Five questions: NHL Eastern Conference
1. How is Sidney Crosby’s head? The Penguins’ superstar center played only 22 games last season because of concussion- related problems, and every time he takes a hit to the head it’s impossible to avoid holding your breath for a half-second to see if he’s OK. During the lockout he participated in some collective bargaining sessions and worked out and said he was ready to go.
2. Where is Ilya Bryzgalov’s head? The Flyers’ flaky goaltender had a nightmarish start to his nine-year, $51 million contract last season. Bryzgalov’s playoff numbers (3.46 goals-against, .887 save percentage) were horrible. Unless he pulls off a dramatic turnaround, the Flyers could buy out his contract after the season.
3. Will Tuukka Rask thrive in Boston? Goaltender Tim Thomas’ decision to retire despite a year left on his contract created a golden opportunity for Rask, who suffered a groin/abdomen injury in early March. Rask has been a starter before but this time there’s no experienced backup as an alternative.
4. How will the Islanders draw as lame ducks at the Nassau Coliseum? The Islanders announced in October they will leave Long Island for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center starting with the 2015-16 season. That’s one long goodbye. And they’ll probably still be paying goalie Rick DiPietro when the Barclays Center is condemned for being ancient. The Islanders have some exceptional young players but teams with one foot out the door don’t usually attract huge crowds.
5. Will the Maple Leafs make the playoffs in our lifetime? An ownership change led to the surprise dismissal of G.M. Brian Burke a week before opening night. The Leafs will sell out no matter how bad the team is but it’s about time for a turnaround for the NHL’s most valuable but least efficient franchise.
Helene Elliott, L.A. Times