NHL Playoff Preview Capsules

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Capsules of NHL conference semifinal series:


No. 4 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (47-28-7) vs. No. 8 MONTREAL CANADIENS (39-33-10).

How they got here: Pittsburgh beat No. 5 Ottawa 4-2. Montreal beat No. 1 Washington 4-3.

2009-10 series record: Pittsburgh 3-1.

Playoff History: Montreal leads 1-0. Last meeting: Montreal 4-2 in 1998 conference quarterfinals.

PITTSBURGH: Newly minted Hart Trophy finalist as NHL MVP, Sidney Crosby notched a league-high 14 points - including five goals - during the first round. It topped his 13-point performance against Alex Ovechkin and Washington last season in the second round. Scoring sidekick Evgeni Malkin posted four goals and four assists in the series win over Ottawa. In his last five postseason series, Malkin - last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP - had 18 goals and 26 assists in 30 games. ... The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins didn't have to rely on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to topple Ottawa. Fleury got by with a 2.75 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage, while playing every minute of the six-game series. ... Penguins were 3-0 on road in first round. ... Outscored Canadiens 9-2 in home games during regular season and 15-9 overall. ... Crosby scored four of his NHL-best 51 goals against Montreal during the regular season. ... Veteran forward Bill Guerin took 19 of his season total 75 penalty minutes in games with the Canadiens, and added two goals and four assists. In nine career playoff games against Montreal, the 39-year-old Guerin has six goals and three assists.

MONTREAL: Became ninth No. 8 seed to knock off No. 1 seed in 32 matchups, and first to advance by erasing 3-1 series deficit. ... Canadiens were 3-1 on road in first round, including 2-1 win in Game 7. ... Jaroslav Halak rebounded from mid-series benching and stopped 131 of 134 shots in the final three games vs. Washington. He was helped by his teammates, who blocked 182 Capitals shots - including 41 in Game 7. ... Halak went 10-0-1 in games in which he saw at least 40 shots this season. ... Halak was 1-1 with a 4.20 GAA in regular-season games with Pittsburgh. ... Michael Cammalleri had at least one point in all but Game 7, leading the Canadiens with 10 points - including five goals - against the Capitals. ... Montreal, as the No. 7 seed, topped No. 2 Pittsburgh in the only previous playoff matchup. The Canadiens had the fewest wins and tied Philadelphia for the fewest points (88) of any team in this year's postseason. ... D Hal Gill was with the Penguins the past two years when they reached the Stanley Cup finals. He played in all 44 games during those postseason runs. ... Despite allowing many shots to the Capitals in the first round, the Canadiens were stingy in penalty-killing - holding the NHL-best power-play unit in the regular season to 1 for 33 with the advantage. ... On the flip side, Montreal went 6 for 30 on the power play and netted a man-advantage goal in all but one game in the series.

OUTLOOK: Pittsburgh parks itself in conference finals for third straight year. Penguins in 6.


No. 6 BOSTON BRUINS (39-30-13) vs. No. 7 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (41-35-6).

How they got here: Boston beat No. 3 Buffalo 4-2. Philadelphia beat No. 2 New Jersey 4-1.

2009-10 series record: Series tied 2-1-1.

Playoff History: Series tied 2-2. Last meeting: Boston 4-1 in 1978 Stanley Cup semifinals.

BOSTON: C Marc Savard should give the Bruins' offensive a big boost. He has been cleared to play for the first time since sustaining a severe concussion when he was leveled by a hit to the head from Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on March 7. ... This marks first No. 6 vs. No. 7 meeting since Anaheim played Colorado out West in 2006. It's the first in the East since Bruins were beaten by Buffalo in 1999. ... Bruins have unlikely home-ice advantage after top three teams in East were eliminated in first round. ... Boston beat Flyers in Winter Classic in overtime at Fenway Park. ... Bruins were 19 for 19 in killing first-round penalties. ... Tuukka Rask continues to show how he wrested starting goalie job away from Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas. Task had a 2.18 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in first-round win over Buffalo. ... Mark Recchi, a member of the Flyers during their two most recent trips to East finals, had three goals and five points in first round. ... Marco Sturm, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron all had a team-high four points in season series against Philadelphia. Recchi, Krejci, Bergeron and Miroslav Satan all led with five points in first round. Krejci and Recchi shared the team lead with three goals each.

PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers will have had eight days off between final game against New Jersey and series opener against Boston on Friday. But the long wait won't help Philadelphia get back a trio of key players injured in the first round. Top goal scorer Jeff Carter is likely out for the season because of a broken right foot. Rugged forward Ian Laperriere also is expected to be sidelined for the rest of the postseason because of a brain contusion sustained when he was struck in the face by a shot during Game 5. Another forward, Simon Gagne (broken foot), was injured along with Carter in Game 4, but could return in a few weeks. ... Claude Giroux picked up the scoring slack in the Game 5 clincher with two goals. He had four goals and six points in the series. ... The last team to qualify for the playoffs on the final day of the season, the Flyers were the first to advance to the second round. ... Philadelphia is in second round for third time in six seasons. The Flyers reached the conference finals the previous two times. ... Brian Boucher turned back the clock a decade, erasing memories of disappointing blown 3-1 series lead to Devils. He topped New Jersey with NHL-best 1.59 GAA and .940 save percentage in first round. ... Flyers haven't won postseason game at Boston since 1976, but Philadelphia beat Bruins in 1974 for first of two straight Stanley Cup titles. ... Flyers had fourth-best, penalty-killing unit in first round, allowing four goals in 39 short-handed situations against New Jersey.

OUTLOOK: Philadelphia figures out how to keep rolling. Flyers in 6.



No. 1 SAN JOSE SHARKS (51-20-11) vs. No. 5 DETROIT RED WINGS (44-24-14).

How they got here: San Jose beat No. 8 Colorado 4-2. Detroit beat No. 4 Phoenix 4-3.

2009-10 series record: Detroit 3-0-1 (one win in shootout).

Playoff History: Detroit 2-1. Last meeting: Detroit 4-2 in 2007 conference semifinals.

SAN JOSE: The Sharks shed some naysayers by avoiding another early flameout, rallying from 1-0 and 2-1 series deficits to Colorado. San Jose could take its biggest step toward a first trip to the Stanley Cup finals if it can knock off the two-time defending Western champions. ... Second-line forward Joe Pavelski carried the offense by scoring five goals and eight points in a first-round win. Along with linemates Ryan Clowe and Devin Setoguchi, the trio combined for nine goals and 22 points in the series. ... The Sharks will likely need Joe Thornton to step up against Detroit. Thornton, limited to three assists in the first round, scored three of his team's seven goals in the regular-season series with the Wings. ... The Sharks went 0 for 10 on the power play and allowed three man-advantage goals in 15 short-handed opportunities against the Wings. ... San Jose coach Todd McLellan was a Detroit assistant coach from 2005-08, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.

DETROIT: The Red Wings shook off upstart Phoenix with a decisive 6-1 win in Game 7, recording 50 shots. Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom both scored two goals, and Henrik Zetterberg added three assists in the rout. Zetterberg had six goals and 11 points in the series. Datsyuk had five goals, eight points. ... Detroit has decided edge in experience, having being in the playoffs 19 straight seasons and playing 70 postseason games since 2007. However, the Red Wings are in unfamiliar territory by starting their second consecutive series on the road and ceding home-ice advantage. ... Lidstrom, the Red Wings captain, is third on the NHL career list for postseason games played with 242. He could pass Patrick Roy for second if this series goes at least six games. Lidstrom is only European-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, and captain a team to the Stanley Cup title. ... The team that scored first in each of the regular-season games lost.

OUTLOOK: Sharks ready to take bite out of Wings. San Jose in 7.


No. 2 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (52-22-8) vs. No. 3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS (49-28-5)

How they got here: Chicago beat No. 7 Nashville 4-2. Vancouver beat No. 6 Los Angeles 4-2.

2009-10 series record: Series tied 2-2.

Playoff History: Chicago 2-1. Last meeting: Chicago 4-2 in 2009 conference semifinals.

CHICAGO: Blackhawks looking to make consecutive appearances in conference finals for first time since 1989 and 1990. ... In his first NHL playoff series, Antti Niemi went 4-2 with two shutouts, a 2.15 goals-against average, and .921 save percentage, to help the Blackhawks shake off deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to Nashville. Niemi earned a shutout over the Canucks on Nov. 22, but then gave up three goals on 12 shots during a loss on Jan. 23. ... Patrick Kane netted hat trick against Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in Game 6 win last year - a performance Luongo was still answering questions about at the Vancouver Olympics in February. Chicago won that game 7-5 to advance. ... Chicago killed 26 of 27 Nashville power plays in first round, and Kane netted short-handed goal that tied Game 5 in closing seconds.

VANCOUVER: The Canucks also trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in the first round before winning three straight, including two victories at Los Angeles. ... Mikael Samulesson joined twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin on a line in Game 4 and netted an NHL-best seven goals in the first round. Combined, the line produced three goals and four assists in the Canucks' 7-2 win over the Kings in Game 5. ... Luongo had a 43-save win against Chicago, but also allowed five goals to the Blackhawks in the first period of loss on Feb. 5. Luongo gave up five consecutive goals in Game 2 of last year's series and seven goals in Game 6. ... Bad blood exists between the clubs. The latest incident in the developing rivalry had Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell leveling Jonathan Toews with open-ice hit that forced the Blackhawks captain to miss six games. ... The Canucks were second in the NHL with 3.27 goals scored per game in the regular season. The Blackhawks were fourth at 3.20. ... Vancouver gave up nine goals on 16 short-handed opportunities during the first four games against Los Angeles in the first round, then killed nine of 10 in the final two contests.

OUTLOOK: Chicago takes care of Canucks again to return to conference finals. Blackhawks in 6.

End Capsules

Tagged: Bruins, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canadiens, Flyers, Penguins, Sharks, Canucks, Capitals, Hal Gill, Joe Thornton, Marc Savard, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mark Recchi, Roberto Luongo, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Tim Thomas, Jaroslav Halak, David Krejci, Patrick Kane

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