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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

What We Learned From the First Round of NHL Playoffs

The first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs is in the books. For the Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins the dream is still alive as they advance to the second round. But for the teams that fell just short, it's going to be a long offseason and for some the first round will have left a bitter taste.

The first 4 wins are in the books, now it's just the final 12. So what did we learn and what can we take away from the first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs?

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins aren't as good as everyone thought.

This was supposed to be the Penguins year. A healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined with James Neal and the addition of Jarome Iginla. The Penguins made a statement, their goal in the playoffs is nothing short of the Stanley Cup. While they still have a shot at that goal, some weaknesses have been exposed in their team and the road is only going to get tougher. Until the Penguins figure out their goaltending issues, they wont be able to lay claim to the Stanley Cup. Looks like Pittsburgh isn't the big power-house everyone believed.

  • 8th seed don't care

940-senators-celebrationRemember when Brian Burke was the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and he said he didn't want to just squeak into the playoffs in 8th only to be clobbered in the first round, then the LA Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup from the 8th seed? In the first round, especially in the East, what seed you finished didn't mean much. Look at the Islanders giving the Penguins all they could handle, The Senators as the 7th seed upsetting the 2nd seeded Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings following along the Senators path by upsetting the Ducks.
Once you make the playoffs it's a whole new ballgame, throw out the regular season as it means nothing. In a best of 7 series, anything can happen- it all depends what team shows up.

  • Never underestimate your opponent

After the Bruins closed out their series with the Leafs in game 7, Milan Lucic admitted that the Bruins kind of underestimated the Leafs.
"I think after Game 4 we did. I don’t think once the series started we underestimated them. That’s why we had a 3-1 lead after four games, but after that it just seemed like it was almost like a bit of we did underestimate them a bit and when it felt like we deflated them in that Game 4 overtime goal that wasn’t the case at all."

Underestimating the Leafs almost cost the Bruins the series as the Leafs showed no quit and a lot of heart, battling back from a 3-1 series deficit.

  • Goaltending is kind of important

You can pretty much say every team that was eliminated in round one, didn't get the type of goaltending they needed. Look at the New York Rangers, when they needed a big game Henrik Lundqvist stepped up. In fact "the King" stepped up with shutouts in both game 6 and 7.  Look at the at the Canadiens and Canucks, both teams didn't get the goaltending they needed and as a result they're out. Goaltending nearly cost the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first round series but instead it cost the Islanders. Had the Islanders had someone other than Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes, they may very well have upset the Penguins.

  • Despite no experience and having the odds against, the Leafs actually played pretty solid playoff hockey

Yes, everyone in Toronto is disappointed and so are the players, after coming within 11 minutes of moving on to the 2nd round, but they really shouldn't be. This series for Toronto was a win-win. They gained valuable playoff experience and now know what it takes to win in the playoffs. The Leafs did far better than anyone expected and nearly pulled off the unthinkable, that is a huge plus for the Leafs and will only help them going forward.

alexxwebSigh, yes another disappointing first round exit for Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. I really thought they would advance this year and Ovechkin would finally find the playoff success that has eluded him, but sadly that was not the case. Ovechkin was held scoreless for the last 5 games of the series and most importantly in game 7 when his team needed him the most. Ovechkin scored just 1 goal and added 1 assist, a far cry from his dominance during the regular season. It's been 9 seasons since Ovechkin joined the Capitals and they've failed advance past the 2nd round in any year.

Interesting stats

  • The Kings and Blues played in the closest series. The teams spent 98.8 either tied or within 1 goal of the other. Through 6 games there was only a 5 minute span where the was a 2 goal cushion. Talk about some close, nail-bitting hockey.

  • Carey Price is 4-11 in his last 4 playoff appearances and hasn't made it out of the first round.

  • How close were the first round match-ups? Well a staggering 17 games needed extra time to decide a winner, which breaks the previous record of 16 in just one round.

  • Remarkable all 6 "original 6" NHL teams made it into the playoffs and 4 of them are still alive.

Round two begins tonight. Get ready for even more exciting hockey as teams look to add 4 more wins on route to the Stanley Cup.

Also check out my audition for Gillette Drafted -->

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