Four most likely sweeps in the first round

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images Sport)

As I posted on Twitter Monday, I’m picking two series sweeps in Round 1. But there’s a chance two more go the minimum.

 

Sweeps are killjoys, though, so let’s hope for longer, and therefore much more exciting, series. But the possibility remains that at least one team, or more, will be on the links within a week.

Here are the most likely series sweeps in Round 1:

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Stanley Cup playoff preview: Round 1

Stanley Cup

Welcome to the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and the beginning of a new format. No longer will teams be seeded from 1-8 in their conference, but instead will have to play out of their division first. Teams are no longer re-seeded after the opening round and will face the other winner in their division in the second round.

THN gets you prepared for the action, which will start Wednesday, April 12. Below is our introduction to each series, insider analysis from CBC’s Kevin Weekes and TSN’s Jeff O’Neill, and THN’s prediction.

And be sure to vote on our poll: Who do you think will win the 2014 Stanley Cup?


EASTERN CONFERENCE

BOSTON BRUINS vs. DETROIT RED WINGS
Introduction: A classic Original Six matchup welcomes the Detroit Red Wings to the East side of the playoff bracket and it won’t be a warm reception. The Bruins are the most complete team in the East and asserted their dominance by going through the East with a 12-4 record last playoff season. But the Wings are also an unfortunate draw for Boston. If any team, no matter its drawbacks, is capable of a shocking upset, it’s the experienced Red Wings machine. Just last season, Detroit upset Anaheim in the first round and took Chicago all the way to Game 7. This season, Gustav Nyquist should be even better for them. Read more

Why your team will not win the 2014 Stanley Cup

Boston Bruins lose Cup

Just like the start of the regular season, any fan with a horse in the race starts the NHL playoffs with a giddy optimism. Even if you don’t believe your team will win it all, you’re surely thinking they can pull off an upset or two.

Well, sorry to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Your team isn’t as good or as complete as you believe it to be. They will not win the Stanley Cup.

And here’s why your favorite team will come up empty this spring:

Anaheim: Because the stats community says you’re doomed to fail. Your team’s 49.8 percent Corsi percentage is second-worst among Western playoff teams, which means you don’t possess the puck enough. You were upset last year and it’s going to happen again. Read more

St. Louis Blues trending the wrong way going into Stanley Cup playoffs

Josh Elliott
Ryan Miller makes a save for the St

Don’t look now, but the projected Stanley Cup-contender St. Louis Blues are struggling. Badly.

The Blues have hit the skids hard and limp into the playoffs with six straight losses. And while they haven’t been terrible in all of those games, they’ve been crippled by injuries to some of their more important forwards.

Derek Roy has been battling injuries and got banged up again against Detroit on Sunday.

Patrik Berglund left Friday’s game with a shoulder injury.

Winger Vladimir Tarasenko is still recovering from hand surgery.

T.J. Oshie is still hurting after getting clocked by Mike Rupp of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Vladimir Sobotka is nursing a lower-body injury and Brenden Morrow and David Backes are both dealing with foot problems.

At this time of year, no one would dare whisper “broken foot” around either Backes or Morrow, but taking a slapshot to the foot is never good. Even if they rush a return for the playoffs, it’s hard to play through a foot injury.

It’s all bad news for the Blues. Those seven forwards accounted for 114 of the team’s 248 goals this season. That’s 45 percent of their offense, and they’re clearly missing the contributions.
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Dallas Stars round out this season’s Sweet 16

(Photo by Glenn James/NHL)

With their 3-0 win over the suddenly slumping St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars are returning to the post-season, having eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes. It’ll be the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2007-08 when ‘Big D’ made it to the Western Conference final before bowing out in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

The 16 playoff teams are now set. All that’s to be decided now is positioning.

For the Stars, they could get any one of the Ducks, Avalanche or Blues in Round 1. They’re 2-1 against Anaheim, 1-3-1 versus Colorado and now 3-1-1 when facing St. Louis. Couple their success in Missouri with the Blues’ five-game losing streak, and the Stars might be hoping for first-round series against the Notes.

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Mike Rupp suspended four games for late, high hit on T.J. Oshie

Rory Boylen
T.J. Oshie

Last night was a great night to be a Minnesota hockey fan. Not only did the Wild’s John Curry, a native of the state who grew up rooting for the North Stars, make 43 saves in his first NHL appearance in four years to knock off the Blues, but the NCAA’s Golden Gophers also advanced to the Frozen Four final on a last-second goal.

The only thing that took away from a great night of Minnesota hockey was Mike Rupp, who hammered St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie with a hit that was obviously in violation of Rule 48 and also ruled to be too late.

As Patrick Burke said in the NHL’s supplemental discipline video: “Rupp hits Oshie at a point where he is no longer eligible to be hit. And in doing so he takes an angle that picks Oshie’s head.” Read more

Mike Rupp gets match penalty for hit on T.J. Oshie, suspension surely to follow

Rory Boylen
T.J. Oshie

It first looked like Douglas Murray’s hit on Johan Sundstrom was going to be the most controversial of the night, but Mike Rupp went ahead and laid a hit that was clearly much, much worse.

Mid-way through the Blues-Wild game Thursday night, St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie was carrying the puck around the perimeter of Minnesota’s zone when Rupp stepped up and into his head.

This isn’t a question of if there will be a suspension, but for how long it will be. Read more

Underdog John Curry goes from ECHL to 43-save win over St. Louis Blues

Rory Boylen
John Curry

The last time 30-year-old goalie John Curry played an NHL game was in 2009-10, when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was his only appearance of the season and he allowed five goals on 14 shots in 24 minutes of work.

Since then, he’s played in Germany, Orlando, Houston and Iowa and has accumulated most of his games over that time in the ECHL. This season, he’s played 13 ECHL games and 19 American League games. Because of his strong play (.917 SP in ECHL, .920 SP in AHL) and a ton of injuries to Minnesota Wild goaltenders, Curry made it back to the NHL. He had been backing up Ilya Bryzgalov since April 3, but with the Wild’s playoff spot clinched and seeding locked in, coach Mike Yeo started the 5-foot-11, 189-pound Curry.

It was Curry’s first NHL appearance since his dreadful showing four years ago and it was against the powerhouse St. Louis Blues. No matter. Even though the Blues pounded the Wild by outshooting them 45-15, Curry was magical and pulled out a 4-2 win. If the picture up top is any indication, he also did it with his eyes closed! Read more