Every day during the playoffs, we'll take a look at one big question surrounding each game. So, as the 2013 post-season extravaganza gets underway, we start with three games:
What did the last game mean for Minnesota?
The Wild stumbled into the playoffs, beating Colorado on the final night of the regular season, after a 4-7-1 April that nearly derailed the season. There was a lot of pressure to get there. No one wanted to consider the prospect of failure after "The Summer of Suter." (Parise, too, of course, but his name doesn't sound as good in that title.)
Both players delivered as advertised. Suter may win the Norris Trophy, while Parise brought a higher compete level to games and practices. Problem is they didn't get a ton of help. It was those two plus Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon (who competed at a high level) carrying the team there.
In the last game, Devin Setoguchi scored a huge goal, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard shook off a frustrating season to have one of his best nights of the year. They need to build off that. They can't pull the upset without those contributions. Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck must be great, too.
What will Jay Bouwmeester do with this opportunity?
Bouwmeester's got defenders who say he gets a raw deal because he's so quiet. Just because he doesn't bark during interviews, they say, doesn't mean he lacks competitiveness or a desire to win. For years, that viewpoint's been overwhelmed because he never had a chance to prove otherwise on the grandest stage.
No more. That time is now.
The Kings were in on the Bouwmeester sweepstakes, but were scared off by what he's owed next season. There's no guarantee they would have got him, but the Blues were willing to gamble. Last year, one of the areas Los Angeles hurt St. Louis was on right defence. That is where Bouwmeester plays. The Kings will come after him. It's his chance to prove his defenders right.
Will Bruce Boudreau really split Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin?
They were an excellent Ducks' duo this season, scoring 13 of Anaheim's 17 blue-line goals. Boudreau, in full playoff mode, refused to reveal his reasons for having Souray practise with Ben Lovejoy and Beauchemin with Cam Fowler over the past couple of days.
Post-season gamesmanship or the truth?
The Ducks' fast start included a 1-2-2 system, although Boudreau modified it slightly by asking the defencemen to play above their own blue-line. Players like Souray and Beauchemin made up for a lack of foot speed with their competitive fire. They were determined to play the system properly, and did.
But, if Boudreau actually does this, it's because he's concerned about Detroit's speed. Full-on gamesmanship or legit strategy? We'll see Tuesday night.
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