Today’s 5 Up questions to be answered.

5) Which team will rally around their injured player better. The Sabres who just lost Vanek or the Boston Bruins who got to see Marc Savard skate for the first time since Matt Cooke tried to take his head off? Will these injuries be a factor or is the psychoemotional forge already hot enough?

4) Can Kopitar, Doughty and Quick keep the Sedin’s and Luongo from earning their time in the sun?

3) Will the tale of two creases that has been center stage in the Montreal Washington series continue to overshadow the rest of the drama?

2) Can Versus keep from posting the wrong scores and logos during intermissions and updates?

1) Will anyone show less urgency than yesterdays Devils?

This morning I asked five questions, now its time for the answers.

5) Meh, the Chicago vs Predators game was second best on the day. Despite the low score the Sharks vs Avalanche game was amazing. Everything else was a letdown.  The New Jersey Devils looked like someone had shoved Martin Brodeur out there with a supporting cast of high school players.  Best game of the day goes to the Coyotes and the Wings who at least played like it was  the playoffs.  The Coyotes lost captain Shane Doan to an ever more mystery shrouded injury and rallied to put the Wings half way to pasture.

4) Apparently the answer is no.  Pittsburgh led by three at one point and nearly got out of town with the score that way.  The Black Hawks had two goals in a shutout against the low octane Predators, but the game was tight. And the Colorado – San Jose game ended 1-0 in overtime.

3) Nope.

2) It appears that not only are Chicago’s young legs still willing and able, that Anti Niemi wants his name next to a couple more zero’s on his next contract.

1) Well, Anti Niemi did a solid job smothering 23 Nashville shots, but Craig Anderson stuck his fork in the Conn-Smythe steak and said 50 shots stopped.

Five quick thoughts on the action to come.

5) Will any of today’s five games live up to the playoff experience so far? We’ve had sixty plus minutes of balls to the wall action in each game and I don’t know how you top the back and forth flow of goals, hits and high tempo.

4) Will today be the day we see a blowout? Will one of the big guns in New Jersey, Chicago or Pittsburgh take to the ice and take over the game?

3) Does today mark our first visit to double overtime? We’ve had reasonably brief extra periods thus far, could we see a game hit triple overtime?

2) Did Chicago wear themselves down in the regular season or do they still have enough juice to overcome their division rivals?

1) Who’s moving their name to center stage on the post season awards list? Does Doughty dominate on D, will Ilya B or Ilya K be the guy talked about all day?

One certainty:
No sports post season can match the NHL for intensity.

A quick look at the playoff brackets might convince you that you know the answer to the title question. And while it is more than likely there will be fundamental changes to the structure of both the Capaital’s and the Sharks if they get knocked out before the conference finals, you’d be wrong to think they will back slide the furthest.

Boston with all its injuries (Savard, Stuart, Seidenberg) who had that huge drop from missing the Presidents Trophy last year by such a small margin, to clawing their way into sixth this year will be another year older, but will probably enter the season with Hall or Seguin on the roster and possible former first rounders Caron and Colbourne. If all goes well Ryder & Wideman will be wearing someone else’s uniform next year, and the three missing men will be back and contributing their impressive weight.

For the Habs who many (myself included) wrote off as a proof of Gainey’s senility with a roster crowded with Umpaloompa’s and hasbeens, just making the playoffs is something to be proud of. The fact that they started the second season by snapping an eight game post season slide against the powerhouse Capitals is enormous.

The Avalanche, Coyotes and Kings were not expected to make the playoffs and many predicted two of them as lottery bound. With the youth and lack of playoff experience here, despite the heart, hustle and skill they can all wait another season or even two to learn how to win playoff hockey.

Some people will point to the defending champion Penguins and their prom dates the last two years the Wings and say surely they have the most to lose. Nope, as great as the Wings I don’t think they have the depth. They were in 9th place not long ago and have been largely carried by several aging veterans and surprise sensation Jimmy Howard. The Penguins are in part victims of their own success, and partly their leadership failed to replace the shutdown defensive pair that helped propel them to the Cup a year ago. The Penguins still have great core, and the Wings leadership know how to build.

To my mind the Devils have to go out and make it to the Conference finals this year if the sword of Damoclese isn’t to descend on everyone outside the owners office. Like the Sharks the Devils have been almost there for so long, and have added a gun slinger to their lineup. Of all the teams in the east, I suspect only the Flyers will get a sounder scrubbing if they fail.

But the team that has the most to lose isn’t someone who’s been a perennial favorite, isn’t a team with questionable coaching, or prima donnas in the locker room its the Chicago Blackhawks. The team will be a very different beast next year. For next season they have 14 players signed and come up to $57.566 million. They quite literally have nowhere to move. They will start trading as soon as they can, both at the draft and right up to the start of the new season. Being that close to the salary cap something has got to give. If the team on the ice today wants a cup there is literally no “next year”. We could quite possibly see core guys including Kane and Toews moved to make room. Hossa and Sharp are almost certainly gone. If the Black Hawks fail, they don’t just lose a game or a series, they don’t simply let slip a place in history, they give up a team that is good enough to hoist the Cup and shatter the dream of a whole city.

The Senators have outworked, out chanced, out skated, out smarted and completely dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby through two periods had only attempted one shot and that was blocked. Fluery allowed five goals and five goal scores to light the lamp.  The effort for most of the Penguins was seriously lacking and the Senators looked like the playoff veterans all night. Jarkko Ruuttu managed to stay disciplined the whole night.

What this series comes down to is a contrast between the main strength of the Senators in defense, and the offense of the Penguins, the defenses are pretty similar with but it should be noted that Crosby did not score a single of his fifty-one goals against the Senators and that trend continued tonight. Goaltending is about even between the two teams with the season series having shown both teams goalies can have very bad nights.

Senators win 5-4 over last season Stanley Cup Champions, but the Penguins only showed up for about ten minutes of the game. Senator’s lead the series 1-0.