There were games that teams played well, and better than the eventual series winner, and teams who just barely shuffled along in the first round. Here’s a look at how we got to round two.
In the Boston – Buffalo series neither team wowed anyone with their offense. With injuries piling up on the Bruins blueline coming into the series, the Bruins looked ripe for exploitation. Miller played like a god, and could have won with even a little better offense in front of him. Unfortunately his dedicated offensive drivers failed their vitality tests. Jason Pominville managed just 18 shots on goal in six games and almost 122 minutes of ice time. Derek Roy, the Sabres regular season points leader did an amazing zombie impersonation all series and barely managed to tie goon McCormick who played half as many games and just 32 minutes to Roy’s 137 for the series. And trade deadline pickup Raffe Torres was limpid in four games and had zero goals. All these gelded Buffalo’s contributed to a power play that didn’t notch a single goal.
Senators vs Penguins
When the unknown guys are the only reason you make it a series, you are in trouble. When your best goalie has a 2.84 GAA, you don’t go far. Together these were enough to sink a series. Alfreddson and Spezza were a combined -5 despite contributing to most of the series goals. If anyone asks you who the stars of this series were, find the guys in the orange arm bands because they did more to influence the outcome of each game than any skater on either team. Crosby had an impressive series, but with the Senators being called for nearly twice as many penalties, I think the zerbras are entitled to their victory lap. The lopsided 4 misconducts for the Senators and 0 for the Penguins are at least a curious anomaly.
Devils vs Flyers
Anyone who’s watched these two Atlantic division foes spill bodies, blood, and teeth to the ice in the regular season would expect a spirited and entertaining series. Sadly, no. Even the injection of one of the best goal scores in the world into the New Jersey lineup couldn’t keep the team from flatlining. Martin Broeduer was playing the Flyers nearly by himself. In 5 games the Devils managed just nine goals against the suspect goaltending hailing from the City of Brotherly Love. Averaging a lackluster 27 shots on goal per game, and managing six less goals than the Bruins who were the regular seasons least dangerous offense and lacked their top scorer of the last four seasons. The Flyers for their part showed slightly more energy, and suffered costly injuries, but looked only slightly better than the men they sent golfing.
Chicago vs Nashville
Whoever writes the script for the Nashville seasons must love country music. In the end the Predators are always neutered, defanged and declawed. Despite the ownership of two of the NHL’s fifteen best defensemen in Weber and Suter, and having the better goaltender in the series, the Predators lacked the killer instinct to put the Hawks down and feast on their enemy. They led the series two games to one after game three. Game four on they just laid down and died scoring seven goals in the final three games and being shutout entirely in one. True, they did play my pick to win the cup, but some things are inexcusable.
Kings vs Canucks.
This series was the antithesis of the Boston – Buffalo tilt, free wheeling and scoring by the dozen. Vancouver scored more goals than any team in the first round, and took advantage of a goaltender who while talented, has been carried by a very good team. Despite a power play that clicked at a level that stands at the far end of the scale from the Washington lower cases, the Kings couldn’t bear down and beat a team that couldn’t stay disciplined for a full period to save their momma’s lives. A 58.3% success rate on the penalty kill places them dead last of all teams in the playoffs, and 35% below their second round opponents. Luongo was clearly beatable in this series, and with his Olympic play, his preseason schedule and the combined 74 NHL regular and post season games, one has to wonder how many more saves he’s got before the fumes are exhausted.
Red Wings Coyotes
The series that almost wasn’t. The Coyotes were almost moved, almost folded and written off by everyone before the season started. The Red Wings players spent so much time on injured reserve this season you’d think they were only gonna play on nights Tiger Woods actually slept with the woman he’s married too. To top that off, they were breaking in a rookie goaltender who many doubted would ever stick in the NHL. When the peyote wore off and the snakes and octopi were cleared from the ice, the wiley ones were the Winged veterans, and not the post season newcomers. A critical blow to the Coyotes was the loss of Shane Doan, captain, catalyst and points leader during the regular season. Despite being the higher seed, the Coyotes were considered the underdog, and the veteran composure of the Wings shown through.
Sharks vs Avalance
Many people expected Southern California’s most famous beach bums to bow out early so they could work on their tans and spend a couple extra weeks shooting the curl instead of the puck. Yet despite a spectacular overtime gaffe by the tag team of Boyle & Nabokov, they managed to win the series. They, like the Canucks fell behind in 2-1 in the series, and then proceeded to school the Babylanhe in how the post season game is played. They scored 19 goals to Colorado’s 11, and laid siege to Craig Anderson’s crease averaging 40.8 shots per game while allowing the Avs the privilege of a mere 24.8. Nabokov was out played by miles, and only had to be the average goalie that he was in this round. For their sins, the Sharks get to take on the Wings in the next round.
Montreal vs Washington.
RJ Umberger kicked over a hornets nest in the waning days of the regular season by saying that Team Ovi would lose to any decent team in the west because they lacked a defense. Surprisingly, it was the offense of the beltway boys that let them down. Washington converted on just one of thirty-three powerplays for a mind boggling 3% conversion, this from the team that held claim to both the best offense, and best powerplay in the regular season. Semin got 36 shots on goal, and zero goals. Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green showed his worthiness for that award by tossing up zero goals on 19 shots and getting tagged for penalties and an inexcusable rate. He got about .72 minutes of penalties in the regular season, and more than doubling that in the playoffs. Despite what the naysayers will tell you, Ovechkin was 5-5-10 and +5 in the series with a solid 1.66 ppg and netted the teams only powerplay. The Capitals even outscored the the Canadiens 22 goals to 20, but managed just 3 goals in the final three games. Halak didn’t steal the series, but he probably ran back a bad punt by the Caps.
That’s the way it was, round two should be fun.
will all advance.