Even as the hockey world prepares for the Stanley Cup playoffs, professional hockey writers are being asked to complete their ballots for the league's postseason awards. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet offered some insight into the process, and into the increasingly high-profile presence of Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn in these ever-so-private conversations.
Without revealing whether he voted for Benn or Patrick Kane, Friedman did indicate that his pick came down to the 2015 and 2016 Art Ross winners. He also made the case for Benn's candidacy.
Without Seguin, who could be a second- or third-team NHL All-Star, Dallas went 8-2, with every one of those victories coming in regulation. St. Louis also went 8-2, with one win in overtime. There were games when Benn's possession numbers were great and he didn't score much. There were others when those underlying totals were ugly but he found a way to get on the sheet.
Whatever the case, Benn racked up nine points in those 10 games. The Stars' margin to hold onto the division and avoid a first-round meeting with the dangerous Blackhawks was very slim because the Blues were so good. The captain delivered when Dallas needed it most.
There's more, including an observation on the "Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi" decision, in Friedman's latest 30 Thoughts. [Sportsnet]
Here's another little highlight from Mark Stepneski's Tuesday update.
Quote of the day: Kari Lehtonen talks about his relationship with Antti Niemi. pic.twitter.com/NUPm1LuN68— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) April 12, 2016
The Stars are even more ready than you are to just drop the puck already, says head coach Lindy Ruff.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com breaks down the Stars-Minnesota Wild series and makes his prediction for the winner.
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are two big reasons why Dallas will win the Cup, predicts David Satriano.
Greg Wyshynski ranks the must-see factor of every first-round playoff series; Stars-Wild doesn't have the makings of a seven-game affair, "but any series involving Antoine Roussel has the possibility of some controversy." [Puck Daddy]
Meanwhile, Valeri Nichushkin could take the next big step in his career this playoffs season, says Steve Hunt.
The playoffs start tonight, and here's the schedule:
- Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning, 6 p.m. Central time (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-D, FS-F)
- New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. Central time (USA, MSG, ROOT, SN, TVA Sports 2)
- Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues, 8:30 p.m. Central time (NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports, CSN-CH, FS-MW)
More first-round predictions, these from NHL.com. [NHL]
And because it's never too early to be thinking about the NHL Draft, here's the final report from Central Scouting.
Luke Fox provides a current list of NHL playoff-team injuries, from the nearly-there to the out-for-the-count. [Sportsnet]
And Scott Cullen posts TSN's final NHL power rankings for 2015-16. The Stars make the top 5 – find out where. [TSN]
The Texas Stars have two more regular-season games before they prepare for the sixth Calder Cup run in their seven-year history.
It's been quite a year for forward Matej Stransky, from a healthy scratch on opening night to his best professional season ever. Sean Shapiro devotes his latest podcast to the Stars' other Czech mate. [Wrong Side of the Red Line]
The Idaho Steelheads have announced their 2016 Kelly Cup roster, which includes familiar Stars prospects Emil Molin and Philippe Desrosiers among the active players, as well as the playoffs-eligible Cole Ully, Branden Troock, Jack Campbell and Maxime Lagace. [Idaho Steelheads]
The league also provides the deets for watching the playoffs online.
Finally: Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden is feeling the local love and deep into the Stanley Cup spirit. Enjoy his new facial decor.