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.

Quick predictions:

Wings

Bruins

Pens

Hawks

will all advance.

5) Despite some love taps McCormick did his damage with his stick in his hand and got an assist early in the game and through a few hits.  Almost a disappointment, but fighting to the last man is probably not something the Sabre’s would wanna attempt.

4) Through the early going of a game blacked out in the east, it certainly appear so. Doughty blasts the Kings into the lead with an early powerplay goal.  Bettman is in the building to confirm and or deny rumors of a conspiracy that may or may not exist.

3) Amazingly yes, just one man though. Patrice Bergeron.

2)  Given that he slashed a player from the bench after getting yanked for the extra skater, I suppose he’ll be playing elsewhere next season. I don’t blame him if that’s his aim.

1) No word on what Obama said about Miller’s penmanship, but “souces close to the situation” said he wanted to give Congress five for fighting.

5) With an over under of five shifts; How long will it take Buffalo’s “black ace” Cody McCormick to get down and dirty in an old school swing with a Bruins dance partner?

4) Can Doughty and the Kings keep Vancouver on its heels or will Luongo and company Burrows their way out of the slump they are in.

3) Will any player on either team leave game five in Boston with more points than the man who can claim seniority over everyone in the playoffs?

2) Will tonight be the night that of Carey’s resurrection as ‘Jesus Price Superstar’ or will his name be crossed out by Alexander Ovechkin ensuring he collects his thirty pieces of silver elsewhere next year?

1) Vezina nominee, Buffalo stalwart and real American hero Ryan Miller has signed a puck for President Obama. Will our Commander in Chief try and toss it over home plate or is there a small, small chance he understands a nod of respect towards hockey is good for America and American business?

5) It appears, that the Dan Boyle decided to take matters into his own hands and score a quick goal in the early going and get the fair weather fans back on his side, Nabokov played a solid game behind a defense that was solid if not spectacular.
4) We’ll know the answer to this one later, but I suspect a Tuesday night will not draw that many viewers. The Pittsburgh – Ottawa game had so little flow and soul I expect it could win American Idol.  Part of this was just some dumb play and like in the Flyers – Devils tilt the lions share rested on the plate of the officiating. I think both sets of officials were looking to be first star of the game.
3)  Well, maybe. You’ll have to decide what you think. Please note they like their tinfoil hats shiny side out and made of recycled materials.
2) Sadly no, the delightful and deluded fans proved that their is a bottom to the depth of Hab’s hatred. But fear not, anytime you feel the need for a stroll across the square at Memory & Twitter, just click here.
1) None that I saw, but then again I cried at the end of Old Yellar…

So today’s 5 Up questions focus on the second most important people in hockey, the fans.

5) How will Boyle and Nabokov be treated by fans when they step on the ice? Objectively speaking both were at fault for a truly stupendous gaffe that was but the frosting on a seven layer frustration cake.

4) Will fans tune into the games in higher numbers than the two records that have been set so far? Better still will any one other than Marty be cheered for the Devils?

3) Will the Vanspiracy folks manage to out do themselves?

2) Can all the jokes about #Canadienstactics continue right through game time and beyond?

1) Will any fans prove more gifted at foaming at the mouth than Buffalo fans as the playoffs continue? http://bit.ly/aK2PEj

Stay tuned and tweeted.

With three difference games we saw three ways to win. The Bruins came back to win a tight game on the strength of their defense. The Capitals reminded the hockey world they scored more than anyone in the regular season and led from the word go.  The Kings on the other-other hand decided to put on a special teams exhibition that just dared the officials to change the man count on ice.

5) Judging by the way the two teams played,  one would have to say the Bruins won this emotional battle with themselves. Sobotka get’s his first NHL fight, Wideman gets his first NHL playoff goal, and Bergeron get’s his first playoff Game Winner. The Sabres were in no way flat, but the Bruins had that extra it that it took to get the job done.

4) In a word, yes the Kings best can outplay the cream of the Canucks crop, but not without some bench support from Handzus and a pair of truly commanding special teams.

3) Pretty much.  While the Caps started and ended the game with the same guy shading the blue paint, the Habs had to embrace the man they have derided and ridiculed for little reason for the past two years.

2) Sorta, they did however skip showing part of a fight for no other reason than incompetence. But hey, they didn’t make the same mistake twice (in a row)!

1)  Only the war room in Toronto. On a goal that had nothing to indicate a distinct kicking motion the boffins and brain trust took roughly twice as long as the last lockout to make the wrong call.

The third period saw the hockey soup that is made out of grit & gristle, meat & madness, precision & patience and a touch of the grace of the hockey gods boil over. Andrew Ference got his face clawed by Rivet in a move reminicient of Mike Komisareks attack on Matt Hunwick, Vladimir Sobotka was jumped by Sekera and held his own in his first NHL fight against a much larger opponent.

The Bruins penalty kill was again perfect and robbed the Buffalo squad of any hope of momentum. Most importantly, the Boston Bruins who struggled at home kept their chins up and gutted out a win at home after going down to a team who can call on the services of the man who clearly deserves the Vezina, and the towering rookie sensation and probable Calder claimant Tyler Myers.

Almost 80 total hits on the night with Chara and Sobotka leading with six a piece,  Dennis Wideman had one of his best games in a Bruins uniform earning notches points on both goals.  Patrice Bergeron snapped his own scoring drought, and together Bergeron, Wideman, Rask and Vladimir Sobotka lead the Bruins to a 2-1 win and a 2-1 series advantage.

Bruins squandered a power play that had the whole unit of Bergeron, Krejci, Recchi, Chara and Hunwick play the full two minutes.

Sobotka drew a second penalty just moments later,  he’s playing for a contract next year and he know’s it. He may not end up here in Boston next year with the logjam of highly regarded prospects, in addition to Bergeron, Krejci and Savard, but if he plays this well the rest of the playoffs he’ll likely be playing in the NHL next year even if it is in a different teams uniform.

Sturm turned a powerplay int a holding the stick when he pressed someone stick into his stomach with his arm.

Bruins had great effort for most of the first twelve to fourteen minutes and then made some silly plays with Sturm and Ference getting caught retaliating.

The Bruins need to simply do what brought them to the dance in the third period:  Skate hard, hit smart and hard, and put the puck on net.

After Wideman’s earlier indications that he started the season injured (he wasn’t skating well, even for him) and that he’d had about the worst season of his career, some thought it was time to forgive and forget.  I think that he, Ryder and several others still have a lot of work to catch up on.

Early in the first period the Bruin’s put Miller under siege, and had little to show for it. When Mike Grier scores on a cross crease high glove shot, the Bruins were knocked back on their heels for most of the remainder of the period.  Sobotka started the turnaround by laying waste to Tyler Ennis, then setting up Wideman for his first career NHL playoff goal, and the tying goal.

A nice little scrum involving Paul Gaustad of the Sabres and the much smaller, very scrappy Andrew Ference brought the noise back from the Garden crowd.

Stats:

After 1, Sobotka & Chara lead the Bruins with 3 hits each, Tim Kennedy has 3 for Buffalo.  Boychuck leads the Bruins with 8:40 of ice time.