Who did you all have winning the Stanley Cup this year heading into the playoffs? I’m guessing most of you had either Vancouver or Pittsburgh. I know I had the Penguins going all the way. Well, we’re all wrong. In what has been one of the most unpredictable first rounds in recent NHL history, both the Penguins and Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs today.
The Penguins-Flyers series was a great one. Lots of physical play (sometimes too much), and tons of scoring. We all knew that the Flyers would be a tough out, but I don’t think too many people had them eliminating the Penguins. With Crosby back and healthy, the Penguins seemed like they would be too deep of a team to knock out. Also, I know that I for sure didn’t think Bryzgalov would be good enough to beat the Penguins 4 times, but he did. The Penguins lost an absolute heart-breaker in Game 1, and never really seemed to recover. Marc-Andre Fleury was nowhere near his regular self for the first 3 games of this series, and his lack of confidence really hurt him and his team. Also, the Penguins as a whole appeared to have lost all hope after going down 2-0 in the series. Yes they physically showed up in Philadelphia for games 3 and 4, but I’m not so sure that they showed up mentally. For a team with as much experience as the Penguins, I never saw this bad of a series coming for them.
Out west, the Kings just scored in overtime to beat the Canucks and eliminate them from the postseason. Even though I predicted the Canucks would win this series in 6 games before the playoffs started, I did say that Jonathan Quick has the ability to change the outcome of this series. Well, he did just that. This guy is one of the top 5 goalies in the game, easily, and he definitely proved that in this series. The Canucks goalie situation, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of the Kings’. Roberto Luongo lost the starting job to Corey Schneider after Game 3, thus bringing up the question of who the starting goalie will be for the Canucks to start next season. Many people are already talking about the possibility of Vancouver trying to trade Luongo and his huge salary, but I don’t see that happening. Sure someone would gladly take his talent, but no one is going to want his enormous contract. Throughout this series, most, if not all, of the Canucks’ weaknesses were exposed by the Kings. The Vancouver front office is going to have a lot of decisions to make this off-season, and they will have plenty of time to do it.
I am as stunned as every other hockey fan that both Pittsburgh, and the President’s Trophy-winning Canucks were both eliminated in the first round. That just goes to show you that the NHL salary cap really is a good thing. Unlike the NBA, you really can’t confidently predict a Stanley Cup Finals matchup, let alone a Stanley Cup winner. The talent is so spread out in the NHL due to the salary cap, which is exactly what the league wants.
With the Flyers’ victory in the first round, they have to be a top candidate to make it to the Finals out of the east. As for the Kings, they will need Quick to continue to dominate if they want a chance at the Cup.
Thanks for reading.