Between the Pipes – 1st Round Stanley Cup playoff recap… so far
What an awesome 1st round it’s been so far, probably the best bunch of 1st round matches in quite some time. Ratings are up, all of the 1st round series were tied 1-1 at some point and we’ve had a lot of overtimes. High intensity matchups and wide open hockey, you have got to love it. Best series so far for me are the Coyotes vs. the Red Wings, Canucks vs. Kings and Avalanche vs. Sharks. My least favorite are the Bruins vs. Sabres and the Blackhawks vs. Predators. I have no idea what it is but I just can’t get into either one. Also there have been way too many goalies overplaying the 1st save to lead to a wide open second chance which has generally gone in. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen that happen this much.
So far I haven’t cared for the NHL’s scheduling. You have five games some days and three other days. It should just be four and four. Second and most annoying are the times the NHL has two games start at 7pm ET, why? Keep them stacked at 7pm then 7:30pm so that when the first is over you can still watch half of the 3rd period. As opposed to when the first 7pm game is over you turned to the other 7pm game and watch the final minute, wow one minute so awesome. (note sarcasm)
So I think I’ll try a new recap column format for the playoffs that incorporates some of the old format. I didn’t have time to do as many numbers as I would like to have.
1 Washington Capitals vs. 8 Montreal Canadiens
What we learned: The Capitals defensive problems are actually much worse than anticipated.
Things I Like: Niklas Backstrom is really having a break-out playoffs. Thomas Plekanac or Thomas Jagr, as per his new nickname, is really having a great series. This comes as no surprise as he has been the best player all year for them. I liked how Ovechkin rebounded from his Game 1 disaster. Everyone has bad games, even stars, it’s how you rebound from them that matters. I love the Montreal arena atmosphere, just awesome. There is nothing like hockey in Canada.
Things I Don’t: Alexander Semin, who I mentioned needed to have a big few series, is not having a break-out playoffs. He literally has done nothing having zero points. However you can’t say he isn’t trying as he has 16 shots which is leading the capitals. Defense on some of the goals that the Capitals have given up has just been atrocious. We knew that their Defense wasn’t their strongest point but if they expect to beat more complete teams in subsequent rounds it needs to be at least adequate.
Likely Winner: Capitals
0 – Saves made by Jose Theodore on two shots
0 – Points and shots by Alex Ovechkin in the 1st game
0 – Points thus far by Alexander Semin
2 New Jersey Devils vs. 7 Philadelphia Flyers
What we learned: The Devils are becoming the new Sharks.
Things I like: I don’t think anyone would have though Brian Boucher would play as well as he has so far, even Brian Boucher. If he keeps it up the Flyers might not need Emery or anyone else to come back.
Things I don’t: There was a call in Game 2, I believe, that led to a Flyers goal that should not have been a penalty. The Devils defenseman knocked the Flyer down but he did so after making contact with the puck first. Sometimes I wish there was instant replay for penalties too. The Devils are now down 3-1 and barring some sort of miracle are now toast. If they lose one more game this will be the 3rd year in a row they will not have gotten out of the 1st round as a high seed. This is not what Kovalchuk was acquired for. Martin Brodeur’s play is declining a little bit and he isn’t getting any younger. I smell problems in New Jersey and it’s not the garden state. The only good thing about the Devils going down in the 1st round is that it should pave the way for the Capitals vs. Penguins Conference Final we all wanted.
Likely Winner: Flyers
.886% – Brodeur’s save percentage
3 Buffalo Sabres vs. 6 Boston Bruins
What we learned: That neither one of these teams are that great.
Things I like: Miller has so far played fairly well but he is being outplayed by Tuukka Rask who is making sure Tim Thomas won’t get to play. This was the battle of goalie play series and thus far it has lived up to its billing.
Things I don’t: We knew the Bruins had problems scoring goals but the Sabres seem to have more problems. It’s weird because towards the end of the Season Buffalo was scoring pretty well but so far nobody on the team has more than two points.
Likely Winner: Bruins
4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5 Ottawa Senators
What we learned: Love him or hate him Sidney Crosby is the man. Also someone on the Ottawa bench can’t count.
Things I like: Sidney Crosby owned game 2 in a must win game for the Penguins. All the key plays in the game involved him. He had the first goal, an amazing sliding save on a puck going near the goal line and he set up the GWG with some awesome work behind the net before he passed the puck on one knee. He has been electric since that game.
Things I don’t: Ottawa has had three too many men on the ice penalties. One is bad, two is really bad and three is just ridiculous. In the playoffs it’s just embarrassing. I didn’t care for Andy Sutton’s hit on Jordan Leopold. They said it wasn’t dirty but Leopold had his head down and couldn’t see and Sutton made contact with his head. Considering how long he lay on the ice, I think Sutton should have gotten something. Brian Elliott seems to have no chance. Poor guy, he played fairly well in the regular season. In his defense Pascal LeClaire didn’t fare much better.
Likely Winner: Penguins
11 – Points by Sidney Crosby in four games, the league leader
1 San Jose Sharks vs. 8 Colorado Avalanche
What we learned: The Sharks are cursed, no seriously they are, and also Craig Anderson is quite a goalie.
Thing I like: I really think Craig Anderson is the round 1 breakout star. So far he has been phenomenal and he has already helped to steal some games for the Avs. Whether he can steal the series outright like Hiller did for the Ducks last year remains to be seen. I love the fact that 3 of the 4 games have gone to overtime, I do wish some of them would be a little longer though.
Things I don’t: I didn’t care for the Adam Foote penalty in overtime in game 2. Sure it was a penalty but it really had no effect on the outcome of the play, so it shouldn’t have been called. In the playoffs in overtime I want to see them play without whistles. Only major penalties that really affect the game should be called. The Avalanche are not a consistent bunch. They had almost no shots on goal in games two and three but they shot fine in games one and four. I really think if the Sharks lose this series they need to just rebuild the whole team. If they win regardless of how far they go, they need to find a new goalie because Nabokov is just not cutting it in the playoffs.
103 – Combined shots by San Jose in games 2 and 3
39 – Combined shots by Colorado in games 2 and 3
174 – total shots faced by Craig Anderson, yikes
Likely Winner: San Jose, barely
2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 7 Nashville Predators
What we learned: The Blackhawks sure hit a lot of crossbars and posts. As for the Predators well.. they’re like the Blue Jackets why do they exist? Sorry Predator and Blue Jacket fans it’s just the name and the city it’s just all wrong.
Things I like: The Blackhawks goaltending receives a lot of flack but so far Anti Niemi has played pretty well. He has given up a couple of bad goals but otherwise it’s been all good and he even has a shutout. Unfortunately he isn’t getting much help. Pekka Rinne has so far been sensational, which also doesn’t help Niemi.
Things I don’t: The Blackhawks really haven’t played all that well and I’m not really sure what the problem is. The definitely need to work on their accuracy with all the pings they have gotten at the end of the season and thus far in the 1st round. Considering the progress they made last post season and the addition of Hossa losing in the 1st round would be a huge step backwards for them. It would also help if the captain Jonathan Toews would show up.
Likely Winner: I still think Chicago can pull it out
.953% – Save percentage of Pekka Rinne, the league leader
3 Vancouver Canucks vs. 6 Los Angeles Kings
What we learned: If you thought the Gold medal was what Luongo needed to get over the hump, well it wasn’t.
Things I like: Drew Doughty is the man. Despite that fact that he is only 21 and he leads the Kings in postseason scoring as a defenseman what really makes him awesome are his defensive skills. He’s had many phenomenal plays including breaking up a Sedin twins two on one. Overall this has been an exciting series and the Los Angeles crowds are into the games.
Things I don’t: Luongo and Nabokov seem to have the same problem of not showing up in the playoffs. If Luongo can’t pull it together it doesn’t look good for the Canucks. The Sedin Game 3 kicked goal should have been a goal. It was not a direct kicking motion. It’s possible his plan was to stop there to force the puck in but I highly doubt it. Good news was it didn’t matter because they lost by two goals.
Likely Winner: Kings
4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. 5 Detroit Red Wings
What we learned: Shane Doan can get really pumped when he scores a goal, I just loved his enthusiasm.
Things I like: Despite how high the Coyotes finished I still had my doubts with how they would fare in the postseason especially opening against the Red Wings. But they played exceptionally well and some of the up and down play by both teams in certain stretches was unreal. I dug the crowd in Phoenix in the first two games they were very loud and it’s nice they finally came out to support their team. It should be rocking for Game 5.
Things I don’t: There isn’t much to fault except the goalies might want to practice defending breakaways a little more.
Likely Winner: too close to call
Goat of the Week
Dan Boyle – San Jose Sharks
Well I’m sure you’ve all seen this a billion times by now, but hey let’s see it again.
I have to admit I laughed when this happened. All I could think was typical Sharks luck, I mean what are the odds that this would happen to anyone else but them in the playoffs? I can’t tell if O’Reilly actually tipped the puck or not.
T.J Galiardi – Colorado Avalanche
Another gaffe that happened in Game 3 was T.J Galiardi’s breakaway, which was by far the worst breakaway I have ever seen. All he did was stickhandle the entire time until he ran out of ice and ran into Nabokov. Shoot the puck T.J you can’t score if you don’t shoot. Unless he thought Nabokov would fall asleep because of sheer boredom. If he would have connected, he would have spared Dan Boyle.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
April 15, 1975 Vancouver Canucks recorded their first-ever playoff win, 2-1 at Montreal to even their series at one game apiece in Game 2 of the Quarter-Finals. Garry Monahan tallied the first playoff game-winner for Vancouver, while Bob Dailey had two assists.
April 16, 1987 Ken Wregget recorded his second career playoff shutout to lead the Maple Leafs to a 4-0 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues, in Game 6 of the Norris Division Semi-Finals. With the win, Toronto advanced to the Division Finals vs Detroit.
April 17, 1969 Gerry Cheevers became the first goaltender in playoff history to get 3 straight shutouts at home, and Phil Esposito scored twice and added 3 assists, in the Bruins’ 5-0 win against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, in Game Three of the Semi-Finals.
April 18, 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins won 6-3 over the Devils at the Civic Arena to tie an NHL record with their 12th consecutive playoff victory. The record was set in 1984-85 by the Edmonton Oilers. Mario Lemieux scored two goals and two assists.
April 19, 1982 Denis Savard scored a hat trick to lead the Black Hawks to a 7-4 playoff win over St. Louis, in Game 4 of the Norris Division Finals at Chicago Stadium.
April 20, 1994 Chris Osgood became the fifth rookie goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his first career playoff game, when he led the Red Wings to a 4-0 win over the Sharks, in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals, in Detroit.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.