Another great 1st round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. The best series so far for me are pretty much all of them… but the best would probably be the Kings vs Blues so far. My least favorite is the Bruins and Maple Leafs. Just because the games aren’t really close. There’s only one series with the potential for a sweep, which shows you how great the parity in the NHL is. All the Western Conference series have at least one overtime game. Half the Eastern Conference series has as well.
The NHL has gotten better on scheduling. It’s not exactly rocket science but it was never something they were good at. At least this year they finally have kept it four games each night as opposed to their five or three games some nights. They’ve gotten better at stacking games but sometimes they still start some games at the same time. Like opening night when both St. Louis vs. Los Angeles and Chicago vs Minnesota started at the same time and their overtime goals were also scored at the same time. Now there’s no way they could have known that would have happened but the point is if they would have stacked the games that wouldn’t have happened. I know even if they stacked the games they still could have scored at the same time but at least in that case, one overtime period would be almost done while the other would just be beginning.
There’s also the whole flipping the puck over the boards nonsense that’s been happening a lot. As Jeremy Roenick I think said it best that you can shoot the puck into the bench on purpose but can’t nothing but if you do it accidentally over the glass from your own end you get a penalty. It seems a bit much. It’s too hard to determine if someone does it on purpose or not but the rule isn’t fair.
1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8 NY Islanders
What we learned: The Penguins still can’t play defense
Things I Like: This series is a high scoring affair which is good because most of the others are not. The Islanders have gotten over their playoff jitters they displayed in Game 1 and have really brought their A game. They’ve probably surprised a lot of people with how close the series has been but they are a good team. Sidney Crosby picked up right where he left off, he’s just an amazing player. Malkin is also at the top of the playoff scoring… again.
Things I Don’t: Marc-Andre Fleury played well in the 1st game but the 2nd and 3rd games seemed to be more at the level you except form him. Misplaying those pucks off the end boards has to be concerning to the Penguins. I really don’t think that holding call or whatever it was on Sidney Crosby in the overtime of Game 3 was a penalty. It was pretty much only called because it was Sidney Crosby. That’s not how anyone should want a playoff game to be decided.
Likely Winner: Penguins
5 – Points in two games for Sidney Crosby
-2 – In plus minus for Crosby, the lowest of the top 15 scorers in the playoffs
13 – Blocked shots by Mark Eaton tops in the playoffs
2 Montreal Canadiens vs. 7 Ottawa Senators
What we learned: Canadians love their hockey and teeth will be lost
Things I like: Craig Anderson has picked up where he left off in the postseason and is making some key saves despite, as usual, facing the most shots per game. Jean-Gabriel Pageau has provided the Senators with some much needed offense and netted his first, of probably many, post season hat trick. I actually liked the line brawl in the 3rd period of Game 3. It harkens back to the games of yesteryear. Thomas Plekanec is winning a lot of draws and PK Subban has skated well with the puck.
Things I don’t: After the line brawl I think it was a bit much to have the additional fighting but in a game that is far out of reach, there isn’t much else for the players to do. Carey Price is showing once again why he may never be the guy for the job in Montreal. Granted it’s not all his fault but he just doesn’t make the saves he needs to make. I think the main problem with the Canadiens is they don’t have that go to top forward to lead them and score goals. They haven’t had that guy for awhile now. The blood spewing out of Lars Eller after that hit on him was just sick.
Likely Winner: Senators
129 – Penalty minutes for the Canadiens in Game 3
107 – Penalty minutes for the Senators in Game 3
118 – Shots faced by Craig Anderson so far, tops in the playoffs
.949 – SV% for Anderson, tops in the league
3 Washington Capitals vs. 6 New York Rangers
What we learned: The Rangers are overrated
Things I like: If he keeps it up, Braden Holtby will be one of the best money goaltenders around. The guy you want to have in the playoffs in a Game 7. Of course he needs to win a few cups to solidify that but I think he will. Mike Green has been one of the top players for the Capitals. Lost in Holtby’s magnificence, Henrik Lundqvist has also played as well as he normally does.
Things I don’t: Holtby is hard enough to beat 5 on 5 but if you aren’t going to generate any goals on the powerplay against him, I don’t see how the Rangers have a chance. Of course in Game 3 the Rangers actually scored on a powerplay and right when another one finished and not coincidentally they actually won a game.
Likely Winner: Capitals
1.61 – GAA for Holtby tops in the league
4 Boston Bruins vs. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs
What we learned: The pressure is getting to the Maple Leafs
Things I like: Like the Islanders, the Maple Leafs took their lumps and jitters in Game 1 and then bounced back in Game 2. I love the atmosphere in Toronto, it was unreal. Phil Kessel scored a couple of goals against hi sold team but he also committed a turnover that led to a Bruins goal. On the positive side the game was already over by then.
Things I don’t: Some of those penalties against Zdeno Chara are kind of ridiculous. He’s a big man, it’s not very hard for him to knock you down. The refs need to learn that just because someone went down around him doesn’t necessarily mean he did something wrong. In Game 3 the Maple Leafs reverted back to the way they played in Game 1, basically overwhelmed and not ready. I don’t see how you can be that unprepared again. Granted you are playing for the first time since 2004 at home but I mean come on. On the plus side there can’t possibly be anymore games where they aren’t prepared. The Maple Leafs also need to take better care of the puck. The worst part about this series is that we have yet to see both teams play a complete game at the same time. Either the Bruins are up or the Leafs are up. The sad part is we are running out of chances to see a competitively played game.
Likely Winner: Bruins
44 – Giveaways by the Maple Leafs, worst in the playoffs
7 – Points by David Krejci, tops in the playoffs
1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8 Minnesota Wild
What we learned: The Blackhawks are that good but the Wild will keep it interesting
Thing I like: Josh Harding has played really well considering he wasn’t supposed to be playing at all and he has faced a lot of shots. The Blackhawks have showcased their crisp passing and always finding the open man so far in this series. I loved that we’ve had two overtimes so far. It shows you how close the series has been. After leading in a weak goal to start the series Corey Crawford has played mostly liked he did in the Canucks series a couple of years ago. The Blackhawks penalty kill has been great and they have a shorthanded goal to go with it.
Things I don’t: Not much that I noticed but I’ll be honest this is the hardest series to get into. I will say no powerplay goals for the Wild is not going to help them win in this series.
Likely Winner: Blackhawks
100 – Penalty Kill percentage for the Blackhawks
0 – Powerplay percentage, logically, for the Wild
19 – Giveaways by the Wild, lowest in the playoffs
2 Anaheim Ducks vs. 7 Detroit Red Wings
What we learned: That Coach Babcock has no idea what constitutes a legal hit
Things I like: The Ducks showed a lot of heart and determination coming back from 3 down in Game 2 to force overtime. Even though they didn’t win, it’s something they can really build on during the playoffs. Teemu Selanne is still getting it done at 42 years old. Both Jonas Hiller and Jimmy Howard have played well so far.
Things I don’t: The officiating in this series is atrocious. I’m not going to write out the specifics because there’s to many to mention. The two big ones I will mention are the Justin Abdelkader hit and the Sheldon Souray penalty. The Abdelkader penalty was the right call but it looked like the ref wasn’t going to call anything at first. He’s staring right at the play but nowhere on any of the replays was his hand ever raised. It’s like he only called it because of the aftermath. Souray’s penalty was ridiculous considering the other stuff they haven’t been calling. Powerplays, especially later on in games, are almost a sure bet to have a goal scored on one. Penalties should only be called on blatant penalties. Had they not made that call the Ducks would probably have won Game 2. In Game 3 Jonas Hiller really made a bad decision on the overtime winner. Had he challenged and poke checked the puck away earlier the Red Wings wouldn’t haven’t scored.
Likely Winner: Ducks
2 – Overtime loses for the Ducks
3 Vancouver Canucks vs. 6 San Jose Sharks
What we learned: It makes no difference who plays goalie for the Canucks
Things I like: The Sharks are playing great hockey and Antti Niemi is playing like he did during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup run he was a part of. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski continue to show why they are money in the playoffs. Both are tied for 2nd in playoff scoring and Couture wins faceoffs. There’s nothing positive to say about Vancouver.
Things I don’t: Roberto Luongo didn’t play that bad in the 1st two games. He didn’t let in any bad goals, yet Vancouver chose to replace him with Cory Schneider. I realize Schneider is the number one goalie but with his injury he probably shouldn’t have been rushed back but after dropping the first two at home Vancouver probably thought they had no choice. But Schneider did not play well in Game 3. He was fine until the 3rd period, when he let in two horrible goals that pretty much ended the Canucks season. He then let in another one and got pulled. You might want to figure the goaltending thing out Canucks. The Sedins are also nowhere to be found. They didn’t even show up in the first two games and the third game they had some nice assist but Henrik also took an undisciplined penalty in Game 3 that really hurt them. This Canucks team peaked when they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Bruins. It’s time to retool and rebuild.
Likely Winner: Sharks
7 – Powerplay opportunities for the Canucks, lowest in the playoffs
0 – 1st period goals by the Canucks, the only team without any
4 St. Louis Blues vs. 5 Los Angeles Kings
What we learned: Goals are a premium in this series
Things I like: A great, hard hitting defensive struggle with great saves by both goalies. David Backes has only one goal but man does he work hard on every shift. A very underrated player. Drew Doughty has shown why he is one of the top defensive players in the league. There weren’t many goals until Game 4 but man they were beauties and the goalies still made great saves despite giving up 7 goals total.
Things I don’t: Jonathan Quick’s blunder below really ruined the potential for multiple overtimes and the chance for the Kings to win. In Game 4 the Blues turned it over way to much.
Likely Winner: too close to call but leaning Kings
174 – Hits by the Kings, tops in the playoffs
161 – Hits by the Blues, 2nd in the playoffs
Goats of the Week
Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings
This is a prime example of why goalies should never leave their crease. The clip speaks for itself.
Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
Karlasson makes a boneheaded pass that broke the scoreless tie. Who knows how the game would have played out if he didn’t give them momentum at home.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
April 30, 1999 Vincent Damphousse scored 2 shorthanded goals in the third period to tie an NHL playoff record as San Jose won 7-3 at Colorado, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals. Mike Vernon recorded the first playoff assist by a Sharks goalie.
May 01, 1980 Philadelphia defenseman Bob Dailey scored a goal and added four assists in a 7-0 playoff win over the Minnesota North Stars, in Game Two of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, at the Spectrum. Phil Myre recorded the only shutout of his playoff career.
May 02, 2001 Patrick Roy recorded his 17th career playoff shutout as the Avalanche scored 3 goals in the 2nd period (including two in 1:46 by Hejduk & Drury) for a 3-0 win against the Kings, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals at Los Angeles.
May 03, 2004 Calgary’s Martin Gelinas became the first player in NHL history to end three playoff series with OT goals when he scored at 19:13 of OT in a 1-0 win that eliminated Detroit from the playoffs, in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
May 04, 2000 Keith Primeau scored his first playoff goal as a Flyer at 12:01 of the 5th overtime in the third-longest game in NHL history – the longest game in 64 years as Philadelphia won 2-1 at Pittsburgh, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
May 05, 1972 Boston’s Bobby Orr became the first player in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy (as the NHL’s MVP) three straight seasons. He also became the first NHL player to win the Norris Trophy five straight years.
May 06, 1982 Vancouver scored a team playoff record 6 goals, and Lars Lindgren picked up three assists as the Canucks won 6-2 at Chicago, in Game 5 of the Campbell Conference Finals. Vancouver advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals vs the Islanders.