Wisconsin hockey: NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs primer

Former Baders Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan begin their run to the Stanley Cup this week. - Bruce Bennett

The greatest trophy in sports is up for grabs, will there be a former Badger or two hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2013?

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off this week, and at least 12 former Badgers will be in action. That number could reach 13 if Jake Dowell is recalled by the Minnesota Wild. Dowell played in two games for the Wild last week, but was reassigned over the weekend.

Wisconsin will have representatives on eight of the 16 playoff teams, and in seven of the eight playoff series'. The only series with no former Badgers will be Pittsburgh vs New York Islanders.

Oddly enough, only one of the eight playoff series -- Montreal Canadiens vs the Ottawa Senators -- features former Badgers playing against each other. Theoretically, we could see 11 or 12 Badgers moving on to the second round.

Note: All times listed are eastern.
* - if necessary

EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

No. 2 Montreal Canadiens (Rene Bourque, Davis Drewiske) vs No. 7 Ottawa Senators (Kyle Turris)

A deal at the trade deadline saw Drewiske shipped off from the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings to the Canadiens. Drewiske has played in eight games since the trade, registering three assists. On the season, Drewiske has notched two goals and seven points in 29 games, with a +3 plus/minus. Drewiske was playing consistently after the trade, but hasn't seen the lineup since April 18. It remains to be seen what the plan is for the former Wisconsin captain in the playoffs.

Rene Bourque, however, should be a lock in the Canadiens' lineup in the playoffs. Bouque suffered a concussion during the season and missed a fair amount of time. He's back now, and had a goal over the weekend.

Turris has thrived since being traded to Ottawa last season. Turris led the Senators in both goals (12) and points (28) in 48 games this season. If the Senators are going to pull the upset over Montreal, Turris is going to have to be a major reason why.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 7 p.m.
Ottawa at Montreal CNBC
Friday, May 3, 2013 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CNBC
Sunday, May 5, 2013 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa NBC Sports Network
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CNBC
*Thursday, May 9, 2013 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal
*Saturday, May 11, 2013 TBD Montreal at Ottawa
*Sunday, May 12, 2013 TBD Ottawa at Montreal

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs No. 6 New York Rangers (Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan)

Two more former Badgers who are on the rise are Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan. McDonagh was once again a major minutes eater for the Blueshirts, averaging over 24 minutes a night. McDonagh also chipped in 19 points on the offensive end and was a +13 in 47 games this season.

The Capitals are good, and Alexander Ovechkin is playing at a ridiculous level right now, so expect to see McDonagh logging major minutes in the playoffs.

Stepan has taken his game to another level, and is a major reason why New York felt they could trade Marian Gaborik to Columbus at the deadline. Stepan led the Rangers in scoring with 44 points (18 goals), and plus/minus at +25. Stepan was incredible for New York down the stretch, registering 35 points (15 goals) in his final 30 games.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington NBC Sports Network
Saturday, May 4, 2013 12:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington NBC
Monday, May 6, 2013 7:30 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers NBC Sports Network
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 7:30 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers NBC Sports Network
*Friday, May 10, 2013 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington
*Sunday, May 12, 2013 TBD Washington at NY Rangers
*Monday, May 13, 2013 TBD NY Rangers at Washington

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs (Jake Gardiner)

Gardiner is another player in limbo in terms of his playoff playing time. While playing in the AHL during the early season NHL lockout, Gardiner suffered a concussion and didn't end up making his season debut with the Leafs until Jan. 23. Gardiner has been in-and-out of the lineup ever since, playing in 12 games for Toronto this season.

Gardiner has the talent and potential to become one of the best young offensive defensemen in the NHL, so it's baffling to see him as a healthy scratch for Toronto. It will be interesting to see if the Leafs give him an opportunity at all in the playoffs. If they do, I doubt they'll regret it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 7 p.m. Toronto at Boston CNBC
Saturday, May 4, 2013 7 p.m. Toronto at Boston CNBC
Monday, May 6, 2013 7 p.m. Boston at Toronto NHL Network
*Wednesday, May 8, 2013 7 p.m. Toronto at Boston NHL Network
*Friday, May 10, 2013 7 P.M. Boston at Toronto
*Sunday, May 12, 2013 TBD Toronto at Boston
Monday, May 13, 2013 TBD Boston at Toronto


WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs No. 8 Minnesota Wild (Tom Gilbert, Ryan Suter)

The Wild face the herculean task of defeating the Blackhawks, who finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL. If the Wild advance it's likely because Gilbert, and especially Suter, had huge series'. Gilbert hasn't had his best season as a pro, but on a relatively shallow blue-line, Gilbert is forced to eat minutes.

Speaking of eating minutes, no one did more of that this season than Suter, who led the NHL in average time on ice, averaging a ridiculous 27 minutes a night. In his first season with the Wild after signing a $98 million deal in the offseason, Suter has lived up to the billing, and is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL.

As previously mentioned, there's still a chance that we see Dowell for Minnesota in this series, especially if fourth-line wing Mike Rupp has another setback with his knee. Dowell provides a veteran presence that can also take faceoffs, which coaches find crucial in the playoffs.

One player you probably won't see is Dany Heatley, who was forced into season ending shoulder surgery after an incident vs the Sharks earlier this month. Heatley had surgery on April 8 to repair a separated shoulder, and possibly a torn labrum, although he won't confirm that to Minnesota media. A lot of fans rag on Heatley for various reasons, but it's obvious the Wild are lacking finishers without him in the lineup. There's no question his production has dipped, but Heatley still finished the season tied for fourth on the club in goals, despite only playing in 36 games.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 8 p.m. Minnesota at Chicago NBC Sports Network
Friday, May 3, 2013 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at Chicago NBC Sports Network
Sunday, May 5, 2013 3 p.m. Chicago at Minnesota NBC
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 9:30 p.m. Chicago at Minnesota NBC Sports Network
*Thursday, May 9, 2013 TBD Minnesota at Chicago
*Saturday, May 11, 2013 TBD Chicago at Minnesota
*Sunday, May 12, 2013 TBD Minnesota at Chicago

No. 2 Anaheim Ducks vs No. 7 Detroit Red Wings (Brendan Smith)

Another one of the young, extremely talented blueliners to come out of Wisconsin recently, Smith finally saw extended playing time in Detroit for the first time in his career. Like any young player, Smith had swings of good and bad play, but seems to be coming into his own heading into the playoffs. After registering just one point in his first 14 games, Smith notched seven in the final 15 games he played.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:30 p.m. Detroit at Anaheim NBC Sports Network
Thursday, May 2, 2013 10 p.m. Detroit at Anaheim NBC Sports Network
Saturday, May 4, 2013 7:30 p.m. Anaheim at Detroit NBC Sports Network
Monday, May 6, 2013 8 p.m. Anaheim at Detroit CNBC
*Wednesday, May 8, 2013 10 p.m. Detroit at Anaheim
*Friday, May 10, 2013 TBD Anaheim at Detroit
*Sunday, May 12, 2013 TBD Detroit at Anaheim

No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs No. 6 San Jose Sharks (Adam Burish, Joe Pavelski)

When Burish signed with the Sharks in the offseason, he texted Pavelski, a teammate from Wisconsin's 2006 national championship team, and told him it was time for them to go win a Stanley Cup. They'll get an opportunity to do so now, and it starts against Vancouver in the first round.

Burish was brought in because of what he brings in a playoff atmosphere. Grit, hard work, penalty killing ability, and oh yeah, he's been there before. Burish was a part of the Blackhawk's run to the cup in 2010.

Pavelski has blossomed into a legitimate NHL star, and is one of the major offensive cogs for the Sharks. The Plover, Wis., native notched 16 goals and 31 points in 48 games this season for San Jose, and sees time in all situations. Pavelski recently reached a milestone notching his 150th career goal, which is fifth all-time in Sharks history.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Vancouver NBC Sports Network
Friday, May 3, 2013 10 p.m. San Jose at Vancouver CNBC
Sunday, May 5, 2013 10 p.m. Vancouver at San Jose NBC Sports Network
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 10 p.m. Vancouver at San Jose CNBC
*Thursday, May 9, 2013 10 p.m. San Jose at Vancouver
*Saturday, May 11, 2013 TBD Vancouver at San Jose
*Monday, May 13, 2013 TBD San Jose at Vancouver

No. 4 St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott) vs No. 5 Los Angeles Kings

Elliott took the NHL by storm last season, setting the NHL single season record for save percentage in his first season with the Blues. This year started the complete opposite, as Elliott looked like he was defending a net as big as the ocean. Thankfully for Elliott and the Blues, the former Hobey Baker finalist was able to rebound and save his season. Elliott finished the year with a 14-8-1 record, a 2.28 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.

Those numbers are remarkable considering how he started the season. Elliott was 3-6-1 with a 3.65 GAA and a .851 save percentage in the early going. The turning point for Elliott came in April, when he went 11-2-0 with a 1.28 GAA, .948 save percentage, and notched three shutouts.

St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock has named Elliott the starter in the playoffs, and rightfully so.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 8 p.m. Los Angeles at St. Louis CNBC
Thursday, May 2, 2013 9:30 p.m. Los Angeles at St. Louis CNBC
Saturday, May 4, 2013 10 p.m. St. Louis at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network
Monday, May 6, 2013 10 p.m. St. Louis at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network
*Wednesday, May 8, 2013 TBD Los Angeles at St. Louis
*Friday, May 10, 2013 TBD St. Louis at Los Angeles
*Monday, May 13, 2013 TBD Los Angeles at St. Louis

For more hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter --
You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

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