Stanley Cup Playoffs preview: Canada left out in the cold

Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) and Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) battle for the puck in the first period of a game on Nov. 17, 2015.

(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

The pursuit of the Stanley Cup begins without a Canada-based team for the first time since 1970. Canada went 0 for 7 this season, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks missing the playoffs.

The Detroit Red Wings will make their 25th consecutive appearance, the longest such streak in North American major professional sports. The Kings, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks return after missing out last season and the Florida Panthers return after failing to qualify in three consecutive seasons and 13 of 14. The Chicago Blackhawks again will try to become the first team to win consecutive championships since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

The team with the best record in each conference plays the wild-card team with the fewest points, and the other division winner faces the other wild-card team. Within each division, the second- and third-place teams face each other.

The first-round winners within each bracket will meet to determine the four conference finalists. Shown below, the winners across the top and across the bottom face each other in a conference semifinal (seedings are by bracket). Those winners meet in the conference final.


A look at the matchups:



DUCKS: 46-25-11, 103 points
NASHVILLE: 41-27-14, 96


Season series: Nashville, 2-1.

Power play: Ducks 23.1% (1st); Predators 19.7% (10th).
Penalty killing: Ducks 87.2% (1st); Predators 81.2% (16th).
Top scorers: Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf 13-50—63; Nashville, Filip Forsberg 33-31—64.
Outlook: The Ducks turned their season around by focusing on defense. The rewards: goaltenders John Gibson and Frederik Andersen shared the Jennings Trophy (fewest goals against) and the team recorded its third consecutive 100-point season and won its fourth straight Pacific Division title.

Ryan Kesler (21 goals, 53 points) was forceful at both ends, and Corey Perry scored 34 goals. However, late-season injuries to forwards David Perron, Brandon Pirri and Rickard Rakell and defenseman Kevin Bieksa could pose problems.

For the Predators, defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi lead a mobile corps, with Forsberg and dangerous James Neal (31 goals, 58 points) leading the offense. Pekka Rinne (2.48 goals-against average) is a forbidding target.

Pick: Ducks in six.

Gm 1 - Friday at DUCKS, 7:30
Gm 2 - Sunday at DUCKS, 7:30
Gm 3 - April 19 at Nashville, 6:30
Gm 4 - April 21 at Nashville, 5
Gm 5 - April 23 at DUCKS, TBD


Gm 6 - April 25 at Nashville, TBD
Gm 7 - April 27 at DUCKS, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT


Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Kings right wing Dustin Brown (23) and Sharks defenseman Dylan DeMelo (74) battle for the puck against the boards in the third period on Dec. 22, 2015.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

KINGS: 48-28-6, 102 points
SAN JOSE: 46-30-6, 98

Season series: San Jose, 3-1-1

Power play: Kings 20% (8th); Sharks 22.5% (3rd).
Penalty killing: Kings 81.4% (15th); Sharks 80.5% (21st).
Top scorers: Kings, Anze Kopitar 25-49—74; San Jose, Joe Thornton 19-63—82.
Outlook: The Kings lost the Pacific Division title on the last day of the season but got a nifty consolation prize: shorter travel. Drew Doughty (third in average ice time at 28:01) had a Norris Trophy-caliber season leading a defense that’s thinner than in their 2012 and 2014 Cup-winning runs.

Jeff Carter (24 goals, 62 points), Tyler Toffoli (career-high 31 goals) and Milan Lucic (20 goals, 55 points) lead an inconsistent offense. Jonathan Quick (40 wins, 2.22, .918) remains their backbone.


His former backup, Martin Jones (2.27, .918), is expected to carry the load for the Sharks. Thornton, Joe Pavelski (38 goals, 78 points) and defenseman Brent Burns (27 goals, 75 points) are tough to contain. Key question: Will the Sharks be haunted by losing a 3-0 series lead to the Kings in 2014?

Pick: Better goaltending will make it Kings in seven.

Gm 1 - Thursday at KINGS, 7:30
Gm 2 - Saturday at KINGS, 7:30
Gm 3 - Monday at San Jose, 7:30
Gm 4 - April 20 at San Jose, 7:30
Gm 5 - April 22 at KINGS, TBD
Gm 6 - April 24 at San Jose, TBD
Gm 7 - April 26 at KINGS, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT


Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) stops a shot on goal during the third period of a game against the Blues on Mar. 12.

(Brandon Wade / Associated Press)

DALLAS: 50-23-9, 109 points
MINNESOTA: 38-33-11, 87

Season series: Dallas, 4-1.

Power play: Stars 22.1% (3rd); Wild 18.5% (15th).
Penalty killing: Stars 82.3% (10th); Wild 77.9% (27th).
Top scorers: Dallas, Jamie Benn 41-48—89; Minnesota, Mikko Koivu 17-39—56.
Outlook: The Stars scored a league-high 3.23 goals per game and rolled into the playoffs, winning eight of their last 10. But their 2.78 goals-against average is the highest among the 16 playoff teams and their defense can be exploited.

They’re likely to use both goalies, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, an unusual arrangement that sufficed while the Stars won their first division title since 2006. Dallas is counting on leadership from defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Patrick Sharp, who won the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wild endured a coaching change and an ugly late slide; Charlie Coyle had no goals in his last 18 games and Zach Parise (25 goals, 53 points) had long droughts besides being hurt and is questionable for Game 1.

Pick: Stars in five.

Gm 1 - Thursday at Dallas, 6:30
Gm 2 - Saturday at Dallas, 5
Gm 3 - Monday at Minnesota, 5:30
Gm 4 - April 20 at Minnesota, 6:30
Gm 5 - April 22 at Dallas, TBD
Gm 6 - April 24 at Minnesota, TBD
Gm 7 - April 26 at Dallas, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT


Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd (16) misses a penalty shot against Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) during the third period on Apr. 7.

(Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS: 49-24-9, 107 points
CHICAGO: 47-26-9, 103

Season series: St. Louis, 3-2.

Power play: Blues 21.5% (6th); Blackhawks 22.6% (2nd).
Penalty killing: Blues 85.1% (3rd); Blackhawks 80.3% (22nd).
Top scorers: St. Louis, Vladimir Tarasenko 40-34—74; Chicago, Patrick Kane 40-60—106.
Outlook: Coach Ken Hitchcock kept the injury-plagued Blues in contention for the Central Division title until the end. Goalie Brian Elliott had a league-best .930 save percentage but must improve his .897 career playoff percentage or the Blues could be first-round losers for the fourth year in a row. They’ll rely on the dynamic Tarasenko to push Chicago’s stretched defense.

Kane became the first U.S.-born player to win the NHL scoring title and might also be the MVP. The Blackhawks had some lulls but were lifted by rookie-of-the-year candidate Artemi Panarin (30 goals, 77 points). Workhorse defenseman Duncan Keith will sit out Game 1 because of a league-imposed suspension.

Pick: Blackhawks in seven.

Gm 1 - Wed. at St. Louis, 6:30
Gm 2 - Friday at St. Louis, 5
Gm 3 - Sunday at Chicago, noon
Gm 4 - April 19 at Chicago, 6:30
Gm 5 - April 21 at St. Louis, TBD
Gm 6 - April 23 at Chicago, TBD
Gm 7 - April 25 at St. Louis, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT



Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom (19) checks Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) during the third period on Mar. 30.

(Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON: 56-18-8, 120 points
PHILADELPHIA: 41-27-14, 96

Season series: Washington, 2-0-2.

Power play: Capitals 21.9% (5th); Flyers 18.9% (11th).
Penalty killing: Capitals 85.2% (2nd); Flyers 80.5% (20th).
Top scorers: Washington, Evgeny Kuznetsov 20-57—77; Philadelphia, Claude Giroux 22-45—67.
Outlook: NHL goals leader Alexander Ovechkin scored 50 for the fourth consecutive season and joined Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky as the only players with seven 50-goal seasons. The Capitals are stacked offensively and goalie Braden Holtby (2.20, .922) drew MVP support by tying an NHL record with 48 wins.

When they get to tight situations that have stopped them in the past, the Capitals can be carried by Justin Williams, dubbed “Mr. Game 7” for his clutch scoring during the Kings’ Stanley Cup runs.

The Flyers, led by winger Wayne Simmonds (career-best 32 goals), rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and goalie Steve Mason (2.51, .918), are feisty but not deep enough to pull off an upset.

Pick: Capitals in five.

Gm 1 - Thursday at Washington, 4
Gm 2 - Saturday at Washington, 4
Gm 3 - Monday at Philadelphia, 4
Gm 4 - April 20 at Philadelphia, 4
Gm 5 - April 22 at Wash., TBD
Gm 6 - April 24 at Phila., TBD
Gm 7 - April 27 at Wash., TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT


Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) uses his body to block a shot in front of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) in the first period on Mar. 13.

(Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

PITTSBURGH: 48-26-8, 104 points
RANGERS: 46-27-9, 101

Season series: Pittsburgh, 3-1.

Power play: Penguins 18.4% (16th); Rangers 18.6% (14th).
Penalty killing: Penguins 84.4% (5th); Rangers 78.2% (26th).
Top scorers: Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby 36-49—85; New York, Mats Zuccarello 26-35—61.
Outlook: This is the third consecutive first-round meeting between these clubs. The Rangers won the first two series.

Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan, who took over for Mike Johnston in mid-December, allowed Crosby to play to his strengths and Crosby led a late surge in which the Penguins won 14 of their last 16 games. Pittsburgh’s biggest challenge: injuries to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Matt Murray.

The Rangers are expected to start without team captain Ryan McDonagh (upper-body injury), which is a big loss. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist (2.48, .920) wasn’t his usual majestic self late in the season, and anything less than his best won’t be enough.

Pick: Penguins in six.

Gm 1 - Wednesday at Pittsburgh, 5
Gm 2 - Saturday at Pittsburgh, noon
Gm 3 - April 19 at New York, 4
Gm 4 - April 21 at New York, TBD
Gm 5 - April 23 at Pittsburgh, TBD
Gm 6 - April 25 at New York, TBD
Gm 7 - April 27 at Pittsburgh, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT


Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) braces for a third period shot from New York Islanders' John Tavares (91) during a game on Mar. 14.

(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

FLORIDA: 47-26-9, 103 points
ISLANDERS: 45-27-10, 100

Season series: Florida, 2-1.

Power play: Panthers 16.9% (23rd); Islanders 18.3% (17th).
Penalty killing: Panthers 79.5% (24th); Islanders 84.5% (4th).
Top scorers: Florida, Jaromir Jagr 27-39—66; Islanders, John Tavares 33-37—70.
Outlook: Jagr, 44, has been remarkable. But how will he fare when the schedule and intensity pick up?

The Panthers, in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and the second in 15, will count on energy from their many talented youngsters, including Sasha Barkov (28 goals, 59 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (20 goals, 59 points) and poised 21-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The Islanders’ big question is in goal while a groin injury sidelines Jaroslav Halak (2.30, .919 in 36 games). Thomas Greiss has one game of playoff experience, six years ago. Defenseman Travis Hamonic (knee) might be available for the opener Thursday. The Islanders, built on grit, will need him.

Pick: Panthers in six.

Gm 1 - Thursday at Florida, 5
Gm 2 - Friday at Florida, 4:30
Gm 3 - Sunday at New York, 5
Gm 4 - April 20 at New York, 5
Gm 5 - April 22 at Florida, TBD
Gm 6 - April 24 at New York, TBD
Gm 7 - April 26 at Florida, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT


Stanley Cup Playoffs preview

Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) stops a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Alex Killorn, left, during the second period on Mar. 22.

(Steve Nesius / Associated Press)

TAMPA BAY: 46-31-5, 97 points
DETROIT: 41-30-11, 93

Season series: 2-2.

Power play: Lightning 15.8% (28th); Red Wings 18.8% (13th).
Penalty killing: Lightning 84% (7th); Red Wings 81.5% (14th).
Top scorers: Tampa Bay, Nikita Kucherov 30-36—66; Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg 13-37—50.
Outlook: A year ago the Lightning launched their march to the East final by beating the Red Wings in seven games. The rematch should be close too.

Detroit gets a break because injuries will keep forward Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman out of Tampa Bay’s lineup. The Lightning will rely heavily on goalie Ben Bishop (2.06, .926), who has proved his poise under pressure.

This looms as the last hurrah for magical Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, who said he might go home to Russia after the season. The Red Wings must get better goaltending from Jimmy Howard and Peter Mrazek to prolong Datsyuk’s NHL career.

Pick: Lightning in six.

Gm 1 - Wednesday at Tampa Bay, 4
Gm 2 - Friday at Tampa Bay, 4
Gm 3 - Sunday at Detroit, 4
Gm 4 - April 19 at Detroit, 4
Gm 5 - April 21 at Tampa Bay, TBD
Gm 6 - April 24 at Detroit, TBD
Gm 7 - April 26 at Tampa Bay, TBD
*Games 5-7 if necessary; times PDT

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