Hockey fans are very passionate about their respective sport. Anyone who says hockey is just a game gets the classic, “It’s not just a game, it’s a lifestyle” retort from the serious hockey fan. Recently, ESPN did a survey showing that the NHL Playoffs is the most exciting postseason ahead of the NBA, NFL, and MLB, respectively.
This is perhaps the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans, the NHL Playoffs first round is already at a close. The first to four wins advances, and the first to four losses is sent home. Each series was full of ups and downs, some teams choked under pressure while others flourished, and a team even won their first playoff game in club history.
What will the winning teams need to do to keep their playoff run alive, and what was the downfall for each losing organization? The second round will be a lot tougher than the first, with more interesting match ups, and more exciting, nail-biting finishes.
Round One Recap: Boston vs. Detroit
Results: Boston won the series 4-1.
Why Boston won and Detroit lost: Tuuka Rask has been the backbone of the Bruins since taking the reins from Tim Thomas, and he has blossomed into one of the league’s premier goaltenders. Detroit couldn’t solve Rask or Boston’s defense, making it hard for the Wings offense to produce any good scoring opportunities. Brad Marchand’s ability to be the most annoying player in league history is paying dividends for the Bruins, and they will need him to keep causing mayhem if they want to continue to the next round.
Round One Recap: Montreal vs. Tampa Bay
Results: Montreal swept the Lightning 4-0.
Why Montreal won and Tampa lost: the series sweep looks bad without looking into the scores. Three of the four games were decided by one goal and in Game 2 the Lightning just couldn’t score on Carey Price until there was under 5 minutes to play in the game. Carey Price is putting on quite the show and silencing the critics. Price will need to play like he did at the Olympics if he wants to add a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe to his hardware.
Round Two Match Up: Montreal vs. Boston
How Boston will win: Boston needs to keep playing physical, get good goaltending, and keep Montreal’s goal scorers off the scoring column.
How Montreal will win: Montreal needs to pepper Rask with shots from anywhere on the ice, finish their checks on the Boston defense, and not get caught up trying to keep up with Boston’s physicality.
The X-Factor: the Bruins’ ability to get under Montreal’s skin.
Players to watch: The goaltenders Rask and Price will have a showdown in net, and the defensive battle between Chara and Subban will be interesting story coming from this series.
My prediction: Boston moves on to the next round, but Montreal will take them to 7 games and put up a long and grueling fight. This is one of the best rivalries in the sport, and a classic Original 6 match up.
Round One Recap: Pittsburgh vs. Columbus
Results: Pittsburgh won the series 4-2. (Side note: Columbus won their first ever playoff game against the Penguins and gave them quite the scare.)
Why Pittsburgh won and Columbus lost: Pittsburgh almost choked and saw their season end atthe hands of the Blue Jackets, but the Penguins star players showed up when it mattered most. Columbus had all the heart, but not enough scoring depth to bury the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury continues his playoffs woes and needs to find his inner 2009 Fleury if he wants another Stanley Cup ring.
Round One Recap: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia
Results: New York won series 4-3.
Why New York won and Philadelphia lost: maybe it was the lack of Claude Giroux making bold promises about winning the game or his Flyers not showing up, but Philadelphia really let this one slide through their fingers. I really despise both teams, so it doesn’t even matter what they did to win and lose, as the one winning only prolongs their playoff run long enough to see it ended by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Round Two Match Up: Pittsburgh vs. New York
How Pittsburgh will win: Fleury cannot do what he did against Columbus, Sidney Crosby needs to get on the scoreboard with some goals, and Malkin needs to keep playing like Malkin.
How New York will win: New York needs to get as many shots on Fleury and make him second guess himself. Also, finish every check on the Penguins as the Pens don’t like to play very physical aside from Tanner Glass and Brooks Orpik. If the Rangers can make Fleury and Crosby uncomfortable, they make themselves a lot more comfortable.
The X-Factors: the Penguins need Sidney Crosby to show up in the goal column. It’s nice getting secondary scoring, but when you’re the best player in the world you need to help get your team on the board with big goals. Henrik Lundqvist needs to keep Sid off the scoring column all together, and keep Malkin in check too.
Players to watch: Crosby, Malkin, Lundqvist, and Richards.
My prediction: Pens win in 6.
Round One Recap: Colorado vs. Minnesota
Results: Colorado loses to the Wild 4-3.
Why Minnesota won and Colorado lost: Colorado played the underdogs all season and it worked well for them, while being in the position of favorites seemed to do them no good. The Avalanche got magical play out of rookie phenom Nathan MacKinnon and Semyon Varlamov, but they were no match for Suter and Co.
Round One Recap: Chicago vs. St. Louis
Results: Chicago won series 4-2.
Why Chicago won and St. Louis lost: at the trade line, rather than adding depth on offense, the Blues decided to fix a problem that wasn’t really there by trading for Ryan Miller in net. The Chicago Blackhawks overwhelmed the Blues with their ability to hold on to the puck and create scoring opportunities as well as the defensive play, and great goaltending from Corey Crawford.
Round Two Match Up: Minnesota vs. Chicago
How Minnesota will win: They will need whoever is in net to literally be a brick wall against this potent Chicago offense.
How Chicago will win: More scoring from Patrick Sharp and minimize penalties.
The X-Factor: Superstar Jonathan Toews was a difference maker in the last series and the Blackhawks need him to be just as good this time around. Ryan Suter will need to play almost the entire game for the Wild to limit all the scorers on Chicago.
Players to watch: Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook.
My prediction: Chicago wins in 5 games.
Round One Recap: Anaheim vs. Dallas
Results: Anaheim won series 4-2.
Why Anaheim won and Dallas lost: After going up 2-0 in the series, it looked as if the Ducks would end up sweeping the Stars, but Dallas was resilient. Just as Dallas was crawling out of the hole, Ryan Getzlaf and company started shoveling dirt on top of them. Anaheim ultimately got better goaltending and finished more scoring chances in Game 5 and 6, sending Dallas back to the golf courses. Dallas’s lack of experience and discipline were the team’s demise as that was the strong characteristics of the mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Round One Recap: San Jose vs. Los Angeles
Results: LA overcomes a 3-0 deficit to win the series 4-3.
Why Los Angeles won and San Jose lost: the Kings were playing timid the first three games dropping them 6-3, 7-2, and 4-3, respectively. Although Game 3 saw the Sharks win, the Kings proved to give some push back taking the game to overtime. After that, it was all LA, winning by at least three goals in the next four games, seeing Jonathan Quick earn a shutout too. Quick will need to play like he did the last four games of the series if he wants to see his team in a photograph with the Stanley Cup.
Round Two Match Up: Anaheim vs Los Angeles
How Anaheim will win: Getzlaf will need to keep being Getzlaf, need to be better than they were against the weaker, inexperienced Dallas team, and need Jonathan Quick to be Jonathan Slow.
How LA will win: if Quick keeps stopping the puck and the offense gets going for the Kings, it’ll be hard for the Ducks to stop LA from believing.
The X-Factor: the x-factor in this series won’t be a game changing player like Getzlaf or Kopitar, but someone less known to the occasional fan. Look for a third line, secondary role player to be the hero in this series.
Players to watch: Marian Gaborik, Corey Perry, and Drew Dougherty
My prediction: Anaheim wins in 7.