Top Line: Blackhawks tested in NHL playoffs opener, Crosby watch, more

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Fourth-liner Bryan Bickell showed just how deep the Blackhawks are in Game 1. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks

ByAllan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

• The Blackhawks haven't faced much adversity this season, but managed to face it down in the opener of their series against the Wild. Hey, if the biggest test they've faced this season is their own complacency, that's saying something, right?

• OT hero Bryan Bickell's game-winner enhanced his reputation as someone who comes to play in the postseason.

Josh Harding goes into the books as the loser of Game 1, but Jim Souhan calls Minnesota's emergency starter "the most remarkable player on the ice." Our own Stu Hackel wrote about Harding when the goalie was first diagnosed with MS.

• Nine of Minnesota's players made their NHL postseason debuts in the game last night, including goal scorer Cal Clutterbuck. From this seat, Charlie Coyle looked good...but then, he looks pretty good most nights, doesn't he?

• The Penguins still don't have word on Sidney Crosby's availability for tonight's opener, but they're ready to take on the Islanders without him.

Evgeni Malkin sees the playoffs as a chance to put the disappointment of an injury-ravaged season behind him. He's also looking to make up for losing in the first round to the Flyers last spring. I'm guessing he's going to make some pool owners happy this year.

Evgeni Nabokov's playoff experience will help keep the young Islanderson an even keel against the Pens.

• The Blues deserved better than to lose Game 1 after a solid effort last night. Nice to see them bounce back from a late let-up to pull it off in OT.

• Helene Elliott says the Kings were outhustled and got the result they deserved.

Teemu Selanne demonstrated that he still has the touch, firing home a sizzling one-timer to give the Ducks a Game 1 win over Detroit.

• Gregg Krupa offers a list of five things the Red Wings must do to even up their series. I'd add "rely more on Danny DeKeyser." The kid looked pretty steady in his debut last night.

• In Detroit, the coming realignment is being celebrated as the end to the 10:30 playoff starting time.

• There are 17 players likely to skate for Boston in its opener who were part of the Cup-winning 2011 team. Fluto Shinazawa says this will be the last chance for many of them to play for the Bruins.

• He doesn't have to be Tim Thomas, but the Bruins need Tuukka Rask to step up, says Anthony Travalgia. I'd argue this low-scoring bunch actually needs him to be better than Thomas, but that's me.

Tyler Bozak confirmed that he will be in the lineup for the Leafs and offered up a hot sports opinion: Phil Kessel will finally make some noise against the Bruins.

• Damien Cox looks at the trio of deals between Boston and Toronto that helped set the stage for this Original 6 clash.

• New York's Rick Nash is set to play in just the second playoff series of his 10-year career. Interestingly, he credits former coach Ken Hitchcock for getting him ready for the battle.

Derek Stepan was a non-factor in last spring's playoffs. Coming into this set against the Capitals as New York's top scorer,  he's looking for redemption.

• How Washington's aggressive, pressure-based style measures up against the Rangers' risk-averse approach will determine the outcome of their series.

Joe Thornton says "it's pure craziness out there" when Brent Burns is playing forward. The Sharks need the converted defender to play an aggressive, net-driving game if they hope to take out the Canucks.

• Ed Willes writes that time is running out for the core of this Vancouver team to compete for a Stanley Cup. Getting Ryan Kesler to find the Beast Mode switch will be key to getting the ball rolling.

• Montreal rookies Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk are ready for their first taste of NHL playoff action...and hope the Habs will last long enough that they can produce something better than the peach fuzz currently busying up their chins.

• In Ottawa, they're ready for the friendly rivalry between the Senators and Canadiens to take on a nastier tone. If it doesn't happen, it's their own fault. What kind of monster does someone have to be to hate the Sens?

• OHL coach of the year Mike Velluci deserves a shot in the NHL according to Plymouth Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos. "He's better than three or four guys currently coaching" in the league, he said, not looking in Kirk Muller's direction.

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