BOLTS OF IN­SPI­RA­TION

Will the NHL’s best team on pa­per learn from last year’s crush­ing de­feat and get the job done this time around? We’re bet­ting they will

The Hockey News - - NHL - BY KEN CAMP­BELL

HreEalR­lyEAtLhIiT­nYkISa,boWuHtEiNt, yiot’us ehvaerdn ot­noe tceoametha­utp’s gwoiotdh enough to win the Stan­ley Cup ht­fl­haisws st,eaakasenon­dn.aeTvheture­yry­naol­ngl oe­hi­anovgfe ttfhrhoemi­r world-beater to fuir­lel-. blTowhen 20t1ir9eW2­0in­gDse, tr­wohito Rwei­dll go down as the worst team of the wsao­larsrty-ic­napfraen­rachaisned­hois­nte­oroyf, bGeoaldtet­nheKnBiogs­ht­tosn, EB­dr­muoinnst,oVneO­gail­stehriss ase­nad­soTna.mpa Bay Light­ning

If you had the choice of one tehais­my­oer­atr,het­h­feiels­dm­toarwt imn tohneeyCui­ps toim­pei, ck­regth­aredlfeies­lsd oe­fvethrye stien­agmle. But an­other re­al­ity is that, un­less the COVID-19 virus wipes out the play­offs, some­body has to win this thing. So what bet­ter hteaavme atmhaanzet­dh,ecoLnigfho­tun­nid­negd, wan­hdo dan­ron­popyed in­siOnce­to­btheer? puck first

To ac­knowl­edge that things dthide nLoigt het­nd­inwg ewll etrhee ltah­set tpim­roe­hibitive fa­vorite to win the Cup wthoaut ldEubreo­taDnit­san­mey­ouh­nat­stno’tsaqyui­intge lvievres­diounp. tYootuhemN­igohrthrAe­mem­ricbaenr tb­huerniLnig,hs­tinic­ne­git chraap­spheinged ajunsdt tlah­setC­so­plruim­ng­buins BRlou­uenJ­dac1keatsg.ainst

As much as the Light­ning ymoiu­grht hmeakde ay­goauin­w­stan­th­teo bwaanlgl,

Tthey’re still our pick to win the pS­traon­blae­by­lyC. uW­phyin? B2e0c2a0u…sem­tahye­bye’r…e Stolowg­ly­oodand­not­det­loib, etrhaatet’lsy, wthye. Light­ning have sup­ple­menteledag­tuhe’sbet­sotpg­doaelfieen,soen­meenof atnhde the best and deep­est for­ward group in the NHL with some bitTe­haenyd’rse­nan­rol.t chas­ing his­tory this sea­son. And his­tory has tnoulmd buesr thoaf ttethamers­e tahraet ara­giosoed they Sr­taenceleiv­yedCuap doen­vlaystat­fit­negr gCu­at­pit­paulsn,chWat­shleinagst­ono)n.ce“W(seelel, I hope that’s true,” said Lightnbein­egn ic­no­tahcehleJa­ognueC­soeovpeenr.ye“aI’rvse, faindal­wine­myas­de­cothned Sytean­rle(2y0C1u5p) and we’ve been close since, bhuapt per­nobe­d­ablty­on­u­osthilnags­t­likyeawr.haIt re­ally, re­ally hurts when you go through it, but when you do go tithrhourg­ths ita,ny­douy­loeuarn­trhy­otwo maultcehr hyoauprpeb­ne­haag­vaionr.”so that it doesn’t

Veteran de­fense­man Kevin SLhi­gaht­tnenink­girlkast­wsae­sans’ton­wainthd wthaes prob­a­bly just as shocked as ev­ery­one else to see Tampa TBraoypfho­yl­lobwy buepingth­sewPer­petsin­defno­tusr’ es­trr’saipgehrts. pAer­cmtievde wan­it­d­h­farnomouwt­shi­dathais­bit­geap­marm­taotef­sth­heavreat­sooldn hwihmy, twah­daevseLr­tishgi­ethyt­nfhirnoagd­m­leotxh­spe­tel­srati­saetrntc­seoedaf stonhnoe sea­son un­til the play­offs be­gan, so they were poorly equipped to deal with it when it came, andOnittch­aem­fier­se­tan­r­liyg.ht of the 2019 play­offs, the Light­ning skated off the ice with a 3-0 lead af

Who has the best chance of win­ning it all in this strangest of play­off sea­sons?

lteard20th­mey­in­uw­toesu.ldIt whoals­dthae­gaoinslyt

t1h1epBelu­rieoJ­dasck­theetsy, awnoduil­ndtbhe noeuxttsac­noirmed­pr1e8ss-5iv.e“Sfeix­aty, b-tuw­toth­weyins­sai­ids ty­h­heaeavyre,”wwoSen­hagw­tatemenetk­sitrthkhre­osyuas­gidhh.ous“lTodmhni’est cghoatl­lo­evne­grest­hear­fa­lyc­town.e’Oren­cae dwifef­ser­aes­notnt,ewaem­reaanldizi­etd’swaed­wif­fer­ren’t

gwoein­wge­tore­wain­bl6e2t­goam­seet­stlethis­nyae­nadr, wploarykoi­n­ugr gth­am­roeu.gTh­h­e­so­j­mouern­teoyu­gohf bg­ti­aem­m­geoe­soat­dht ift­sohreyeuea­s­nrid­naontfhdi­et­fil­ion­sndg­gionirgnu­gonu.t”or ouTt hoef thLeighg­tantieng this­tus­me­ab­sloend tai­hnl­r­daeecm-ogouanlmdt­hne’twin­sit­ntor­nit­ni­h­ngeg tsco­ta­grmeat­phkaeiurgn­a-. Tn­tho­heteopn­blaluy­mowf­bfe­lirp­neigc­th­tuce­o­ryenwtoi­ennlul eto­hduet­sadind­edem­gi­vairncga,tio­th­nepy­oi­wn­te­o­ref Us.Sti.lTl hoaun­tk­sam­gi­vairncga,tio­th­nepy­oi­wn­te­o­ref tmoonk­thit­slaCtheris­wtmhaesn btrheeakl.eaOgnu­lye wg­bauh­mielt­ne­sut-hpine–-yhb­farenogdma­ndp­me­laafyikci­in­ntgg tu­i­h­n­pet­tyhh’dee rSe–rieas­ndin wS­wonede­th­nein­siNx­to­hvGelomb­bael wofin­wn­hi­nagt wstoreuald­k bdei­dath1e0-gBaomltes gfirnoaull­py. gAent­db­tah­cakt iw­natos Jtahne. p4l.ay­off tivSeos, ifthyaotu’s’re­on­loeok­bionxg cfohrecp­koesdi-. toThfhee­a­bosen­trs­leyttpachr­tho, lbiesltene­m’st itsn?, ttTh­h­haeet’sweaoar­br­lidet be­cause he has over­come some pof­dredttsthy­eto­to­mub­geohsit­ntoit­nthh­seuin­r­lk­meaot­ghuanett.atIb­wtl’oes cbraudmp­beler­i­to­hde­sp­soyfch­heoocfkaey­teac­mousldo rbeas­dt­ly­oft­th­haet­si­etr­wieosu. ld mail in the staFr­rtoedm lath­set steimaseon­thuenptil­lay­to­hfe­fys iaIc­n­sat­guor­taet,bh­ta­he­crekpLeign­d­hteot­sntitrn­hi­a­gen’sp2r­le2acy-o1or7fdf-4wp. etoits.ayButhteif­Lit­gh­het­nLinighot­nvien­rgf­caimr are go­ing to glean any lessons, eth­neoupglahy­ionffthdee­ir­fe­ma­tinidsss.till fresh bfoer hGoan­meset, 1the­o­fa2d­v0e1r9s-i2ty0.h“aTpopened for us in April,” Cooper syaeiadr. “inIt’so­jum­stab­neyen­rea­gadridffse.reItn’st how we’ve had to deal with tqhuaets.tiWones daony’tm­roer­ael.lyI’mget­suthre (once the play­offs start) they’ll cporom­ce­sus­po­faoguairna.dTv­heart­sitwy.aWs thhaet I’vte­hin­liked­wea’vbeougtrow­urn gur­pouaps ias teeanma.gWe ek’vides­go­toney­ofruonmg madauylbte­s in a way. There’s a lot more resEpvoen­sibtih­lio­tyug­inh outhr egamStea.”nley Cup weighs just slightly less hthean­vy35lif­p­toin­ugnd­tos, igtet­tak­theesrae,loatn­odf tmhuescLli­eghtht­neiyn­gth­i­h­nakvetheay­ddneed­edth­toe gseat­siot ndowneh.eInt stthaery­t­ed­si­gin ethdePoaft­frick Ma­roon to a one-year deal wafit­tehr htheewSot.nL­to­hueisStBan­lu­leys Canupd

WHAT I’VE LIKED ABOUT OUR GROUP IS I THINK WE’VE GROWN UP AS A TEAM – Jon Cooper

con­tin­ued at the trade dead­line twrho­heueyn­nd­dpte­hi­acelkty tJgh.Tae.vyeMreiul­clpeirvte­ht­deo wfVihrasen­tn-fcrooumvet­rhetoS­gaen­tJoBsaer­cSl­ha­yarGkos.odrow theAyn­g­do­tin­in­teoar­a­ly­gaM­mae­rochf ,skwatheeyn­pwuen­rechryeawd­yithant­dhse­toBor­du­uinps,tothth­eye chal­lenge. They also beat the Bvir­nu­ciends mi­norte­hatht ag­naam­fe­wan­odb­sce­orn­vte­fohrrescpe­thltaaoy­to­bt­fe­hf­s­reesyc­tak­wrotin.lled­in­wdeit­e­hd­wb­heena strTeahkes ofL1ig0h­tanidng11 ghaamdes wthi­ins tc­sheaeapysa­ob­wn­lea, nowtf gh­teoict. thBin­ugmt otehnaoans­s­re­osltlth­wreeyha’ekrnes chaalos­nwobt­meheasykoe­c­daeint­fepdnlias­fy­ifvic­seuolylpt­po­toorol­gyurasansa­dpt

aTn­hceeysgain­vde­huapveat­lotleoafn1­o0nbtiem­l­lecsh. theIinr gaoal­liea, bguet wwho­he­droeesne’vte?ry team has warts, the Light­ning’s cgo­mod­pleaxt io­thne is­molo­moeknint.g Dporet­thtye Bplrauyion­fsf hru­avne ian ste­hceomn?d Csatr­nait­ghet Cwsean­pysi?teaolCs­faangney­tat­noeyauomt­noe­inf tmth­haeek­iWreeo­sawtn?ny fTaocrTeo­hd­neatoLLeia­ngfh­stet­nea­iarnlmgy thM­caaatm­rhceahd ia­j­nunts­dot wcohmice­hoitffhaad­Calol­is­fot ran­l­liath­drieseasg­taemr eins and scored a to­tal of two goals. With­out Steven Stamkos and Vic­tor Hed­man in the lineup,

bthee­ingLioguht­tsnhiont­g17re-6spi­onnt­d­heed­firb­syt tpheermiod­c,hawsin­hg­ic­th­he­b­gas­micealtl­hye rlesft

aown­fit1h1ea-ng3iag-m6h-te1. Twrhein­caot­nr­lied­nfgt oTsat­fromel­lapokaw. Buapy in­gWah­t­en­thaeskset­darwt hoaft twhaes gmamisse-, “pem­ri­boad­r­roaf­ssthi­nagt”gaimne.tBhuet Cfiorost­per also said his team has the where­withal to be great. “There have been games and pe­ri­ods ethx­actepI’tvieon­waal,”tch­hees­datidhi,s“sgoroI ukp­nobwe weThaeveLi­it­gi­h­n­tun­sin.”g are one of wtChuhe­p­ofmwewin­l­lotb­teeawm­cionsnisin­idgte­htrheeedNS­aH­taLc­nolfmeoyr­pWleat­se­hif­naigltuorn­e.foItrwa alos­nt­gh­taitmwea, aynind just when much of the hockey nweovreldr doth­iotu, gth­ety fti­h­neaylly wpouut lidt awlol nto, gceothae­crh in­Ba2r0r1y8.TAr­fot­tezr tshaeidy the Cap­i­tals de­cided they had to­hfethdeous­e­bct­foin­dal-lgyuehsas­dineg­noaungdh werisll. Iet­nto­te­ork thimise.yTeahre’sLipgl­hatynoinf­fgs Twhitehy’nllo hsahvo­er­tatwgeo ofm­doonuthb­stertso. tfwyuirlnn­l­gmtwhaehk­menint­th­taoellybt­edhloeie.mve­orrse, wsahti­icsh

make it itno the prlaeyvoio­f­fuss–1j6uste­tah­sroen­est–im­beust ing in Darcy Kuem­per and Antti Raanta, the Coy­otes al­ways stay wde­hfen­sti­hvey­br­daon,dy­ofuh’doc­tkheinykw­to­huelidr

li­un­vmoblvuesd­f.oAr rti­hzeon­thairt­die-dbe­w­stit­ghoaClosBa­guat­in­wshtean­vKeru­aeg­mepi­enr srearvl­ley thtiegmhte­wnelul.pBe­ic­naut­she th­pi­ons­gtss­meuas­tonb,ergigo­hotd? athned lReaag­nutea. aPtros­b­col­er­mingisg, oyaolsu,

Awdeirne Hi­in­lljus­rtead­rte–d nti­h­nierdg-astm­riens­geinr tpoaor,tiac­nud­laArl­ry­iz­woen­lal. dSoinec­sen’2t0d1o2t-h1a3t,

yoJat­ne­suadry­opan­pdedFien­brthuearsy­ta–nt­d­hiengCso. the bCo­ty­totmes1h0a­tveeam­ras­nikneg­doaml­sop­negr

So how does Ari­zona get over awth­soeauh­tle­d­u­anm’tphi­naan­vthdeem­m1aa7dk-e2e4t­shore­am­n­peglaeny­oto­hif­safest gseaam­seo.nTwheaisr iamveprrae­gsesiovef 2b.7y1ththe­isr stialnl jd­u­as­rt­d2s3, ard­mou­vle­tir-aylel.ar high, but any other year? The Coy­otes benyjopy­laytheres’gcuoidac­ah­ncRe­icokf­fTeroecd­chet. When the Coy­otes do stay tchormeep­et­mi­tiovnet, hsu­cohf at­sheth­seeaf­sirosnt So it’s likely a case of get­ting when they ranked sixth in the hot at the right time, with con­fer­ence, it’s be­cause they their play­off-style at­ten­tion to Vgeirt­tuthalil­nygesvdero­ynenebwy fcoormwamr­idt­taere-.

mos who have greatly un­der­pteearm­fos­rm­pelady r–ivDine­greikn SAtreip­zoan,aNoivcekr Sthche­myeaal­trzs, thcaisn soe­fat­seonn.swSpineg­ci­aal MTaiy­clhoareHl aGllra–bsneeers, aPhdir­lopK-oesff­seinl,

snerviers.bAere­in­zot­noap’snpootcwhe, rbupt­laiyt­shPaKs op-rwo­dayucptlia­oyn. but an upt­piecrk­sion­ntawl

is among the best. Maybe that’s With a veteran de­fense led by the key there.

BRAD RICHARD­SON is a heart-and-soul player and the long­est-serv­ing for­ward on the Coy­otes. The hand­off comes from Oliver Ek­man-Lars­son, a 10-year veteran.

THE COY­OTES RARELY

PHIL KESSEL, fi­nal-round flier? His first sea­son as a Coy­ote was ar­guably the worst of his ca­reer, but he’s al­ways been a great play­off per­former. Only three NHLers have more points over the past four post-sea­sons. It’s pos­si­ble Kessel is merely start­ing to de­cline in his age-32 sea­son, but maybe the play­offs spark some of his old magic.

For­mer Coy­otes as­sis­tant GM Brad Tre­liv­ing put it best when he said, “They should change the name of hockey to goal­tend­ing.” That’s be­cause so much in a game de­pends upon the per­for­mance of the stop­per. A good goalie can turn a se­ries on its head. The last time the Coy­otes won tahep­y­lawyoef­fr­erkon­uonwd,n MasikPe­hSomeni­tihx aw­nads spec­tac­u­lar in a 2011-12 run to the con­fer­ence fi­nal. For Ari­zona to have any sort of suc­cess this post-sea­son,

DoArRACnYt­tKi UREaManPtE­aR

must be oth­er­worldly good. The promis­ing news is both men have that po­ten­tial. Good health is al­ways an is­sue.

When Bos­ton traded Dan­ton Heinen for ev­ery­one un­der­stood. Ritchie epit­o­mizes Bru­ins hockey. He’s a tank at 6-foot-2 and

230 pounds, and in the past three sea­sons, among for­wards with at least 1,000 min­utes at 5-on-5, he ranks in the

95th per­centile in hits per game. He was a top-10 draft pick in 2014 but never fully blos­somed as an Ana­heim Duck, av­er­ag­ing just 12 goals per 82 games. He also never played on teams as good as the 201920 Bru­ins, and his heavy game should trans­late bet­ter to post-sea­son hockey, when the of­fi­cials let more things go.

RITCHIE, NICK

slipped tsh­proinug,hasththeeB­yr­lu­osint sG’ afmi­nege7ros­fltah­set fi­nal on home ice. This year, they played like a team hungry for re­venge, win­ning the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy with a league-best 100 poWinth­silien thGeMshorD­teoned Ssweae­seonne.y couldn’t add much over the off­seaam­seont,eahme ,reat­nudr­nit­ed­wamsot­shtluystnh­oe sur­prise to see the Bru­ins look lmikaeinth­aelmirouss­tu­pae­lesrelelvs­essd. eTfheeny­sivrely. No team al­lows fewer goals per game, they boast a strong penalty kill, and they rank among the league’s best in pre­vent­ing shots, scor­ing chances and high-dan­ger shot at­tempts at d5e-oenp-,5.wTehlle-ry­oudnodi­et­dth­dane­fkesnstoe Bcor­rap­ns­doin­nwChair­cloh dZodetnhoe Cshu­a­tr­daoawnnd Twoor­reky Kan­rudgCmhoav­re­li­ethMe pcAucvko.yGoanaldie Tuukka Rask, who was su­perb in the 2019 play­offs, has had his best reg­u­lar sea­son since win­ning the 2013-14 Vez­ina Tro­phy.

THE STAN­LEY CUP

If Bos­ton wins the Stan­ley Cup, TUUKKA RASK will be a big rea­son why and should get first dibs. As a starter, he’s en­dured two de­flat­ing se­ries de­feats in the fi­nal.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING parM­ti­ac­nuy­laor­fly­thethBeru­inpso’ wfo­er­rwhaorudss­e, line of Brad Marc­hand, Pa­trice Berg­eron and David Pas­tr­nak, are among the best two-way pe­siloiat­ny­ee­graast­mic­neotn–htearonNld­lHi­naLtg. sTtcho­ery­in­prgeo.msPsaaeisn

Rtrinc­ahkar­w­doTn­raop­sh­yare­woitfhth4e­8R­goocak­lest. oM­nadrc­sh­traanidghw­t 1as00o-npopi­ancte­se­faos­rosne.c

Bos­ton has al­ways re­lied a li­ottskoenwt­e­hde ‘tPo­erth­feect­pi­oninLti­noef,’cbountcern this sea­son. At the time

oacfc­to­huenMtead­r­cfhor1247p.a1us­pee,rtcheen­troiof

Bn­uom­stobne’rswgoasal4­s.1L.2asptes­re­caes­not.n“,St­thoapt the big line and you can beat the eBrrsuinNs­i”ckis Rtritucehr­i­ethaan­ndit’Osned­vreerj been. Sweeney ac­quired wingKase in Fe­bru­ary but couldn’t sinegcutrh­ere­ant.otBhoes­r­tohnignhe-ednsd dsecpotrhf­or­wards such as Char­lie Coyle apn­la­dySineatnh­eKpuo­raslty-steoase­olen­vlait­keet­theeiyr did last year.

Ex­panded ros­ters for 2019-20’s un­prece­dented play­off for­mat will al­low teams to tuck away some prospects who would’ve been bat­tling in the Calder Cup play­offs had the AHL not can­celled its sea­son. Don’t for­get about JACK STUDNICKA, then. His blend of scor­ing and two-way abil­ity makes him suit­able to use on any line. He’s a deep sleeper.

best pos­ses­sion Up front, sopho­more left

winger An­drei Svech­nikov has rtei­daemss a in­balath­necedNHatL­t,ack­Caaronl­d­ina

Tw­beeirethan­vaaSiern­bee­vanes,tla­iat­g­ni­iovniAno­hgno ttahh­need­toHTpeu­lur­in­rvioeFcAal­don­dreis­ndgaa lBin­rienudp’Atmhao­tuhras­m­gai­jvo­ern bcouayc-ih­nRond aVst­ci­na­trchyee,nht­diegTahrd-osl­ci­ch­no­ercinkfu­grft­trhroiemor. most nights. The Hur­ri­canes can pfor­reesc­sh­ey­coku, owrit­th­heayn cuan­for­regliyvion­ng oth­neoirth­sekrill­ntigoh­ptsu.sh them through bsoul­tit­dretswseod-wayghroucp­keyt,hat­nd­planyys

li­is­neguopin­fgeat­tourci­nar­gryJusitsi­nelWf willi­itah­mas In­juries had taken a bite out soe­faCsaornow­li­naas’spab­u­luseldin, beubtetfho­ereH­tuhrerdiec­fae­nessem­coe­unldb­haack­veina

lit­tle more con­fi­dence. Caroflirno­am’s cto­hue­pllienekue­py AaHbLil­iC­ty­har­tolotp­tel,uwck­hicphlawye­orns

the Calder Cup last sea­son, has thCeuNpHLt’os­us­runma men­rti.mDe oSu­tag­nielfeoyr

meant great depth as well, most hHalmf bileto­fonr,ewfhraoc­thuardi­nag­gth­reat­fib­fi­urs­lat crec­neten­rtlMy do­ergmaon­nGstereak­tieed. by rookie in his left leg in Jan­uary, is ready If there’s one big ques­tion atonorte­hjo­erin­sthaelw­taer­atmD. -Mmeaann, wBhrielett, man­adr­knoin, tChaery­olic­naan,’tit’ssi­gin unnedte–Pfeeat­tredMrEaBz­UekG Pfien­sis­che,ewd adsui­en­ti­toiaslh­ly­outhl­doeurgh­sut rto­ge­brye aD­nad­viJ­damAy­erseRs.eBi­moethr cinouMl­dar­c­cohm. Beub­tatchk­er­ifeC’saaro­clhi­naancwei­hnes isin­j­tuhreiegs,uy­buitn it­d­hee­ha­la­lyveMbratz­telekd aW­pal­dadye­olflf aroc­qu­u­nidreodr tswli­cok. GsMkaD­te­orns Hcreap­soe­so­tend­cetwthoe­sphlu­aty­ouffts bineg1in1. Ba­trathdey tSrkad­jeei dae­nad­dlSi­naem, isoVath­taenre’ns tah­pepeHau­r­rar­niceas­nel­sasat­d­vsae­nac­soedn twohtehne plenty of depth on the back end. con­fer­ence fi­nal.

He’s won it all be­fore, but JUSTIN WIL­LIAMS has meant so much to the team, and his re­turn has been cru­cial. Maybe he’ll start a Storm Surge with Gary Bettman…

ONE OF THE

JUSTIN WIL­LIAMS might tempt poolies as a sleeper pick. He’s ‘Mr. Game 7,’ af­ter all, and he was great af­ter join­ing the Hur­ri­canes in Jan­uary, snip­ing eight goals in 20 games. Can he flip a switch and get back in game shape at 38 af­ter an­other multi-month lay­off? It’s a gam­ble. In his past three post-sea­sons, he has 23 points in 40 games. Meh.

Not that long ago,

VIN­CENT TROCHECK

was seen as an elite two-way cen­ter in the mak­ing, rack­ing up 75 points for the Florida Pan­thers in 2017-18. In­juries and in­con­sis­tency have slowed him down, but Carolina needs him to be that sec­ondary trhurne.aTtroif­ciht’es­cgkoginogt to make an­other off to a slow start with his new team, and he’ll have to get up to speed, fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally, be­cause one of the guys he was traded for – Erik Haula – is the un­ty­fo­pre­goivfinfag­st­palany­der who’s tai­lor-made for the post­sea­son. It’s time for Trocheck to live up to the stan­dard he set for him­self just a few years ago.

JOHNNY GAUDREAU

Un­til can fig­ure out a counter-at­tack to the swarm­ing de­fenses he faces, the Flames are a team with­out a dy­namic dif­fer­ence-maker. The chem­istry he and Sean Mon­a­han shared for Gaudreau’s first five sea­sons is gone. In the

82 games be­tween all-star breaks in

2019 and 2020, he had 28 goals and

64 points, a far cry from the point-pergame player and Hart Tro­phy con­tender he’s been the past few years. The good news is Gaudreau looked to be com­ing out of his funk in Fe­bru­ary and March with 18 points in 18 games. Can he main­tain that gear in the play­offs when the game be­comes harder to play?

of Sean Mon­a­han be­tween Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lind­holm was one of the best in the league in 2018-19. In

2019-20, it was pre­dictable and stop­pable. The line ac­counted

afogro.3T.2h4ispy­oeian­rt­sis­p­wears­g2a.m29e. aThyaeta’sr a 3O0pppe­or­sci­en­ngt tceoarm­rescteixop­ne. cted the Gaudreau but­ton-hook in­side tb­heefo­bre­luheleince­oual­nd­desf­fwe­catrimveel­yd dhi­ismh off a pass. Mon­a­han strug­gled in his pur­suit of the puck, and his

13.3 shoot­ing per­cent­age was tLhinedl­howolemst coofn­htis­nu­caerdeehri.sA­tol­er­arisdt pgoaacels,. lMeaod­sit­ng­nigFh­latsm, et­shewsite­hcon2d9 line of Mikael Back­lund be­tween Matthew Tkachuk and An­rderqeuwir­eM­dapnl­guicak­pa­tonebastht­loewtherd­outhghe ed­nefdesnos­festhaenid­cew. ork hard at both

In last year’s play­offs, the Flames were man­han­dled by the speed of Colorado’s at­tack and didn’t have the phys­i­cal makeup

THE TOP LINE

MIKAEL BACK­LUND has been a re­li­able Flame for 11 sea­sons. He’ll move into third place on the all-time GP list within two sea­sons. He’ll get the pass from Mark Gior­dano.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING to wear them down by tak­ing the dThDeeared­kdiF­tioornb­soortf aM­did­lamn Lorue­b­cioc­dayn. snarl to the lineup, but does it slow them down as well? TMrarvk­isGiHoard­maon­noi,cT.fJo. rBre­oxd­tien­adned sVuarlig­mer­ayk.iTthoe­sae­caq­suoins-ietinod­nis­ngofkF­no­ere­bort and Erik Gustafs­son at the taraed­nein­de­ab­dl­luineel­in­meer­sande­theep Ffo­larmthees poAstg-aseinas­tovni.rtu­ally ev­ery po­ten­tial play­off op­po­nent, the Flames look over­matched in the goal­ht­seanaddsoi­ang­sonl­diodewpf,air­rDst­matvhei­dnaltf.RbitFu­toitcrhw­to­hwra­nos dhowmne ast­nrdetsc­thr.uIgtg’slead gdouord­ingth­t­in­hge sth­toepF­plearms eas­ng­di­vye­outhewnon­ode­tro wRhi­tytich most of the time.

It’s time to pass on JOHNNY GAUDREAU and make him prove it. In his past two post-sea­sons, he has zero goals and three as­sists in nine games. Be­cause of­fi­cials tend to put the whis­tles away in the play­offs, the more phys­i­cal style neu­tral­izes Gaudreau’s shifty puck skills. Matthew Tkachuk, who plays a heav­ier game, is a bet­ter play­off-pool pick.

paused its seaM­soan­r­cb­hec1a2u,sethoef pects. If the Black­hawks had any

inkling they’d be in the play­offs, tCh­he­icaogron­aBvlair­cuk­shawks they likely would not have dealt cLoemh­neebr.acItk’stoa­hamuon­vtethtehma­t. could were sit­ting six points out otof aovpelaryc­omff es­paont­d­wji­uth­st­fo1u2rgtea­ammes thoWuhghy Cios­reythaCtr?awW­fo­erdll, haed­vena bloosui ngce-rbea­cock­rds. eAasnodn,t he Bha­l­ad­ck­a­hawks

COSVoI,Dt-h1e9BlIanc­vkithaatwi­okn­sale­natesr the have this propen­sity ec­toit­niodn-waon­rdst ote­naemthi­ant thise ac­to­morps f3o5r.1givpi­enrg guap­mae lotht eoyf swhe­o­rtes. sTuhreOr­menonl­rdyeiongn­goeawtlsea­asp­mewrogfrat­shmteien2, 4atnhgdeav­nNeoHunLpe. to­hfatnhetmh­e­hHaad­wakws.orse power play been a fit­ting hub-city choice pifnolra, ybtiehnce­gauwBs­lieathc­tkhhiosauw­iskec­sl­metaoornl­cyeoyam. tpeaemte awthkesy’arere nOoKthion­fgfenTshiv­eelBy,labck­uht spe­cial. Pa­trick Kane was his theAs­neyBlarcek­sheamw­bklas­nac­ned tb­hetwteeaem­n

RTu­osoue­owak­liseb­wrDialol­si­maonit­npiskae­clKfe au­fon­br­da7liJ0kon­pwao­tai­hn­sat­sna. tle­hadti­wn­gon­ump ut­lotip2le01­S5­tanis­ley­puCrue­plys ceossinec­nit­di­aelnly­tal.adTmhitet­edBlac­skhmawuckh­s lme­sasjotrhaf­n­i­nad­nyan­odthedrid­plmay­oer­reinwti­hthe

NHL. He scored 30 goals de­spite the ytr­wadeere­de­saigdnlin­fiec,ad­ne­taslein­ll­gewrhseant

tgiemt­teinpgerug­nad­mere.15 min­utes of ice td­heefenCsae­l­gmaaryn FEl­raik­meG­susat­nadf­ss­goon­al­tioe

huAgell hi­inll taoll,cltih­meb Hi­fatwhekys hhoapve toa iLge­hht­sne­fror­top­ti­hcek­sVeag­nads Gproold­sRenobKin

make a deep run.

Jonathan Toews has had three cracks at this, so he’s get­ting pretty good at it. Chances are it will be COREY CRAW­FORD, a pend­ing UFA who likely won’t be back.

WHEN THE NHL

DO­MINIK KUBALIK’S rookie year was mar­vel­lous. He led all qual­i­fied NHLers in goals per 60 and be­came the eighth fresh­man this decade to score 30 goals. Kubalik, how­ever, scored on 19.1 per­cent of his shots. Con­sid­er­ing the NHL’s high­est ac­tive shoot­ing per­cent­age is 16.9, Kubalik’s num­ber will regress to the mean – per­haps in these play­offs.

You know how the mantra for real es­tate is ‘Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion’? Well, this team will en­ter the play­offs chant­ing ‘Ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­pe­ri­ence’. There is lit­er­ally no post­sea­son sit­u­a­tion that the core of this group has not seen mul­ti­ple times be­fore. Over­time in Game 7? Been there. Over­come se­ries deficits? Pfft. Whether that trans­lates into this group be­ing able to use that to over­come a lot of glar­ing de­fi­cien­cies re­mains to be seen, but there are a lot otfh­pal­nayPeArTsR­oItChKer Jonathan Toews, Dun­can Keith and Corey Craw­ford that teams would rather face in a play­off se­ries.

KANE,

No doubt the Blue Jack­ets need more scor­ing punch, and as the reg­u­lar sea­son wound down, they may have found some in rookie right winger

EMIL BEMSTROM.

El­e­vated to the top line with Pierre-Luc Dubois, Bemstrom put up most of his of­fense in the fi­nal month or so be­fore the sea­son was paused, us­ing his quick shot and great in­stincts. A De­cem­ber rib in­jury likely de­layed his NHL de­vel­op­ment, but the po­ten­tial he showed off dur­ing his break­out SHL cam­paign last sea­son is be­com­ing quite ev­i­dent. Can the slight-framed rookie make an im­pact in the rugged NHL play­offs? The Blue Jack­ets will be a lot bet­ter off if he can.

many thought was daec­st­tuian­le­lyd fvo­er­ry­the­cobmapsemt­iteivnet this sea­son, de­spite a slew of dev­as­tat­ing in­juries that in­cluded all-world de­fense­man Seth Jones and for­mer 40-goal man Cam Atkin­son. Sur­viv­ing ad­ver­sity is some­thing these Blue JacIknet­stehramvse covf er­setrdeon­fgfte­hass, ilyC.olum­bus has been mas­ter­fully led by coach John Tor­torella, and the Blue Jack­ets are more than happy to keep things wthineys lethdis­th­seeNasHoLn.in­Wohnieleg­tio­gahlt: the team was bot­tom-five in odf­ef­feenssee,, is­tow­ifaC­soalulsmob­tu­osp-is­fivpelaiyn­ing the way it wants and im­pos­ing its will, there isn’t go­ing to be a loG­tivoefn­goahlos­won tphleay­boofafrdh. ockey taed­nvdasn taoggeof,otrhatthei­s BdleufeinJ­i­tae­clkyeatsn. T–heevye’rnewait­heoau­vty,ppowhyesri­c­faol­rwtearmd Josh An­der­son, who isn’t ex­pected to re­turn un­til next sea­son – and that style has proven

THE TEAM THAT

As the long­est-tenured Blue Jacket, CAM ATKIN­SON de­serves it. He’s been through the wars and has al­ways been a good sol­dier – es­pe­cially in the play­offs.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING ty­oubceon­ssuicd­ceerssth­fuel moafke­lautpe owf hlaesnt year’s fi­nal­ists in St. Louis and Bos­ton. Pierre-Luc Dubois is the type of two-way cen­ter who can re­ally make an im­pact in the poFsto-rseast­oena.m that lost a mar­qburoevesn­keytm­l­e­fit­nd­fo­err Fwlohrein­daSears­gaeifBre­oe­qburoevesn­keytm­l­e­fit­nd­fo­err agent last sum­mer, Colum­bus hcrae­sasaec.tuJoaoll­nyab­seKeon­rp­go­is­ladleondin­d the heavy lift­ing early, even earn­ing a nod for the All-Star Game be­fore a knee in­jury held him out. tInookhios­ffp, lnaacbe,biEnglv­if­siveMsehrz­ul­tiokuints cinon­hfi­is­defin­rt­stro2o4ki­aep­preoavread­ncteosb. eTahne in­sT­tah­net fBal­nue­favJoar­cik­tet.s are not a great pos­ses­sion team, the pe­naplotwy ekrillplia­symiserueg­lyly,OsKo, tah­nids Cthoel­wuam­rbtsu. sBuo­tu­ti­fi­ty­ocuer’rteain­loloykhi­nags fiotsr a team that can use “No­body be­lieved in us” as mo­ti­va­tion, this is your best can­di­date out of the East­ern Con­fer­ence.

Feel­ing lucky? It doesn’t get more boom/bust than ELVIS MERZLIKINS as a late-round dice roll. He’s not even a lock to start over pla­toon mate Joonas Kor­pisalo, but Merzlikins’ abil­ity to go on hot streaks gives him se­ries-steal­ing up­side and could turn him into Colum­bus’ MVP dur­ing the play­offs. His five shutouts came in an eight-game stretch.

Cboel­sotr­taedaom­srainkpser­a-mgaom­nge can

Ach­van­lagnec.hTehrwee rseeav­soien­wsead­goa, sthae

goal scor­ing, and if MacK­in­non mori­bund fran­chise. Now, un­der doesn’t get you, Mikko Ran­ta­nen,

GBuabrarki­eolvsLkayn­wdeil­slk. oPgluso, rnoAtnedar­me the guid­ance of coach Jared maBmeo­dos­nt­nagdr,atCn­hogele­orNroaHudL­so’soifs­d­fec­neosp­nievs­seidt eoarunet­d­may have ben­e­fit­ted more from the ANvHsLw’so­su­uld­sphean­v­seiohnadop­f lpel­natyy, aosf tfi­htrso. ugAh­nNd ate­hvaen­rMy­tahcinKgin­n­founn.nels

sin­ta­jur­rtey­d­caos­nc­sechrnes­duh­laed .the play­offs MaWcKi­ti­hn­noe­nacd­heve­plaospssin­ing­tosae­ma­sorne,

One wor­ries about the Avadop­foocmsh­sieansnas­g­tioinng. atHa­gleaem­nitse, woun­in­te­qhu­caea­spit­naiobgn­leal­tahfn­fac­tihrsed,’osnh’oatwbibeli­evtceyor.mtoDeewsep­ni­indte-tgosa-omemnedes of­faebnly­sivthee­dr­sit­nrak­win­tChoal­tosr­taidrso.the de­fen­sive weapons, Cale Makar

ios­nagt­trhuemsh, uwth­daotwCno­ploari­ar­cd­hoielaf­cakms How­ever, the ad­just­ments ing that can match up against the oth­pe­poAsvi­atiloan’csh­beehsot.ldAnudp hi­now­gri­wndil-l ep­naidthinec­rAev­dail­bal­necd­hiev­i­daet­tnad­csk. Fhraovme

ps­d­toyrlcteau­g­naimtieaes­ks?ewTthenhmo­toh­pseetyiosf­bCeiotc­slooom­r­paer­si­et­cobonigd--nlain­meecaed­ndteitri­oN­nasze­sum­chKads slouwch-ri­assk,Vahliegrhi-rNei­wchau­rd­shki­ink,inthges at­evsatisla, pbel­er­hainps olonwt-hsec­o­proi­wnger pcolany-.

sStweu­uaairntmp.trTsi­ihsspiean­lal­gsyalesyhr­t, iatehss­nti­hnt’hto­gabuCte­gote­hulno,rrnass­dspi­ot­nrew­to­coni­ial­gall

Aftrhvoamn­lan7ac5hqe­u­gion­hatalesvte­aon­fred­ncoe1­tia6vbe0dl­epm­souion­m­rtesNmear­rly­acuqnuri­isvi­atilolends.ofTfehne­sivre sfuir­let?pthoewfeiv­r.e slog.

Lan­deskog, the cap­tain, has played more games in Colorado than any cur­rent Avalanche player, but ERIK JOHN­SON is the long­est-tenured and has been through it all.

HOW QUICKLY THINGS

PHILIPP GRUBAUER was Colorado’s un­ques­tioned No. 1 goalie to open the year, but Pavel Fran­couz was lights-out in the sec­ond half while Grubauer was in­jured. Even though the Avs are a top-tier Cup con­tender, Grubauer isn’t an elite play­off-pool pick. He should get the first crack to start, but Fran­couz’s emer­gence will shorten Grubauer’s leash.

Goal­tend­ing can be the po­si­tion of most im­por­tance in the post-sea­son, but it may be the po­si­tion at which the Avalanche are least con­fi­dent.

PHILIPP GRUBAUER,

who was side­lined down the stretch, has only 16 games ex­pe­ri­ence in the post-sea­son and a wholly un­flat­ter­ing ca­reer .909 save per­cent­age. Mean­while, Pavel Fran­couz, he of an ugly .895 SP and 3.31 GAA in four AHL play­off games last sea­son, has never seen post-sea­son ac­tion in­ot­ph­peoNnHenL.t,Ag­goaainl-st a de­fense-minded tend­ing will swing the se­ries, and if eiFtrhaen­r­cGoru­uzb­sahuoewr sor cracks, it will spell dis­as­ter for the Avalanche.

Few play­ers wear their heart on their sleeve quite like

JOE PAVEL­SKI,

the for­mer Sharks cap­tain who was a cap ca­su­alty in San Jose. Af­ter sign­ing in the sum­mer, he be­came a key mid­dle-six cog in Dal­las. Though the veteran cen­ter has had a mod­est of­fen­sive out­put, he re­mains a premier net-front player – and per­haps no one in the league is as adept at high-slot tips as the 36-year-old. His play in all three zones has been a boon to the Dal­las lineup. He came ohso-close to win­ning a Stan­ley Cup in San Jose, and he’s in the twi­light of his ca­reer. He can be a player the Stars rally around, and his play is sure to in­spire.

to smother and suf­fo­cate ev­ery op­po­nent who crosses their path. That is theWghoial­el. coach Rick Bow­ness’ group wasn’t tops in the league in­g­suapttper­me­sp­stisnogn­sh­noetts, owrh­perevDe­natl­las thrives is in lim­it­ing prime op­por­tu­ni­ties against. Led on the blue­line by the woe­fully un­der­rated trio of Miro Heiska­nen, Jto­hh­erneKal­rinegf­beewrgteaa­n­md­sEasacrLoi­sns­dtehlel, loepap­gou­seit­tiohnatag­sivte­heasSl­ti­at­trlse. tDoaltl­haes was so good at in­su­lat­ing its crease that Ben Bishop and Ant­boen­stKin­hduid­void­buinalh­sat­vaeti­satim­c­sonogf atnhye goal­tenders in the league. It’s no won­der their com­bined save per­cent­age is bet­ter than that of anyWoet’hvers­deueno.how ef­fec­tive the bSteairns’td­hef­pe­on­stiv-seesat­sy­olen,ot­fopol.aIyt wcans just last year that Dal­las nearly top­pled the even­tual Stan­ley Cup cham­pion St. Louis Blues in the sec­ond round. The two

THE STARS WANT

tehamt ist wtoe­orke dsoue­b­vlenolyvem­r­taimtce­heind Game 7 to de­cide the se­ries. Had kitnnoowts­be­wehne­froer thaetSOtTa­rgso’ apll,awyohfof run would have ended? thaTtheDai­l­slsause,athoti­wmeevser,beis­comth­east so trans­fixed with its own-zone ps­g­co­laoeyrset­d­hoafft­feinwt­saelr.mO­goos­ntalylesnf­tip­ivr­erlyt­ge­faoam­reesthoans­etch­leubSsta–rtsh, eanC­dolu­omnl­byu­os­nBelu­oef JacIkt’ests n–omaw­doent­d­herp, laty­hoefnfs, . that ler Seguin was the only Star to epxla­cyeiendg tshuech40s-tpaouinc­th­pldaete­feanus.ivIne hge­or­ck­oe­fyo,fDfean­ll­saivse­plutl­slsit­shealtf ainred­dainf­foicrutlht etoSt­sahrask­teo. fIltip­cath­neb­se­wait­choor­fe­fen­sively in times of need when to­hue­tyin’vgep­sr­po­evnidtitnh­geamsha­je­oll­riftoyr othf eainr net­min­ders. All of which is to say: jump­ing out to an early lead is cru­cial.

TYLER SEGUIN has been Jamie Benn’s Texas part­ner for seven sea­sons and more than 500 games now. It only makes sense Benn dishes it off to his cen­ter.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING

DE­NIS GURIANOV won’t win the Calder Tro­phy but was one of the league’s best rookie for­wards. He led the Stars in goals and, among their for­wards who played 500-plus min­utes at 5-on-5, was sec­ond only to Tyler Seguin in points and shots per 60 min­utes. Gurianov will be avail­able late in drafts and could give your goal to­tal a nice boost.

are tak­ing care of busi­ness in their own end, too. Ed­mon­ton bsptueirlt­l at­gh­llaeomw­pel­dat­tao­ho­cao­nun­piel­tet­m­mgieon­nrdeirn­sahg­toeotdsf, and Leon Drai­saitl is un­quest­wioany,abre­ly­gaardtl­hers­esaot fto­plagy­oofafllset­e­hde Tb­higegdeyst­no­ramhoicmde­u-io­ceaared­v­tah­ne­tat­g­weo. sMeiekmkoe­dK­tooskwi­no­erkn. and Mike Smith goaffmenes, iavned­nte­hed­flaec-tmtho­evyer’rse is­nomthee­boTt­thoem Ooi­fletrhse rlae­nagkuede in­e5ar-onth-5e

Corsi per­cent­age, but no team timeschoan­ngth­ese eicvery­athitnhge wsahmene is more dan­ger­ous on spe­cial teams. Ed­mon­ton has far and sti­topce­sochi­maultet­ste­ha­teom­mds.ed­feon­ws­niv. eAst­tl­reaat­set­gioens away the best power play in the league and is a top-two team on wth­heEepdnemn­boaonltt­thy­onkKioil­slsakm­si­nowes­netlvla.unld­neSrmabitl­he The Oil­ers, un­der new GM

pruron­vceonld1. ASuarne,dit1’sBg, oboudt ttherec’os­sat oRnook­iMe cDKav­iliedr Yaan­m­damDor­toaisha­iatdl.

sawsi­ht­cohrtsin­seg­ruiestous,atlh­lyeataorte­l­hoaes­llrsygh­bueuyfr.ot­srIne.

2N6ug­penotin-Ht­sopiknin2s­7 hgaadmtehs­e, Rbyeasnt npoi­nine-ts-peaesro-gnamNeHLou­tc­pau­ret ero, f ah­nids linAenc­dorepvsen­hasth­sooulgid­hi­fite­hde ubnl­duer

NmdBTeieui­p­fas­repcrsnuee­sate,etlOs,lm­siart­caananns­drtk­iKt­lalu­al­nem­rld­fan­bo­cokn­vims­ger­aat­sphn.rte­doDp­nEaN-ert­fHh­noLaeut’nlosrl ZJ­gaoa­mackle-sKcNoare­sisani­lagwn ah­p­saooswneap­rraicve­feod­frowraashr­dias.

C11OtVhIDc­a-1re9esrh2u­0t-tghoianl­gsedaosown­nu. ntil

Un­der de­fen­sive spe­cial­ist top 50 blue­line of­fend­ers when coach Dave Tip­pett, the Oil­ers it comes to give­aways.

It only makes sense that Con­nor McDavid passes the Cup to Art Ross Tro­phy win­ner LEON DRAI­SAITL. But it would be touch­ing if 38-year-old Mike Smith got it first.

TtEaAleMnt­sBOinASCTo­InNnGorexM­cecpD­taiovnidaA­l

The Oil­ers have lacked a mas­ter blaster from the blue­line since the days of Shel­don Souray many moons ago. Is trade-dead­line ac­qui­si­tion the guy to step in and add an ex­tra di­men­sion to Ed­mon­ton’s po­tent power play? He ob­nac­cek henadd ain3W1-ag­soha-l sea­son from the in­g­ton, al­beit 11 years ago. The best an Ed­mon­ton de­fense­man has done in the past decade is Os­car Klef­bom’s 12 goals in 2016-17. Green has been frag­ile much of the past two sea­sons with Detroit and got hurt two games into his Ed­mon­ton stint. At the very least, he’s a player other teams have to re­spect, es­pe­cially on the power play.

GREEN MIKE

SERGEI BOBROVSKY

is the def­i­ni­tion of a play­off X-fac­tor. He has the po­ten­tial to erase all the dis­ap­point­ment of the reg­u­lar sea­son by catch­ing fire in the post-sea­son. He en­tered last spring known as a play­off choke artist but re­deemed him­self with a .925 save per­cent­age across 10 games. Florida draws a New York Is­landers team that had lost seven con­sec­u­tive games head­ing into the March 12 shut­down. Bobrovsky can still steal a se­ries if he’s healthy and fo­cused at the right time. He hasn’t played since Feb. 29. In his case, a five-month lay­off might be a bless­ing, as it can act as a men­tal re­set for him.

to be it. Af­ter years of fail­ure de­spite con­sis­tently build­ing tal­ente­don-pa­per ros­ters, the Pan­thers re­ally went for it last sum­mer with coach Joel Quen­neville and goal­tender Sergei Bobrovsky among their top ad­di­tions. But the sum re­sult was tech­ni­cally more of the same. The Pan­thers sat out­side the play­off mix when the sea­son paused, but the 24-team play-in for­mat gives them life. If they get hot at the right time, any­thing can hap­pen. eTvh­eryy phoasvitei­ong.ame-break­ers at onTo­hfe­feP­nas­net.hTerhse­yare­havdeeeth­pete­baimg, silky-handed, two-way cen­ter ev­ery team cov­ets in Alek­sander Bu­nard­ke­orvr,atoende opf ltahyemNak­HinL’gs mloesft wingers in Jonathan Hu­berd­cae­sat­uo­fan­fid­nisa­h­es­rtr­so­ing­clus­duip­npgoMrtink­ge Hoff­man and Ev­genii Dadonov. The Pan­thers have five 20-goal scor­ers and would’ve had six or seven in a full sea­son. They iced the league’s sixth-best of­fense,

THIS WAS SUP­POSED

Only eight ac­tive NHL skaters have logged more play­off games than BRIAN BOYLE with­out win­ning a Cup. Beloved in the room, he’d be a pop­u­lar sen­ti­men­tal pick.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING athftoeurg­th­ethaell-gso­tarls­b­dr­eraiekd. up a bit

The de­fense corps hasn’t wreoarskoe­nd­wohuyt aGsMhoD­paeled.TTahlle­orne’es­xa­pressed a de­sire to get more help for work­horse Aaron Ek­blad at the trade dead­line – which didn’t hap­pen. Mike Mathe­son has strug­gled to earn Quen­nevialleh’esatl­rthuyst­st­co­ratthceh­paonid­nt­goeft­tbineg­inga look as a hy­brid de­fense­man/ fTohrewPar­ad­ntahle­ornsg’ mwiatihn Misas­ruke Phyasynk’t. bwe­heinch ohvaesrabl­e­len­dem­feinds­dil­vee-of-pth­laey-, ptoa­cakl,lob­wut rhaigthe-dratnhgeep­rroch­paenc­seitsy. tEhx­eacfearcb­tat­ti­wngo-tih­meep­rVoe­b­zlienma Twraosm­phiy­ser­waibnlny,er­grBaod­bin­rogv­sokuyt flaosppte­hde is­nev­geonatlhs -swavo­erd­stag­booavleiea­ivn­erthageeNp­HeLr m60in­aum­teosnpglta­hy­oes­deawt 5it-hon1-,050. 0-plus rivFalorTi­doaroin­stoa: logtre­li­akte doifvfeis­nisoen, me­diocre de­fense, hurt by un­ex­pect­edly bad goal­tend­ing.

AARON EK­BLAD ex­pe­ri­enced a mini­break­out this sea­son. He set a ca­reer high with 41 points even though he played just 67 games. Among the 197 de­fense­men who played 500 or more min­utes at 5-on-5, Ek­blad led the NHL in pri­mary as­sists per 60. If you think Florida can go on a sur­prise run, he’s a de­cent late-round se­lec­tion.

the tdreaadlet Jdae­soadnliZnu­ec, kGeMr toBitlhl eGuPeitr­tisnbcouar­cgh

JaaprAeod­nindSt-pp­wuerirtg-hgeaom­nRye­gaup­ni­ad­cieSn.ugtethr e adnedf­menosre, BPre­uncgeuBi­nosu. dOrneeauww­eeaks lfairt­edr, ba­nend­crhep­bloasc­seDde­bayncEu­vrarseonnt.iAn­nt­edri­omn Muinyniesl­doit­nag hads ebfee­nes­nive­fa­lyr ldye­faldirl­tiende wdaityh, tahterWadi­eld­thraet­p­worotuedld­t­shuag­n­ge­sits. Ngoatlesa-ma­g­a­ilnloswt ead­vfeer­wageer Phavrieses­teon­th­teoNp-el­wineYowrk­inIs­glearndZea­rcsh. sc­choar­nic­negsc­ah­gaan­ic­nesst,oarn­hdigthh-edaWngield­r

gb­hoaadUal­snsbt-feeaode­grn­tauit­npnhsrae­toter­val­liy­odt,ewet­diehnset­tohseMe­hNx­ein­plHl­neLcet.ht­seoad­tHiGn­uo­gewrteion­veahr,et­deldeas­rfd­piroimtwe nath­llas­ntigdhnisr­sepib­noutieinl­ndt--, tion was for the Wild to com­pete

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De­van Dub­nyk had a com­bined The per­cep­tion that the Wild .902 save per­cent­age, and the aere-ono­tishin­sog­m­me­owrheatham­nis­aguhi­ad­negd-, 2W9itlhd’sinovtheer­alNl HSLP. S(t.a8l9o7c)k was

dubenog­wsien­an­tet­inhdgeDs­tu­tor­ben­r­ty­ockhu,nfodhlolow­in­we­tovine­grf.otrHhme tohpo-ueg­nhd. Wfirheiple­owit’esr,tr­tuhe tahte­tay­clka­ciks vDger­retievar­it­naegnr stth,hai­en­ncotl­h­fufed­nisnsug­emiP­soa­fari­its­se­lep, waEr­rtoiscf. balal-cskt.aSrtablore­cakkis alan­rdged­lyidunn’ttel­so­toedk cinarpeoes­rt-psleaaysoo­ffn­gacmtieosn own­ith­is­foruer­sume, Smth­toaroastlu­gahin­mod­up­tMre­tah­st­sesivbeZa,uc­ck­c­pa­hararetlfl­il­coou,flab­trhu­lyet but he has per­formed well cam­paign, was Kevin Fiala. The when called upon, as his .931 SP 23-year-old bor­dered on unis­nto­top­pMaabrl­ceht,hsr­courgin­hgFaetbm­ruoar­rey­tah­nand can at­test.

Only three ac­tive play­ers who have yet to hoist the Cup have played more games than RYAN SUTER. The work­horse has earned the right to hold the hard­ware high.

TWO WEEKS BE­FORE

KEVIN FIALA mor­phed into a top-end scorer this sea­son, amass­ing 53 points in his fi­nal 56 games and ex­plod­ing for 14 goals and 26 points dur­ing an 18-game point streak lead­ing into the shut­down. Be­cause of a slow start and the sea­son end­ing early, his over­all num­bers don’t pop too much, mean­ing he could slip to the late mid­dle rounds in drafts.

Which ver­sion of shows up? Though he’s had a ca­reer resur­gence in Min­nesota, his last three trips to the post-sea­son were fruit­less. Dat­ing back to the

2016 play­offs, dur­ing which he was a mem­ber of the New Yohraks Raas­ninggel­res,gSo­taalal and three points in

15 games. That level of pro­duc­tion is a far cry from his past as a play­off war­rior. Dur­ing the Hur­ri­canes’ run to the

2006 ti­tle, Staal led play­ers with 19 as­sists and 28 points.

gHoaels­foalnlod­w1e5dp­to­hi­antts with a team-best 10 in 18 games dur­ing Carolina’s 2009 con­fer­ence fi­nal run. Redis­cov­er­in­wgillthi­n­ac­troeald­sesptharek po­ten­tial for a Wild up­set.

ERIC STAAL

ALEXIS LAFRENIERE

beck­ons. The Cana­di­ens haven’t had a star fran­co­phone for­ward since Vin­cent Dam­p­housse and Pierre Tur­geon in the mid-1990s. Now, af­ter ‘Qual­i­fy­ing Team’ won the No. 1 over­all pick in the 2020 draft lot­tery, each of the eight los­ing teams from the play-in round has a 12.5-per­cent chance of scor­ing the supremely skilled left winger. The Habs, who fin­ished with a .500 points per­cent­age, do not have a 12.5-per­cent chance to win the Stan­ley Cup. Play­ers aren’t ca­pa­ble of con­sciously tank­ing, but will they re­al­ize on a sub­con­scious level that they may be bet­ter off los­ing? Could it lead to a flat per­for­mance? (see pg.

eoc­staoecNf­bab­wioppedNwi­RDs­r­bJn­coeoieron­srn­fvfnueleuo­y­aUaHmeai­iurr- saomegeodt­St­wastrnts­dpo ssaeLe­hSm krot­sip­panuh l igvvs­fSlaetertP ryn­st­nomie xsai­he­hieE­taado es­stc gsf ooeSg dorkpopy­ooySe­suan­hfr o tPrM ofhb­sti­hooeoaatgo eeoen­sh­sid son­hebaut­en­pOnefm, nwk edue ed­k­tsS sr san ehDeaph sWa­ha­soRf­pitetsv, eoeishodAu­ne­fy­er­cnr ttr­ri­aai esnh eesinaee­neos a. atheesnget­a. ddoe hpudt t- cte­tre­br­wngr thit rwetlseeT iCaedePfv­mae- ain­r­rh­pFora faee. reetec­caa kuef. e uiaderS- oT ym­ceaR baetaren­rt­sphw- p roha rn­ncJoar­cae et­tet­tor­eioei. nnr­rrnee­hh­h­hhe dvvorysnnn­r­rn­rtss­d­dddd1rgeee­eeeeaissss­st----’’.,, wahtHLat­acmhipap­beism­littptcfdi­nnnr­rhh­h­hi­habrn­nrar­goaeloey­oxuiaaagge­eeiys­reav­o­hMserd­dtTwirnt­myesk, ha- rbel­swes­rhnau­rrslvc­sr­sil hh aBane. iita yhd­ntt­tNphJv cv­tymicmTd­huh hzer ndsn v’uhie moshe rl­nalo­heu1i­wrbl oe re bcsr elrn n’eivo tin peol ten rceh­po­lene eaiEursRct­wn dcPPtl­roosmtPth nsaahrrmn­naDroeirtE llp’ne, lel eitDi ai­h­woutoa anaoooait­ths­douoaa e- faen­sar- E ., nliK ylsa i. oaims c, irtC elaxtliie eta rewrlk eipm iaa eel tvm ho - dfm­cofr s no e tcnv larnJ urr ein , hs­gth tt ee– it tsf tfeh apI bsese td aiaeSs hrof­btcttt– y

is2feeH. sors­gitD ldlji­is­lii tl0ongladt­drndb­ht­syF ngyhr gai­ifw ipt lor­c­paii gonnoons eaart­sehlsb rwtsst st, aes-’ ootrm dwlfe­fapglt eaf0sts­g­meio’co rsu ao­man. Psm­ngeJmsg JalNaknsm toa­goet eghte metH­tars31h­neh- nnr­ruhaslilen­n00Lygeaee- sss­r­rtt----, li s la s n oat tptF lal, bnnl­hos pso a ov r wii fte lasehliFte­a r’ep t m pee p a e r teh o n hch eoa is nod co m1ph suty tga eu, . bd’n niaooee haeekeog r– ri wreenP’eCma ’ nss ti ldt­seet­doaan­cane iet eene­tar­wna eiese hayd- ahrrr e bg ’ d n - roe as, uno tg e e u . e eeeM­suaek­ttN tmetfte tNse epus­fys

1oi P ra’s. et afhpo. di o kH- L r nw­siua e aa i e i tph­tit o. avsnlr­sh­l2oPteas oee e tr sro1a l m sti tcoaraii r r- h olis­gansd u ws DANHAMHUIS has played the third-most game­sa­mon­gac­tive­play­er­swith­outwin­ninga Stan­leyCup.He’sanNHLcrow­n­awayfro­menter­ingth­eTripleGol­dClub.

E. Aafeot Trym

If you don’t want to splurge on elite of­fen­sivede­fense­manRo­manJosiear­ly, youcould­wait­sev­er­al­round­sandnab RYANELLIS, whosescor­ing­pacein49

game­sex­trap­o­lat­ed­to64­pointsin82 games.Heav­er­agedthe­fourth-most pri­ma­ryas­sist­sand­fifth-most­points

per60a­mong­blue­lin­er­swith500-plus

min­ute­s­playedat5-on-5.

Bar­ring 2017, when postedan out­stand­ing .930 save per­cent­age­and­helped Nashville to its first Stan­leyCup­fi­nal ap­pear­ance, crease catas­tro­phes have beenanan­nual oc­cur­rence in the post-sea­son for the Preda­tors. Saros ce­ment­ed­him­self as the starter, but there will be ques­tions about his pre­pared­ness should he fal­ter. Rinne’s play­off re­sume does lit­tle to in­spire con­fi­dence, how­ever. In five of his eight trips to the post-sea­son, Rinne has­posteda.909 SPor­lowerand has posted a .911 SP or bet­ter just twice. Given the Preda­tors’ lack of fire­power, goal­tend­ing will make all the dif­fer­ence.

RINNE PEKKA

The Is­landers’ of­fense runs through Mathew Barzal, but when it comes to big-game mo­ments, keep an eye on veteran

JOR­DAN EBERLE.

Best-known for his game-ty­ing goal against Rus­sia with

5.4 sec­onds left in the semi­fi­nal of the

2009 world ju­niors (when Canada went on to win gold), Eberle is still po­tent when the tem­per­a­ture rises in the rink. Last year, he led the Isles in post-sea­son scor­ing with nine points in eight games and was in­stru­men­tal in putting the Pen­guins on their heels in the first round. It would be a huge lift to the Is­landers’ of­fense and take a lot of pres­sure off the en­tire team if he can be clutch once again.

style you’re get­ting with the Is­landers, and it is not fun to play against. Un­der coach Barry Trotz, New York pgalamyse tahat­stir­sub­co­tul­sr­teedr,ed­dbe­fyenssoil­vide –areso loimf­feit­nesdi.ve Toh­pis­g­poartltuen­idti­iensg wyeaasr’psafrir­tisctu-rlaorul­ny­de­vsi­wdeenpt ionf ltah­set Pen­guins and will un­doubt­edly be the strat­egy again this time.

While the penalty kill was mid-ta­ble, the Is­landers did add Pshao­gre­tahua­nadt­edthe­ac­ter­adJe­and-eGaad­blirni el, and he can strike at any time. Pageau got off to a slow start oah­faft­feein­rd­stiRv-geaal­nymgien­rsN­fiegen­hwdteYaor­greakdi,nthsh­tiomuthgth­oe the Isles faith­ful im­me­di­ately.

theDetofep­n­s1i0veilny, the sNqHuLa,db­wu­tasthine

o1f0f.eTnhs e wIsalas­n­mdeir­res­d­dionnt’ht ehab­voet­taonmy point-per-game play­ers in their lineup, and Brock Nel­son was the only player on a 30-goal pace.

Led by Cal Clut­ter­buck, Matt Martin and Leo Ko­marov, New

YOU KNOW WHAT

An Is­landers lifer who jumped straight from the draft to the NHL, JOSH BAI­LEY is a great can­di­date. He also hap­pens to be one of the team’s top for­wards.

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RAT­ING

York still goes old-school with boantt­goemrs siaxn, danc­drasthaetr­sabin­rasti­hve game comes back in style once oth­feth­pelayIoslf­af­s­nd­ce­orms’e oabro­jeuc­n­tidv.es­Onies atos twhea­gram­doews gno­tahleoin­rgo, ap­n­pdon­thenat saeprpire­osag­co­hesh­doeuelpd. be ef­fec­tive if a SemBey­towneeV­narl­tah­meovpi­panesd, 1sB­taroteprti­on Thomas Greiss have both bGere­inssas­as­netds, Rboubt in­notL­teo­htnherexwt­en­ret last year, when the duo ranked aasam­n­v­doendG­graet­bih­soesvNearH­aeLvpel­roeas­gid­teeiv.reVs­sain­rin­lag­mothaoalvs­t cat­e­gory, but not by much. At the least the Is­landers have two gthoaot­dhnase­tomfti­nen­de­brsee–n ksoeymeint­ht­in­hge plaByeoc­faf­su­is­neroe­fceth­net yweayrst.hey play, the Is­landers will be the worst pJse­o­rassseoeyn­sswi(ooen­nre­lyte­waD­mo­ert­sroeinit­th­tahinsedyp­eNoaes­rwt)-, but that was true last sea­son and they still won a round.

Don’t over­pay for the name brand and past play­off suc­cess of JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU. He was hav­ing a ca­reer year in Ot­tawa be­fore be­ing traded, but his role was big­ger with the Sens. Pageau’s av­er­age TOI dropped by 1:18 with the team change, and he man­aged just two goals and seven points in his first seven games with New York – all losses.

field Speak­ing of speed, the Rang­means the Rangers are still alive ers have an im­pres­sive as­sort

ment of skaters on the back end, ri­nes­gtue­ladr odfigveis­ti­toin­galjop­blbaeyd­of­b­fyftohre

Aled­abmy TFonxy. DWe­hAant­gtehleo aBn­lud­er­so­hoikr­ties tmi­cakte. tN, to­hwe tehamt Nce­owuldYovre­kry­hawse­lal do need, how­ever, is the puck on their sticks more of­ten. New tphlaey­toaus­rp­noamileern/tu.nder­dog role in

Yseosrskio­w­nas­teoan­mesoifn­ththeewNoH­rsLt, paons­dB­lessed with Hart Tro­phy

typ­i­cally those squads don’t last lceaand­deirdaot­fetAhre­teomf­fei nPsaen,atrhine aRsan­thge

lonH­gaivninthg­e­s­paiod­stt-hsaeta,stohne. Rangers Zetwrib­soa-cn­po­er­mjoanedgte­ay­dt­paioct­patalplcyo­knp:el­caneytnest­dewroinMth­aik­nado have a gem in net with rookie mI­gore Sthaen­ste­crakpi­anb, lewohfo­hap­n­r­dolvinedg os tehrerseli­anseoannbd­ew­foarse­htahveinpg­aan­mdeomn

ehBrir­soaif­ci­dor­ws­ntaHye’es­nasr.iekaOrL­fi­unc­n­go­dusqprv­soiest,ltigiRshas­t­ntiginl-l

is­gceo,caor­las­ncdikni­h­n5ag7lfu.gpIan­mafeac­sca,tr,meZeairbn-ayb­neies­nj­tat­d4h’1es nwinoiltl­doohwuanvb,et swtoon­cmo’tap­kcle­heaDseachv­eiovdiecrQ­eyuoti­hn­naent.

gath­oeae­labsd-ep­soet­friR-ngoatchm­keeetNrRHa­itLce­hta(h0rids.7sT2er)aosw­po­hanys, pTir­cueg,oLl­dunad­nqd­viswtah­sasa wstoanr Ow­lyh­men

caon-dwDi­nan­vei­drsPAalset­xrO­navkec(h0k.6in9()0. .T7h1e)

slte­hwy­eeCRputap­nNgieen­wrs2Y0po1l­ar4kye–wdLif.toAhr.ow­tuh­toeuhSlidt­ma’vn–eeloxw­teend­dCe­hdris­seKas­roenide­br­re­toakheaall­s­foroam­lab­hae­bcrk­wok­foeurnldtf­h’oveoest.tjaIunrst­toorbfde­ti­h­neenarpy­clao­ty­i­moifen­f­ssg,. Shb­huoec­tk­st­te­he­yartkyei­w­naarhsa.aOs nl­sootnhmgee­toiKtmhHeL­rahg­paol­naiydn-,

off ex­pe­ri­ence (backup on a ti­tle tNoog­weth­bea’lclkhuapve­toasp­treaeidn.ing camp

team), but none over here.

It’s HEN­RIK LUNDQVIST, and it’s not even close. Even if he doesn’t play in the play­offs, he’s a fran­chise leg­end who has never had the chance to hoist the Cup.

THE NHL’S EX­TENDED

ADAM FOX didn’t get the same rookie hype as Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes but was al­most as good. Fox ranked top

30 in points per 60 among all D-men with 500-plus min­utes played at 5-on5, and his per-60 stats on the power play were elite. Tony DeAn­gelo is the Rangers’ top fan­tasy D-man, but Fox rates sim­i­larly and should cost less.

TONY DEAN­GELO

was a rev­e­la­tion for the Rangers this sea­son, nearly dou­bling his ca­reer-best out­put with 53 points in 68 games. Even more im­pres­sive, his 34 even-strength points tied him for third in the league among blue­lin­ers. De­fen­sive-zone play has never been a strength for DeAn­gelo, how­ever, so he’ll have to buckle down if this team is go­ing to main­kethaeny­pl­haeyoadf­fws.ay He was one of the team’s best pos­ses­sion de­fense­men, but DeAn­gelo also started more shifts in the of­fen­sive zbol­nueelti­h­naenr. Canayn oNte­hwer York get enough of the good stuff from DeAn­gelo to make up for his de­fi­cien­cies?

CLAUDE GIROUX

has made some im­pres­sive play­off state­ments in the past (in­clud­ing when the Fly­ers went to the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal against Chicago back in 2010), but his more re­cent out­ings have been muted. Since a mon­ster 2012 run that saw him put up 17 points in 10 games, Giroux has just 10 points to­tal in three straight first-round ex­its. If the cap­tain can’t lead by ex­am­ple, Philadel­phia might be sunk early. On the other hand, if Giroux can ride the of­fen­sive mo­men­tum he was build­ing up in the sea­son’s sec­ond half, then the Fly­ers will be a much more dif­fi­cult op­po­nent. At the very least, it would make Gritty happy…

hired Alain be­ing one of the worst de­fen­sive tae­taomp-s1i0no­tuht­e­fitle­tahgisue­se­la­sotny,ewarhit­loe also dras­ti­cally im­prov­ing on theP­paret­noaflt­tyhkaitllc. an be at­trib­uted to Vigneault, but credit is also due to GM Chuck Fletcher for re­mak­ing the blue­line last sum­mer. Bring­ing in vet­er­ans Justin Braun and Matt Niska­nen had the ex­act in­tended ef­fect on tshtae­und­ce­hfend­seefec­n­odreprs, atod­dain­grotwupo tnhoat­tewx­as­cty­ly­oud­neg­tainl-dor­ti­ael­nen­tetded. Tbhuet up­shot of the veteran in­jec­tion has yielded re­bound sea­sons for eIvx­aten­nPt,rovSohraoy­vne­andG, oto­s­ti­as­blehsesere­r (hoGbiv­be­lendtb­hy­atatkhneee­Fliyne­jrus­rya)l.ready have one of the premier twoway cen­ters in the game up front in Sean Cou­turier, this de­fen­sive de­vel­op­ment bodes well. Speakians­gtroefnogf­ftehn­f­soer,

WHEN THE FLY­ERS

There is re­ally only one can­di­date, and it’s OSKAR LINDBLOM, who was di­ag­nosed with a form of bone cancer in De­cem­ber. The team has ral­lied around him.

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P/G

RAT­ING

the­atrhea­sus­raglseont­bFe­leynelarst, wye­haor wtoen­tjus­fr­to­moutm­si­ide-pathcke titop­w­faisvne’.t In­cateprteas­intinCglya­ued­neouGgihr-, oux do­ing the most dam­age as uK­sounaelc,nbyu.tTy­hoe­un­sgcru­app­st­yarat­nT­drat­vails­feinrstet­d­in­rvi­ig­th­et­tow­itnhgeerNH­eaLrnAeldl-Sh­taisr Gthaamne Canoudthua­r­id­er­twfo rmothre ptoeinamts scor­ing lead when the sea­son poanusPedh.ilKa­doen­lepch­niya’swasep­colany­d­winags as­woimt­th­haKetce­hFvuliyn­peHrspary­boeb­sclaemsmhe­iswm­choeen­r­nelotiefnr­e, Giroux broke out of his scor­ing funGkoianl­tFeenbdri­u­na­gryi. s the big­gest csaovnecde­r­anb:ovCeaarvte­r­agHeais­rtm’sidg­do­lianlgs satru4g.0g7le,d.aHn­dartBwriaa­s­nal­wElaliyost­tgo­hi­nags to­hobuegth­e­heg’usyy­foourntgh,eh­pel­sahy­owffse,dan­hde cleadn Cwainaod­nath­toe gboigld­stat­geth­we­hwenorhlde ju­niors in 2018.

Not only does CARTER HART con­tinue to blos­som as one of the game’s bet­ter young goalies, but he also has a great de­fen­sive team in front of him. Un­der new coach Alain Vigneault, the Fly­ers al­lowed the fewest shots per game in the NHL. If Philly goes on a deep play­off run, it’ll be win­ning games 3-2, not 6-5. Hart is set up to post nice num­bers.

iPni­totsf­bSul­rl­givhan­wbase­haint­dopt-h1e0b­teenacmh. logic in Pitts­b­d­uareghy’sou2. 0T1h9e-2P0en­s­geuais­nosn p–er­wseevbere­odfti­h­n­r­jou­urigehs sfeit­ntsine­ga­jnud­st­poe­unt­saild­tye tkhi­lalt­in­rga,nwge­hoilne afon­rum­nuh­cohly­on­futmhevber­e­odfti­h­n­r­jou­urigehs

pde­of­s­es­ne­sesioand­st­pautst.ting up pos­i­tive Scaidm­n­peayigCnr,ol­sob­syin, gEvs­g­taernsi sMu­c­ahlkians,

rivAalss­winithPhti­h­laedPeelpn­hsi’ac,ri­of­stsh-se­traet’es JvakreioGu­usep­notzinetl­saans­d­wKer­ilsl aLseta ns­gleawt

one ma­jor con­cern head­ing into of other con­trib­u­tors. No NHL the play­offs, it’s in the crease.

Nor­mally that wouldn’t be a pt­bealaasyme­e­drl­son­sm­tavi­asess­ri­an­m­gae. niAycen­md­ti­amnye-gtoa, fmthees nwtithhe arotswteor-,tib­muet CMuapt­tw­pri­onbn­lermo,

rsre­lauaym­sos­plnot­g­to­hgaetd­sustabhw-r.o9­tu0hg0ehs2­aa5vd-erye­peae­dr­foMul­dul Pleed­ngth­ueinirs dpil­vaiy­seiod­nwaetl­loanned­peovi­nent.

But then, once the team got re­latGivoe­fliyghuere­a.ltGhiyv,

Jtc­a­her­an­rntyaghaea.sLe­tu­cor­c­nknei­dldy,oib­n­pat­to­ciokm­nuu,pcrThor­cmik­soti­narnge eit­nwheonwt in­imth­pe­or­tatannkt. tpmh­laoaym­toPe­fifntstt,subim­tur­wigsahsh­snet’ar­tudag­ing­gleo­di­on­dit­noslti­aght­nee

sNoHmLeaon­fdtheabren­sit­ngnuh­mis­be­frirssit­nt­trhipe panred­meaa­trul­ryeMean­rd­cht.oPtehre­hFe­abprsu­tahrey tWoat­she­ingAt­lol-nS,tatrheGPae­mnes. wBi­ullt,hlaikve agre­angv­due­bla­trhree­askePaoes­nu­ost­noadf uc­theeat­no­fucCenOkt.VoIrDe-s1e9t toohrefti­hgeuyrgeuw­yohu­wot’hswob­h­weeatnhset­rhetorseug­bopewfroi­iotrher

stop­per this sea­son. For what byTCorob­se­by­suarned, aM­naylk­tien­amhashealm­sheodt

iiCntu’sp2w0­wo1ri4t,hs, WoJaHrhreL­y kwEn­doom­n­woas­nMt­woehn­mabtoari­itca’ksl at ttahlenSte­tadn,leyx­pCeurpie,nac­ned tshqiu­saids that is well-coached with Mike like to play un­der pres­sure.

He’s the per­fect totem for a team that has tasted vic­tory twice in re­cent years: PA­TRICK MAR­LEAU is a beloved NHL vet who just needs a Cup ring to cap his ca­reer.

TRY AND FIND

JAKE GUENTZEL would’ve missed the whole post-sea­son un­der a nor­mal NHL sched­ule but is on track to re­join the Pens in time to face Mon­treal. He could be quite a prof­itable pick if healthy. Among play­ers with at least 40 games, Guentzel sits sixth all-time in post­sea­son goals per game, sand­wiched be­tween Wayne Gret­zky and Pavel Bure.

Rookie de­fense­man was one of the most cru­cial ad­di­tions to the Pitts­burgh lineup this sea­son, pro­vid­ing sec­ondary of­fense (only Kris Le­tang had more points among Pen­guins blue­lin­ers) and puck-mov­ing abil­ity. But will Marino’s lack of play­off ex­pe­ri­ence be an is­sue? The in­ten­sity of the NHL post­sea­son will surely pose a chal­lenge, at least ini­tially, for the 23-year-old Har­vard alum. The Pen­guins were good about not over­load­ing Marino dur­winit­ghti­hcee treimgue­lar sea­son, as he monin­lyu­at­evser­aang­iegdhta. lit­tle more than 20 They’d be wise to fol­low that for­mula in the play­offs.

JOHN MARINO

Af­ter sus­tain­ing a shoul­der in­jury in Oc­to­ber that needed surgery, it was pos­si­ble

VLADIMIR TARASENKO

would have missed at least the first round of the play­offs had they started when they were sched­uled. But now the Blues will have the sharp­shoot­ing winger from the start, and that adds a lethal 40-goal scorer to an at­tack that is al­ready among the league’s deep­est. It also gives the league’s third-best power play yet an­other weapon. Al­ready a st­ingy de­fen­sive out­fit, the Blues will have the abil­ity to over­whelm any op­po­si­tion at both ends of the ice with Tarasenko, who scored 11 play­off goals last sea­son, in the lineup.

rea­son to be­lieve the Stan­ley Cup han­gover was go­ing to scut­tle St. Louis’ shot at re­peat­ing as tcuhran­mopveior,nasn. Tdhseom­roest­beerliseav­wedlitthle fso­tar­gan­fatliloin tm­head­Cen­thtre­alBDluiv­eisiroinp.e

But this sea­son has been the op­po­site of a de­cline for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The club re­sid­ing in the Show Me State made it clear it’s to be taken se­ri­ously as a conM­teon­st­deir­mop­n­rce­sasig­vaein.about the Blues is that they’re a mul­ti­fac­eted team, re­ly­ing not on one as­pect of their game but play­ing ef­fec­tively in all three zones. Of­foefn-tshivee-plya,cSktg. rLoou­upisanis­da­ham­snid’tdelex­foefn-tshivee-plya,cSktg. actly won by scor­ing in vol­ume gamSee­vien­ral­ndpglaymee­r­soutp.aced the Bsilx­ue4s0a-tp­taocinkt. Tphleayefr­ins,ishaend wfivthe more were on pace to reach 30 points. That of­fen­sive depth helped give St. Louis one of the top power plays in the league, an as­set that aids any le­git­i­mate

THERE WAS AM­PLE

His sea­son is over as the re­sult of a car­diac event, but JAY BOUWMEESTE­R is a no-brainer to re­ceive the Cup from cap­tain Pi­etrangelo if the Blues re­peat.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING conTtheant­d­seari­idn, tmheucphla­oy­foftfhs.e Blues suc­cess is pred­i­cated on de­fendiPnige,tr­laendg­be­ly­oNaon.d1 balule­o­lain­derdAdlexf­ense corps that in­cludes Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and dead­lTiongeeth­pe­icrk, uaplonMg­saird­ceo gSo­caal­nt­ednedl­lear. Jgor­ro­d­u­apn­hBeil­npnei­d­ngStto. nL,otuhies­d­te­ofeantsoiv­pe­fiveAng­doalyso-ua­ga­cain­st­naevveer­ra­greu.le out Hthaevin­img­pjourst­tan­wcoenotfhe­xCpuerpi,en­th­cies. group knows how to sur­vive the plaOy­no­ef­fw­groirnd .of warn­ing, though: Bdoin­wn­ningth­toenswtrae­st­nch’t. qFu­ri­otemhiJ­mans.el1f un­til the sea­son was stopped,

g5a3m­geosapltle­any­dee­drosvwerit­th­hat sl­peasnt. H10e hbeis­capm­laey aen­paror­tuotef Bto­lutehsel2o­0re18w-i1th9 csthuamb­plieosn, sShti.pL, bouit­sifcBoiunl­nd­in­bge­toin for a brief post-sea­son stint this time around.

ROBERT THOMAS was one of the NHL’s most pro­duc­tive play­ers rel­a­tive to ice time this sea­son. He played just 14:34 per night but ranked fourth in the league in pri­mary as­sists per 60 among for­wards with 500-plus min­utes at 5-on-5. If the Blues en­trust him with a big­ger role in the play­offs, he will de­liver sneaky-use­ful fan­tasy num­bers.

pJu­laliyen­frBormi­seitB­sofios­rhwaas­r­wdso,rakned an NHL

–rec­thoredn wwitehre62­ep­wic­i­naslly­last­wseep­at­soin

HPeat­srigck­neM­dahruolokn­itno­greC­cut­pi­fy­ch­tah­matp.

RJaocuknet­ds.1Tbaymptha­epClaoy­luemrs­bi­un­ssiBstlued­e id­neadth­lieneodffe-asel­sas­fonr Bal­nadke mCoaldee­man athnedyt­shiemyp­bly­achkaed­dounpe tb­haadt wseenetki-, and Bar­clay Goodrow. That wsluergeg­misehntsth­airst,ste­hae­soLni.gAhft­tneirnga Bfi­criese­fBirosits-rwouans­d­wiplli­ic­nkgs tion sba­cor­tih

trades tells us he was de­terf­bry­om­far Dtheecebme­s­bte­treaom­n­winartdh.e HNoHwL lloyf flcaowul­resses. ctwhoie­unl­ndir­net­ghi­gengy­oinan­gloi­etV­bi­enez?iAnT­nahderTeyr­i­obVpoa­hasysit

The Light­ning looked in­vin­cr­moibisnl­tee­drl­tath­soit­si­cyteiemaar­ev,.itro­tuoa, lw­evins­gkeiyr, tNhiekirte­aigKn­uinchgeMro­VvPain­drigt het tBhue­tirthReoyu­nfdel­l1be­sehrinieds eaan­rdly goint

V20ic1­to8rNHo­er­dr­misaTnr.oNpo­hyte­wamin­nin­erthine fs­reuc­sot­nradt-emdo. sTth­peyen­waleirze dthte aNmHLi’ns the reg­u­lar sea­son, then took 17 el­e­vae­gruyephoa­sisti­bo­ing.ger star power at

lpoewneadl­tifeiv­seigno­fao­lus ron­ga1m0 eC­so­laun­md­baulsThe Bolts aren’t just about

power plays. This sea­son, they fPloas­in­hty aonff­de­nesme, erigth­inegr. ISneBlkrea­yT­dreon­phahvyetht­wreoatofAt­nhte­hog­naymCe’is­re­blleis,

ptohroeok­blel­teah­mgeu.tehY.oiDrudis-cm­caip­nol­sigt­neptern­te­hameltaiBi­enosslit­nas thdeyfd­se­teen­rass­di­vyae fRlooyrtaw­noafrM­drescs.DpWoonhnae­s­g­nib­h­hileis­tahy­lothuoyln-, teohmf­faot­thtwieo­hin­re­angla.hmeeKlou­is­fc­ty­h­hoeiur­som­cvoaoklp,etrhtohrve­eemwd ‘D.’ Tampa Bay’s weak­ness last a dirty hit on Markus Nu­ti­vaara

and got sus­pended for a game usegalysoh­nocwkaesy ag­namineas­b­wili­it­tyh tpo­hwysi­incGaMl

last post-sea­son.

No D-man has more ca­reer games in a Light­ning uni­form than VIC­TOR HED­MAN, and he leads all Tampa Bay play­ers in ca­reer play­off ap­pear­ances with 84. He’s earned it.

THE LIGHT­NING TIED STEVEN STAMKOS

had core-mus­cle surgery in late Fe­bru­ary and was given a re­cov­ery time­line of six to eight weeks. That ended his reg­u­lar sea­son and put the first round of the play­offs in sig­nif­i­cant jeop­ardy. With the league shut down for more than four months due to the COVID-19 pan­demic, Stamkos un­ex­pect­edly had am­ple time to heal and should be 100 per­cent for the play­offs. More than any other team odt­dhsisin­se­crae­saosne,dthaes a Bolts’ Stan­ley Cup re­sult of the pause. There’s al­ways a risk of rein­jury, but Stamkos had the equiv­a­lent of a full NHL off-sea­son to re­build his strength. He won’t have to hold back.

Get­ting blue­liner Jake Muzzin back from a broken hand for the play­offs mat­ters most, but don’t sleep on the im­pact of

ILYA MIKHEYEV.

His rookie de­but was a smash be­fore he sus­tained a freak cut on his wrist from a skate in De­cem­ber. Among

334 for­wards with

500-plus min­utes at 5-on-5, he sat

13th in as­sists per

60 min­utes, 33rd in points per 60 and

24th in shots per

60. His 6-foot-3,

195-pound frame, good speed and re­spon­si­ble twoway play present a pack­age that could make a dif­fer­ence. The Leafs have strug­gled to win puck bat­tles dur­ing their three straight first-round play­off de­feats. Mikheyev can help.

suited up for Toronto’s Game 7 loss to Bfoorsthoe­n Mlaaspt lAepLreila­n­fso. Ilto’sngremr pal­rakyable, then, that this team’s iden­it­nitgy tihs evi2r0­tu2a0llpy­lu­any­ochf­fasn. ged en­ter­it­nitgy stilSlam­poes­soels­d­sesLe­saufsp. erTbhi sco­te­ri­anmg tgao­laelnst ec­vaepray­ble­gaom­fe­hi­agn­hdli,ghutn-rdeerl new coach Shel­don Keefe, Toronto’s best of­fen­sive weapons get more ice time and com­pile even bet­ter num­bers. Aus­ton Matthews fi­nally has the elite goal-scor­ing stats to match his eN­ly­itleanade­vran­hcaesd rmeaeltirz­iecds. Whi­is­lli­paom­ten­tial as a top-end scorer now that he has a coach who lets him take a reg­u­lar shift with other Mgri­etacht pMlayren­resr. rJeomh­naiT­natvwaroeo­sfatnhde league’s best of­fen­sive weapons even though they play on sep­a­rate lines. Even Zach Hy­man has reached a tier of pro­duc­tion no­body knew he had. The Leafs ice the NHL’s No. 3 of­fense and No. 6 power play de­spite hav­ing

SEVEN SKATERS WHO

JA­SON SPEZZA is al­most six years older than any other cur­rent Leaf, he hasn’t won a Stan­ley Cup, he’s well-re­spected and he’s from Toronto. An easy pick.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING played a large chunk of the seab­sol­uneli­wni­etrhoMuotr­gtaon­pRpieull­cyk. -mov­ing doTeshethe­gob­oad. Trhemis ateinasm, sb­tu­iltl dse­ofTehnedLs eatf­sad­boer­laonwk-ain­vethraeg­teo­ple­hvaelf. ob­su­foptttphor­meeslsheia­aol­gnfu, ieb­nuist­nc­tohsre­hinyo­gts-icathti­ta­nen­mtchep­est ranadt­the­meyp’rtes oan­lealon­wd­ed­haigth5--doann-g5e, of the weaker penalty-killing teams in the NHL. They’ve ac­tuhael­blyoair­md­pin­rotvheedir adlem­feon­ssti­vaecpro­lasys this sea­son de­spite en­dur­ing in­juries to Rielly and Jake Muzzin, bgouatlt­shieny tahlle­owNHedL tthean­sikxstht-om­toes­r­tri­ble goal­tend­ing. Fred­erik Andwe­orrs­setns­esat­suomn­bolefd­hit­shrcoau­regehr. tHhe graded out 41st among the 54 qgoual­si­fysian­vgedgaobao­livees avin­er­ag5e-opne-5r 60 min­utes. Keefe has in­sisted An­der­sen is “our guy,” but if he strug­gles in the early go­ing, Toronto could turn to in­sur­ance pol­icy Jack Camp­bell.

With An­dreas Johns­son out for the sea­son, the Leafs are a bit thin at left wing. That means top prospect NICK ROBERT­SON has a real chance to make an im­pact in a top-nine role. He’s a high-mo­tor goal-scor­ing ma­chine who ripped off an in­cred­i­ble 55 goals in 46 games in the OHL this sea­son. The post-sea­son pro­vides a key au­di­tion.

of Pet­ters­son and Boeser fwaonirdlw­l tahriedtss­y­heoacuod.nadSte­laev­naes­d­ntt­tVh­hair­rned­ce­ow­puoavwveer­er-play eC­vaen­ruy­ckp­sro­gan­sost­niecaet­doinr gtabab­neodththee­r goals this sea­son, while oreub­tuoil­fditnhge psleaaysoo­fnfs. aDnidg asulirtet­lye

tTho­ef­froeli­w­si­uthrem­ly­owre­oru­uld­nwhavy.e got­ten sdoe­mepeero, f tth­hoous­gehs, oaon­thd­sayy­oeur’sll asle­soe

The of­fen­sive di­men­sion bfoeot­th­naot­teonthe­ateVaam­nc­to­hu­at­vae­drdecd­outl­hde Qbluienl­ninHeuwgha­essspurrop­vri­id­seindgfron­m­ly­thine es­t­n­uonrsmoth­ues sftireilde afon­rd­wamrda.kes an t2h0e-yfeaacrt-iotld­car­mooekri­ieg.hHteawavae­yr,aagseda

aem­ndip­ne­hu­rit­seo­su3t:o4in­f8­giocre­fap­n­toikmwedee­par­lem-rpol­gasayt­m2tei2m, Trades by GM Jim Ben­ning tleohrpe-Tp­soaixfs­fto­fo­clior­wuan­padlredTys­aeJna.Trns.ebrMrPi­oleluea­grr,hstToiynn-.

thiDrde­faemn­soin­veg­lNy,HthLedCe­faen­nuscekm­sebnl.ed Ttoh­peiorf­p­tahceeco­h­farstc­sorin­ingVain­scao­tu­vthere.

fso­huorttsh, mal­looswt in­gth­3e3N.3HLp.eArdg­datmhaet, TAon­r­donJo­to­sh­laLsetisve­oas­coamn aen­od­ve­brec­faromme

itno tbhloecfka­ecdt tshheoytws aenre­day­losou sgec­totnhde caasv­tal­tuoabh­leomtheigr­rdo-wlin­ers.taArds­dEtl­hi­ais

tpi­im­c­teurien: the pCuac­nkuc­skpsen­z­dos­nea.loV­tano-f PHeotrtvea­rts,sopnlu, sBr­to­hcek­fBa­sote-simer­parn­od­viBnog

Ccourvsiep­r ewr­caes­natab­goet.tom-10 team in Gaanud­det­thte aC­nad­nucJakkse hVaivretAa­d­naemn,

atl­heFes­rel ans­don,sit­d­heel­inWedith­moMs­ti­choef lti­hne ud­pe­sepinest­thaenWdem­sto.st balaon­ceeodf

Canucks didn’t have much of a pte­haym­sic­tahlat dceat­ner­bre nte. utTrhaleiy­ze’rde bya The Canucks can get you in daovwan­ri­ethtye sopfeew­dayans.dTpruy­ck­tom­so­hvuet­ment

push­ing them around. ALEXAN­DER EDLER is in his 14th sea­son with the Canucks. He broke in un­der the guid­ance of Mat­tias Oh­lund and Sami Salo. Edler gets the first pass from Bo Hor­vat.

K201T9O-20SEaAndSO­viNr­tu­par­lelyGviOew­sBfAoCr

TYLER TOFFOLI was a hit af­ter ar­riv­ing shortly be­fore the trade dead­line, pick­ing up six goals and 10 points in 10 games. Is he guar­an­teed to main­tain that pro­duc­tion, how­ever? A fully healthy Brock Boeser could take Toffoli’s first-line right winger spot or at the very least steal power-play time. Toffoli has more com­pe­ti­tion for looks now.

Just when some Van­cou­ver fans were anoint­ing Thatcher Demko as the team’s new No. 1, this was the com­ing-out sea­son for

JA­COB MARKSTROM.

Al­ways a plucky battler with more good games than bad games over the years, the 30-yearold took it to a new level this sea­son. He was even a fringe name in the Vez­ina Tro­phy con­ver­sa­tion when he went down with an in­jury Feb. 22, three weeks be­fore the league shut down. The Canucks aWb­we­lyestrien­an­fithdfte­hcpoinl­maytfhoo­erfft-s when Markstrom was side­lined. With him gone, they slid to eighth. With him healthy, the Canucks can roll with the best teams.

We’re still not sure on the deep mean­ing be­hind the ac­qui­si­tion of at the dead­line. Was it sim­ply depth be­cause the backup op­tions weren’t cut­ting it? Or is it to shorten the leash on Fleury, who has been me­diocre? Lehner won all three of his starts af­ter ar­riv­ing – with a .940 SP and 1.67 GAA – while Fleury won one and lost two. It’s hard to see Fleury on the bench when the play­offs be­gin, but it isn’t hard to imag­ine Lehner in the crease when the sea­son ends, one way or an­other. When he coached San Jose, Pete DeBoer had no qualms about turn­ing to backup Aaron Dell when Martin Jones’ game went south.

ROBIN LEHNER

were one of the league’s best teams un­der new coach Peter DeBoer. Who knew Ger­ard Gal­lant was Wsuech­jeastb, iogf pcoroubrsl em, abthoiust­sGeaslloan?t be­ing the al­ba­tross, but clearly the mes­sage DeBoer started de­liv­eTrhineg rGeoalld­lyen­hit hKon­migeh.ts were Corsi dar­lings, cruis­ing along at a league-lead­ing 54.8 per­cent­age when the league shut down. lVeeag­daes­r­winassfhao­r­tand­dif­faewre­anyti­tahle–NaHvLer­ag­ing 34.5 per game (ranked first) and al­low­ing 29.3 per game (tied for sec­ond-best). That’s a dif­fer­en­tial of 5.2 shots per game. Carolina was the run­nerupT, bhuet wK­nayigb­hatsck­daitd4.0it. at both ends of the ice. They’re close uton­daehralDfe­gBooael­r­beat­nt­edr col­fofe­sen­sitvoelya choaalfcgh­o’sald­set­fi­en­ngsieivre­uns­d­cheermthee. nTe­hwe re­sult is al­most a goal dif­fer­ence per game, and it showed in the stand­ings. Un­der Gal­lant, the Golden Knights were run­ning

THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS

Ve­gas is still with­out a cap­tain, so al­ter­nate DERYK ENGELLAND – as­sum­ing he’s not a healthy scratch as a No. 7 D-man – will ac­cept the Cup and give it to Fleury.

PPP

P/G

RAT­ING ftiuftrhe ian­ndthoeuP­tao­cif­fitcheDipv­liasiy­oonf­fw­pi­itcha .551 points per­cent­age (24-196Ve).gaIns r2o2seg­taom­fier­s­tuindthere dDievBisoi­oenr,

(w1i5th-5-a2)..7O2n7­lyp­to­hir­netes optherecre­t­ne­taamges

h1a5d­coaabce­htit­negr rce­hcaon­rgdes. ince the Jan. sulAteb­dail­nan­focuerd­fo­s­crowrain­rdgsaot­ntaVcek­graes-’ top two lines pot­ting 20-plus gPoaauls,Sw­taist­th­nWy iclloiasme Ktoartlh­sas­ton­pac­ned. The ad­di­tion of Alec Martinez on the back end nicely rounds out a blue­line that is seven-plus deep witGhoeaxl­ipeer­iMe­nacrec.-An­dre Fleury strug­gled for a good chunk of tshaevesep­a­se­or­c­nean­ntadg­peositneda­hid­sew­cao­drset. Prya’rst os­flut­gh­gait­shas ttaortdso twoith­gaFm­leeus-, achnad­sti­h­nagt thhaed tmhae­jGoroilt­dyenofKn­ti­imghetss. Valel­go­aws­e­dledin ththee lefairgsut­e pien­ri­ogdo,alas do­fubRioubis­ndLisethin­ncetri­onfr.oTmheCahr­i­craiv­gaol stems that tide.

SHEA THEODORE graded out sta­tis­ti­cally as one of the league’s elite de­fense­men. No blue­liner had a big­ger pos­ses­sion share, and only two D-men av­er­aged more shots per 60 min­utes at 5-on-5 (min. 500 min­utes). His 46 points were a ca­reer high, and his puck luck sug­gested he could’ve scored even more. He’s an un­der­rated pool pick.

ILYA KO­VALCHUK

The last time played in a Stan­ley Cup fi­nal, he was a mon­ster. That was back in 2012 with New Jer­sey, and the Devils lost the se­ries to Los An­ge­les, but ab­sence al­ways makes the heart grow fonder. Af­ter half a decade in the KHL, ‘Kovy’ came back last sea­son and his brief stint in Mon­treal – af­ter sput­ter­ing for a year-and­change with the hKeincagns –stpill­rob­veeadn of­fen­sive force. At 37, Ko­valchuk doesn’t have many cNhaHnLcte­it­slele,fbtu­fot rhaisn big, heavy frame is tai­lor-made for post-sea­son havoc. Add in a bucket load of skill, and you’re look­ing at a dan­ger­ous op­er­a­tor.

PA­TRIK LAINE

didn’t have one mon­key on his back en­ter­ing the play­offs last sea­son – he had the whole bar­rel. Prone to streaky scor­ing, the Jets sniper had one goal in the fi­nal

19 reg­u­lar-sea­son games. How­ever, when Laine heats up, there are few play­ers more lethal. He scored in three straight to kick off the first-round se­ries against the even­tual cham­pion St. Louis Blues and was all over the ice. Laine’s scor­ing wasn’t nearly as tur­bu­lent this sea­son, with 28 goals spread over

68 games, but he can still get white­hot in the play­offs, and if he does, he can sin­gle­hand­edly power the of­fense and turn the tide in any se­ries.

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FIND­ING SOLID GROUND lSah­sat­ty­teeanrk,ibrkutwhae­s’ns’tseweinthg­Traomwt­phaiB­natyhe Bolts af­ter a bumpy start to 2019-20.

BAY WITH BITE Tampa started adding snarl in the off-sea­son with Ma­roon and brought in even more at the trade dead­line.

JON COOPER

HVIECDTMOA­RN

TAY­LOR HALL

DAVID PAS­TR­NAK

AN­DREI SVECH­NIKOV

MARK GIOR­DANO

PA­TRICK KANE

PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS

NATHAN MACK­IN­NON

BEN BISHOP

CON­NOR MCDAVID

ALEK­SANDER BARKOV

KEVIN FIALA

SHEA WE­BER

FILIP FORSBERG

BROCK NEL­SON

ARTEMI PANARIN

TRAVIS KONECNY

SID­NEY CROSBY

ALEX PI­ETRANGELO

AN­DREI VASILEVSKI­Y

AUS­TON MATTHEWS

ELIAS PET­TERS­SON

MAX PACIORETTY

CON­NOR HELLE­BUYCK

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