This year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, through two games in some series and one game in others, have been full of early surprises. The top seeded teams have found themselves in early holes, the underdogs are showing that they are not going to be pushed around, and both of those factors add up to create for some fantastic Quartefinal match ups in the East and West. Not to mention that many of our series predictions are being made inaccurate with already.
I guess we should start with the most shocking upset so far, and that has been the Washington Capitals being defeated on home ice in overtime by the eighth place Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Of course, it is only the series opener, but the offensive potent Capitals were only able to find the back of the net twice despite outshooting their opponents drastically.
Also, star winger Alexander Ovechkin was held to no shots in that game, which is the first time that has happened since about the middle of the regular season. In my opinion, the Habs deserve credit for what they did to shutdown arguably the best current player in the National Hockey League, but Ovechkin himself had other feelings.
"It's not about the Canadiens, it's all about me" said Ovechkin following the 3-2 overtime loss at the Verizon Center. He went on to say that he did not play his game and could be much better. While I do not doubt that, I don't think he is able to admit that he was simply stopped, because that is how I saw it.
Staying in the East, the Ottawa Senators edged the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of that series by the score of 5-4. The defending Stanley Cup Champions did not get the support in goal they needed form Marc-Andre Fleury in that contest, that is for sure. However the Sens deserve credit, as they were able to gain a 1-0 series lead without one of their more prolific scorers in Alexei Kovalev, who is out for the remainder of the season with an injury.
The Pens, though, fought back to tie things at one with a win on Friday. I have a feeling that this may turn into a series that will be back-and-forth all the way up to game seven. I think neither team, at this point, is willing to take their opponent lightly. This will be a fun series to watch.
Lastly in the East, it was the Philadelphia Flyers topping the Devils in game one, 2-1. Basically, the Devils were not able to generate much offense in this one, which is not much of a surprise when you consider they play under a Jacques Lemaire defensive style. But like the Pens, New Jersey answered back last night, pulling out a victory to even the series heading to Philadelphia.
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Now we shift our view out West where things are not much different than the East. The Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks opened their series last night at the United Center, one of the best places to watch playoff hockey in my eyes. The Predators, with four late goals in the third period, won that tilt 4-1. Granted two of those four goals were empty netters, but Chicago's only weakness was exposed in this loss, and that weakness is goaltending. Niemi can be a good netminder, but not one that has the ability to carry a team to a Cup just yet. If the Hawks can find was to produce and make up for the lack of goaltending, there is no doubt in my mind that they can go all the way.
The San Jose Sharks saga continues, as they are a hockey club that will dominate during the regular season, but once April comes around they choke. This was again shown to us when they fell to the Colorado Avalanche in game one on Wednesday. That starts with their biggest players in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and of course, Dany Heatley. Sharks fans are not going to be satisfied with yet another early exit, neither is the organization, so all three of these players mentioned above need to pick up their game.
San Jose has the offense, the defense, and the goaltending. They are a team that could easily make their way to the finals in June, but for some reason they just cannot seem to put it all together in the postseason. It is one of many unexplainable mysteries in the National Hockey League.
Last but certainly not least, we have the Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings competing in the most exciting series of the Quarterfinals so far in my opinion. The ‘Yotes fought hard to gain the early series lead against the 2008 Champs, but it was a very tight game all the way, and I think that is how the rest of the series will be. Unfortunately, the Wings tied the series at one led by Henrik Zetterberg's hat trick in game two. Nonetheless, it is very fun to watch these two teams clash on the same sheet of ice.
The greatest part about all of this is that the postseason action is only getting started. Buffalo - Boston, Washington - Montreal, and Vancouver - Los Angeles all will be back at it today starting at 1 pm. For once, with the Rangers already eliminated, it gives us a chance to sit back and observe. All of those observations, or at least most of them, will be shared on the site, as we will have complete coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs until Lord Stanley's Trophy is awarded.