first-timer, a resurgent franchise, "The Kid Line," the Presidents' Trophy winners and the defending Stanley Cup champions reign in the West.
From coast to coast, the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs promises to nourish any hockey lover's soul as soon as the puck is dropped. It begins Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET when the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals open at Verizon Center on TSN, while the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins do the same at Mellon Arena on VERSUS, CBC and RDS.
The Detroit Red Wings begin defense of their 2008 Stanley Cup championship Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Two other series' open Wednesday, including Carolina at New Jersey (7:30 p.m. ET on TSN2) and St. Louis at Vancouver (10 p.m. ET on VERSUS, CBC and RDS).
Four more begin Thursday, starting with the Wings, who host Columbus at 7 p.m. ET on VERSUS and TSN. Montreal at Boston also starts at 7 p.m. ET on CBC and RDS. Calgary and Chicago open at the United Center (8:30 p.m. ET on TSN2 and VERSUS) and San Jose hosts Anaheim at 10:30 p.m. ET on VERSUS, CBC and RDS.
The 11-time Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings are making their 18th-straight appearance in the playoffs and 58th overall while the Blue Jackets will be making their first.
Speaking of firsts, San Jose captured the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history this season. The Sharks get to stay in California to open the playoffs by hosting Anaheim. It will be the first time the teams will meet in the playoffs.
It won't be for the Blackhawks and Flames. The last time the Hawks won a playoff series was in 1996. The team they beat? You guessed it -- Calgary, in a sweep.
St. Louis last won a playoff series in 2002. More importantly, they won Friday against Columbus to clinch a playoff berth and then again Sunday at Colorado to officially jump from 15th in the Conference in mid-February to sixth entering the playoffs.
Their run was historic, but Monday won't exactly feel like Christmas morning for the Blues, who earned a first-round date with Roberto Luongo and the streaking Canucks. Some pundits are saying Vancouver, not Detroit or San Jose, should be favored to come out of the West.
In the East, you could argue that case for the Capitals.
A year ago, super sniper Alex Ovechkin got a taste of playoff hockey as he and the rest of the Capitals went seven rounds with Philadelphia before being knocked out. This year, after opening at the Verizon Center, Ovechkin takes his act to Broadway.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin stole the show on Broadway last season before beating their Keystone State rivals, the Flyers, to win the Eastern Conference. This year, we don't have to wait that long for the Battle of Pennsylvania.
Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins, seeded eighth a year ago, nearly pulled the upset of the 2008 playoffs by taking the Montreal Canadiens to seven games before bowing out.
This year, the seeds are reversed and Thomas and the Bruins are the overwhelming favorites. It's the 32nd time the Original Six franchises are meeting in the playoffs, with Montreal winning 24 times.
It's only the fourth time New Jersey and Carolina will meet in the playoffs, but it's only the fifth time the Hurricanes have made the playoffs. Each time the Devils and 'Canes have met in the postseason, the winner has eventually played in the Stanley Cup Final.
Let's take a quick look into each series:
(8) Montreal Canadiens vs. (1) Boston Bruins
Game 1 Thursday, Game 2 Saturday at TD Banknorth Garden
Boston won the season series with a 5-0-1 record, including 3-0 at home. Factoring in their shootout-winning goal on Nov. 22, the Bruins outscored the Habs, 23-13.
Tim Thomas was 4-0-1 in the season series with a .933 save percentage. Zdeno Chara had six points while David Krejci and Marc Savard had five each. Carey Price started five of the games and had a .878 save percentage. The Habs will likely be without Andrei Markov (shoulder), who had four assists against the Bruins this season.
(7) New York Rangers vs. (2) Washington Capitals
Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Saturday at Verizon Center
The Caps won the season series with a 3-0-1 record and outscored the Rangers, 14-11. The teams haven't met since the Rangers hired John Tortorella as coach and acquired Sean Avery, Nik Antropov and Derek Morris.
Alex Ovechkin had five points against the Rangers this season, including three goals and an assist at Madison Square Garden. Nicklas Backstrom had six assists and Mike Green scored three goals. Jose Theodore stopped 70 of 79 shots (.886 percent). Henrik Lundqvist was 1-2 with a .881 save percentage vs. Washington.
(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (3) New Jersey Devils
Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday at Prudential Center
The Canes and Devils have played three times since March 18, with Carolina winning twice. Carolina won the season series, 3-1, but three games were decided by one goal.
Cam Ward was 3-0 with a .951 save percentage against the Devils, but faced Martin Brodeur only once. Brodeur was 1-1 with a .945 save percentage against Carolina. Rod Brind'Amour had six assists against New Jersey, while Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov each had three goals. Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias each had four points in the season series.
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins
Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday at Mellon Arena
The Penguins won four of the six games in the season series, including one in OT and another in a shootout. Counting Pittsburgh's shootout winner, each team scored 21 goals.
Sidney Crosby led all scorers in the season series with nine points while Evgeni Malkin had seven. Kimmo Timonen dished out seven assists while Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne each scored four goals. Marc-Andre Fleury was 4-1 with a .891 save percentage. Martin Biron struggled for the most part with a 2-2-1 record and .879 save percentage.
(8) Anaheim Ducks vs. (1) San Jose Sharks
Game 1 Thursday, Game 2 Sunday at HP Pavilion
The Sharks won the low-scoring season series, 4-2. They won twice at home and twice in Anaheim, but each team scored only 12 goals in six games.
Dan Boyle had four assists and Jonathan Cheechoo three goals against Anaheim. Ryan Getzlaf had six assists while Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan scored two goals apiece in the season series. Evgeni Nabokov was 3-2 with a .930 save percentage and two shutouts. Jonas Hiller started the last four games for Anaheim and was 1-3 with a .929 save percentage.
(7) Columbus Blue Jackets vs. (2) Detroit Red Wings
Game 1 Thursday, Game 2 Saturday at Joe Louis Arena
The defending Stanley Cup champs earned seven of a possible 12 points in the season series with Columbus, winning three, losing twice in regulation and once in overtime.
Marian Hossa led Detroit with five goals against Columbus, while Pavel Datsyuk had eight points. Rick Nash scored six goals against Detroit, including his hat trick on March 7 in an 8-2 win. Steve Mason was 3-2 with a .930 save percentage. Chris Osgood was 2-2-1 with an .855 save percentage. He gave up seven goals on 23 shots in that March 7 game.
(6) St. Louis Blues vs. (3) Vancouver Canucks
Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday at GM Place
The Blues and Canucks split their four-game season series right down the middle. Each won a road game and Vancouver outscored St. Louis by a goal, 15-14.
Chris Mason and Roberto Luongo faced each other in the last three games with Luongo getting the better of Mason. He was 2-1 with a .911 save percentage while Mason was 1-2 with a .863 save percentage. Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined for 2 goals and 8 assists against the Blues. Patrik Berglund led St. Louis with six points against Vancouver.
(5) Calgary Flames vs. (4) Chicago Blackhawks
Game 1 Thursday, Game 2 Saturday at United Center
The Blackhawks dominated the season series, winning all four games, including one in overtime. They outscored the Flames 19-7; 11-3 at the United Center.
Martin Havlat paced the Hawks against the Flames this season with six points on 2 goals and 4 assists. Patrick Kane had 4 points on 2 goals and 2 assists. Nikolai Khabibulin started three of the games and allowed only six goals for a .941 save percentage. Miikka Kiprusoff was 0-3-1 with a .856 save percentage. Jarome Iginla had three assists. Olli Jokinen didn't play in any of the games.