NHL playoff format needs to change

139990-330-0Last season was the first year of the current NHL playoff format. Under this format, the top three teams from each division make the playoffs, as well as two Wild Card teams per conference. The purpose of this was to build more rivalries in the NHL, because under this structure the first round consists of more divisional matchups than ever before. Here’s how it works for those who don’t know or forgot:

-Division winner plays a wild card team (best division winner plays worst WC team)

-The second and third place finishers in each division play each other in the first round

This guarantees at least four divisional first round series throughout the NHL each year. By having teams from the same division meet in the playoffs, the hope from the NHL is that more rivalries are developed, thus increasing the interest and passion by the fans.

Here is the problem:

Teams such as the Rangers and Penguins, Blackhawks and Blues, and Lightning and Red Wings are all slated to play each other in the first round if the playoffs started today. It doesn’t seem right that major Stanley Cup contenders should have to face another Stanley Cup contender in the first round. This format automatically eliminates some of the best teams in the league right off the bat. Don’t you want these types of matchups in the second and third rounds?

If the playoffs started today, Vancouver (80 pts) and Calgary (77 pts) would be playing each other in round one, meaning one of those teams would advance to the second round while a team like Chicago (84 pts) or St. Louis (87 pts) is sent packing. That doesn’t seem right.

Under the previous playoff format, the number one team in each conference played the number eight team, two played seven, three played six, and so on. That makes a whole lot more sense than this.

I understand that the NHL wants to create more rivalries and cut down on travel costs with this new playoff structure, but they are punishing some of the best teams in the league at the same time by sending them home too early from the playoffs. Until this gets fixed, there are going to be great teams eliminated in the first round every season.

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Hawks beat Penguins in a shootout; NHL trade deadline

15-_DSC2491-toresizeWe’re already 4 games into the Blackhawks’ 8-game homestand, and with today’s shootout win over Pittsburgh they have taken 6 of the possible 8 points so far. It may not feel like they have earned 6 points in the last 4 games, but they have, and every point is a big point at this time of year. So we’ll take it.

Today’s game really wasn’t much of an entertaining one, despite two of the league’s most exciting teams playing in it. Both teams did a really nice job of clogging up the neutral zone, forcing the other to chip-and-chase and then try and set up the offense. You might say that Pittsburgh was more successful at it than the Hawks, but they still couldn’t generate a ton of real good chances. They had a few, and Corey Crawford answered all but one of them with a save. He seems to have really found his stride again, but more on that in a bit.

Niklas Hjalmarsson was the Blackhawks’ lone goal scorer on the afternoon. A faceoff scrum in which Saad out-muscled his counterpart to get the puck back to Hjalmarsson before he bombed it at the net is what led to the goal. For Pittsburgh, it was Nick Spaling that knocked home a rebound given up by Crawford after a bad angle shot from Beau Bennett.

Each team traded powerplays, but no one could score with the man advantage. In overtime, the Blackhawks were the better team, but again, no goals were scored.

Then came the shootout. Now, I’ve always been a big critic of the “talent show” and have wanted the NHL to develop a new format for ending games. Whether it’s 3-on-3 hockey, a 10-minute overtime, etc., I don’t like shootouts. However, today’s shootout was one of the best I’ve seen. The first 4 shooters all scored, with Toews and Kane making Fleury look like a clown. Then Kris Letang went for Pittsburgh, and his bid was stopped by Crawford. It was Patrick Sharp who then had his name called to shoot for the Hawks, and he beat Fleury with a glove-side wrist shot. Game over.

Here’s a few things I took away from today’s contest:

  • The Blackhawks are still trying to find their way back to playing the way they were earlier in the season when they went on their annual Circus Trip out west. Today’s game was a better 60 (or 65) minutes than we saw against both Arizona and Vancouver, but it still wasn’t a pretty win to say the least.
  • Kyle Cumiskey logged 10:25 of ice time today, while Keith had over 28 minutes of playing time. Oduya, Hjalmarsson, and Seabrook were all over 20 minutes as well (Rozsival had 16:42 for what it’s worth). Duncan Keith, while he’s one guy who can handle loads of ice time, shouldn’t be on the ice that much. Come playoff time, you want to see your top defensemen logging minutes somewhere in the low to mid 20’s. You do that by getting quality minutes from all six d-men and by distributing somewhat equal playing time. Right now the Hawks’ fifth and sixth defensemen are generally not giving the Hawks quality minutes, thus lowering their TOI, and raising the other guys’ minutes. This needs to change for them to be successful in the postseason.
  • Corey Crawford appears to be back to his “per-concert incident” self. He made 37 saves on 38 shots today. A few of those saves were great ones that kept the game close. The Hawks will need him to stay on top of his game. You can’t win anything in the NHL without good goaltending.
  • The third and fourth lines of the Blackhawks have featured all kinds of names the last couple games now. We’ve seen line combos from Sharp, Kruger and Smith/Carcillo, to Versteeg, Kruger and Smith/Carcillo, and Bickell, Kruger and Smith/Carcillo. Shaw and Hartman are the only two from the bottom two lines that have consistently played together the last two games. Quenneville is trying to generate more offense from those lines, and until he sees something he likes, they’ll keep changing. They need to figure it out sometime soon though, or at least by April.
  • Ryan Hartman, who had a really good debut against the Devils, wasn’t too noticeable today. He had a team low 7:35 of ice time. Despite not being noticeable and not playing much, he didn’t do anything to warrant him getting scratched next game either. He seems to be really composed while on the ice and doesn’t try to force much. He just takes what he’s given and seems to have good hockey smarts. I’d like to see him continue to play while Carcillo sits in the press box.
  • Lastly, Brad Richards has kind of disappeared lately. Ever since Versteeg went down with his injury on New Year’s Day, Brad Richards has seen his game decline back to the way it was at the beginning of the season. I know he’s getting old and isn’t what he used to be, but the Hawks will need more from him come playoff time.

Today’s game resulted in 2 points for the Hawks, which ultimately is all that matters right now as they chase down the Blues for second in the division. Right now, they trail St. Louis by 2 points, but the Blues have 2 games in hand. Assuming the Hawks don’t bomb between now and April (same with the Blues), they should finish no worse than third in the Central Division, which means we’re looking at another Chicago-St. Louis first round series. While having home ice didn’t help the Blues last year in that matchup, it’s still something that both sides will want for that series. It’s not going to be easy, but if the Hawks can keep winning, they might just catch the Blues this time around.

NHL Trade Deadline

Cody FransonEarlier this morning, the Predators acquired defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Olli Jokinen, a prospect, and a 2015 first round draft pick. Franson was arguably the best defensemen on the trade block, and now he’ll be joining what was already one of the league’s best d-corps on the Predators. He’s a big, right handed shot who likes to be involved offensively. This was a guy that the Blackhawks could have desperately used, but that’s off the table now. The move definitely makes the Predators a better team, and one that we can officially consider a Cup contender.

Because Franson was the best d-man available, teams will now use this trade as a bargaining point while trading for defensemen heading into the trade deadline. The price Nashville paid for Franson and Santorelli, who is a nice player in his own right, wasn’t all that high. This is a good thing for the rest of the league, as almost all contenders seem to be interested in upgrading their blue line. In terms of the Blackhawks, they would be smart to look for a reliable, puck-moving defenseman who can be paired up on the Hawks third d-pairing, or with Hjalmarsson. A combo of Rozsival and Rundblad/Cumiskey/Erixon won’t cut it, and who knows what TVR will be like when he returns…

Now that Franson is off the board, look for more trades to start taking place between now and March 2nd.

NHL Eastern Conference predictions

Here’s how I think the Eastern Conference will play out this season:

Metropolitan 

1. 2518158277_cf0b185de3

The Penguins are consistently one of the best teams in hockey during the regular season with all of that talent. I see no reason as to why that will change this year. The playoffs, however, are a different story with this team.

2. llrs2zxi127vkqgcsvfb

After a couple of down years, I expect Washington to be back near the top of the league this season. Ovechkin found his form over the course of last season, and I think he’ll stay hot heading into this season. However, this team seems to always have the potential to disappoint.

3. 144

This will be their first season under new head coach Alain Vigneault, and I think it could go one of two ways; good, or really bad. I don’t see an in-between with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist is always a key factor in this team’s success, and while I expect him to be an elite goalie again this year, I am not as sure about the rest of the team. For now, I’m saying they take third in this division.

4. 161

Last year was a season to forget for the Flyers. They greatly under-performed. Now that Bryzgalov is gone and Ray Emery has taken his place, there should be less off-ice distractions, which will help, but I don’t think last year was a fluke. Teams don’t just go from the top of the conference to the bottom in one year without there being more than a few problems. Having said that, I think Philadelphia has the potential to finish in the top 3 in this division.

5. Carolina-Hurricanes-Logo

The Hurricanes somewhat remind me of the Oilers in terms of their potential. Edmonton has more talent, but both teams are better than what they showed us last season. Like the Oilers, I think Carolina has the potential to make the postseason as a wild card team, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t.

6. 138

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I should have the Islanders ahead of the Hurricanes or not. They could go either way. Last year was a major surprise for the Islanders as they made the playoffs for the first time in a number of years. John Tavares is becoming one of the best centers in the game, and he’ll probably be named team captain sometime this month. Still, I don’t think this team will replicate what they accomplished last year.

7. bluejackets07-rgbjpg-8678ad1b3fbe2735

For the first time in a long time, the Blue Jackets are not projected to be the worst team in the league. If they were still in the Central Division, I might have them placed higher in the standings. Unfortunately for the Jackets, this division may be the toughest in hockey. While they will be a solid, possibly above .500 team, I don’t see them making the playoffs in this conference.

8. 127

There isn’t a whole lot to look forward to with the Devils. Kovalchuk is gone, Clarkson is gone, and Brodeur is slowly on his way out. They did acquire Corey Schneider, Jaromir Jagr, Ryan Clowe, and Michael Ryder, among others, but there are still a ton of question marks with this team, especially on defense.

Atlantic

1. Detroit-Red-Wings-Logo

This is my big prediction for this upcoming season. While I’m sure others have the Wings finishing first in this division, I don’t think I’m in the majority. Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss were big acquisitions for the Wings that will greatly help. I feel that a line with Datsyuk/Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson could be a major threat to opposing teams. Aside from their big name players, the Wings also have a lot of young talent that really looked good in last year’s playoffs. The big question mark here is their defense. I’d expect the Wings to upgrade on the blue line via trade at some point this season.

2. Boston_Bruins_logo

They lost Horton, Seguin, Peverley, and Jagr, but acquired Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla. Their offense should be pretty comparable to what it was last year, and their defense remains arguably the best in the NHL. The Bruins will contend for the top spot in the East again this season, but for now I have them finishing second in their own division.

3. Toronto-Maple-Leafs-Logo

This is where the Atlantic Division kind of falls to a lower level. The Wings and Bruins, in my opinion, will be elite teams in the NHL. After them, however, I don’t see another solid lock for the postseason in this division. The Maple Leafs have the best shot of the remaining teams, and rightfully so. They made some big moves this off season by signing David Clarkson and trading for Jonathan Bernier and Dave Bolland. If James Reimer begins to show some weaknesses, expect Bernier to be named their new starting goalie. My fear with Toronto is that they are expecting too much out of Dave Bolland. They have really hyped him up since they traded for him, but he’s not the offensive player that they’re making him out to be. The Leafs will be good, but not great.

4. 2bkf2l3xyxi5p0cavbj8

They made a big move by acquiring Bobby Ryan from the Ducks, but they also lost their captain via free agency. Last year the Senators surprised a lot of people by not only making the playoffs, but by advancing to the second round. In all honesty, I think Ottawa is going to be pretty similar to what they were last season. I think we’re probably looking at a wild card spot for the Sens, but they have the ability to miss the postseason as well.

5. 97hhvk8e5if0riesnex30etgz

This is kind of a “wild card” pick for me. The Lightning were not good last season, but I think they have the talent and potential to be better. Stamkos will continue to be one of the best players in hockey, St. Louis will stay productive, and the signing of Valtteri Filppula will prove to be bigger than people think. They have a decent offensive team, but their defense is still suspect. Matt Carle needs to bounce back after a couple of down seasons since signing in Tampa, and Viktor Hedman needs to play up to his potential for this team to be decent again. Along with their defense, goaltending is another foggy area with the Lightning. I’m not totally sold on Ben Bishop, but only time will tell with him.

6.  canadiens

I felt all of last season that this team was overachieving. I thought for sure that they would choke near the end of the year and either fall to a bottom seed in the East playoffs, or miss the postseason all together. They did neither. This year, I think their record will be a bit more indicative as to how good the Canadiens really are. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, and I think they could end up even lower in the standings than I have them here.

7. 230

While they’re not as bad as the Flames, this team is in a rebuilding phase just like Calgary. They’ve had some good talent over the past few years, but nothing ever panned out the way that they wanted it to. Tyler Myers has regressed a bit since his rookie campaign, and guys like Drew Stafford haven’t really improved much over the past couple seasons. Ryan Miller is coming off of one of his worst seasons in the NHL, but I think he’ll be better this year.

8. 94

The Panthers shocked everyone two years ago when they made the playoffs, and there’s a reason for that. They weren’t/aren’t that good. They have a ton of young guys who could turn out to be good hockey players, and they have Jonathan Huberdeau who seems to have a promising future. Still, there are way too many unknowns with this team. Defensively, they have a bit more veteran depth, but they’re not great in that area. Expect another last place finish for Florida.

Playoffs

Metropolitan Division:

1. Penguins 2. Capitals 3. Rangers

Atlantic Division:

1. Red Wings 2. Bruins 3. Maple Leafs

Wild Card teams:

1. Flyers 2. Senators

NHL jersey rankings

With the 2013-14 NHL season slated to begin in less than two months, I thought I’d rank all the NHL jerseys from best to worst. Here we go…

1. Chicago Blackhawks

165546589_slide 160789774_slide

The reds are often regarded as the best jersey in sports, and the indianhead logo is also considered one of the best in all of sports. These jerseys speak for themselves. I only wish that they’d bring back their alternates from 2010.

2. Boston Bruins

the_toughest_athletes_ever_patrice_bergeron milan_lucic

Their logo has hardly changed over time, and their jerseys are one of the most classic in sports. Tough to not like these.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

phaneuf 1297394144628_ORIGINAL

Again, this logo has rarely been changed, and the jerseys are simple, yet great. True classics.

4. New York Rangers

Ryan+Callahan+New+Jersey+Devils+v+New+York+BGFNdmdcU9Rl daniel_girardi_2012_03_01

The diagonal lettering on the front of their jerseys has been the Rangers’ signature look forever. I love the stripes going across the front and back sides of the shoulders on their away jerseys. Their third jerseys are one of the best in the NHL.

5. Edmonton Oilers

DEV_7817_slide image

I was quite happy when they finally dropped their navy blue look and went back to their classic colors from the Gretzky days.

6. Detroit Red Wings

Nashville Predators v Detroit Red Wings wings_celebration

This has to be one of the more recognizable logos in sports. The winged wheel has not really changed at all over time, nor have the jerseys themselves. The arched lettering/font used on the nameplates is truly unique.

7. Vancouver Canucks

NHL: OCT 05 Blue Jackets at Canucks 168287247_slide

Much like the Oilers, the Canucks made a good move in ditching their navy blue look. The green and blue on these jerseys go together really well.

8. Montreal Canadiens

NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens Brian+Gionta+Montreal+Canadiens+v+Detroit+puYNrWAiaa1x

The Canadiens’ logo has been pretty consistent throughout time, but their jerseys have changed a bit more frequently. Still, a real classic look.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

evgeni-malkin Sidney-Crosby1

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of their logo, but the jersey as a whole looks good. I’d be in favor of bringing back their old yellow and black look form the Mario Lemieux era.

10. Buffalo Sabres

tyler-myers-4_3 167290124_slide

A couple years ago Buffalo decided to use their original logo and colors again. That was the best decision they have made in a long time, because the jerseys they had before these were horrendous.

11. Los Angeles Kings

DustinBrownDirtyHits Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown

I might actually like their whites better than the blacks. The logo isn’t very creative, but the overall look of these jerseys isn’t bad by any means.

12. Minnesota Wild

ryan-suter_002-x-large zach-parise

They wore their green alternates at home in the playoffs this past spring, which make up for their pretty weak away jerseys. The home red unis are pretty nice in my opinion. If they could figure out a way to make their whites more interesting, I’d have the Wild higher on my list.

13. Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin is seen in Washington image

In yet another instance of a team bringing back their classic look, the Capitals’ current uniforms are the best they’ve had.

14. St. Louis Blues

image  Alex+Pietrangelo+St+Louis+Blues+v+Philadelphia+DrZB4wPwAKOl

These jerseys haven’t changed much over the past decade. The two shades of blue, black, and yellow/gold all go well together. Their alternates are some of the best third jerseys in hockey. 

15. New Jersey Devils

TravisZajacNJ adam-henrique

The Devils’ jerseys are rather simple and unchanged in a long time. I see no reason for them to change their look anytime soon.

16. New York Islanders

john-tavares New York Islanders v Buffalo Sabres

Again, just another example of a team bringing back its classic colors. Even though I have the Islanders in the bottom half of my rankings, these jerseys are much better than what they were wearing just a few years ago.

17. Colorado Avalanche

159997358_slide 160336035_slide

I don’t like the white/blue trim that cuts down the jersey from the shoulders to the waist. I hate when the “C” or “A” patches are placed over trimming. The logo is a bit weak as well.

18. Winnipeg Jets

167568021_slide Evander+Kane+Winnipeg+Jets+v+New+Jersey+Devils+xHI7k-vJ7cwl

I’m not saying that these jerseys are bad by putting them at number 18. The reason they are this low is because they could have been better. When the Jets came back to Winnipeg 2 years ago, they could have modernized their original look instead of creating a whole new logo.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets

160338318_slide 163517957_std

I’ve seen enough of this look since the Jackets came into existence just over a decade ago. I really don’t like the red pants/white sweater look.

20. Phoenix Coyotes

Doan2 167684033_slide

The Coyotes have tried multiple times to make their uniforms/logo look better, and this is probably the best look they’ve had. Still, there’s not much to it.

21. Carolina Hurricanes

RedJersey_960x540_05_slide WhiteJersey_960x540_02_slide

The Hurricanes will be wearing a new uniform set this year, as you can see in the pictures. These new jerseys just look too bland for me. I liked their unis from the past few years better.

22. Tampa Bay Lightning

Steven-Stamkos  163178783_slide

Tampa Bay decided to switch up their jerseys heading into the 2011-12 season, and that slightly strengthened their appearance. They’re still nowhere near the best in the league.

23. Calgary Flames

163637523_slide 164244890_slide

Here’s another case of me liking their road uniforms better than their home uniforms. I think the Flames should just make their alternates their permanent home uniform.

24. Ottawa Senators

New York Rangers v Ottawa Senators - Game Three 7270372

The logo isn’t bad, but the rest of the jersey is pretty weak. It’s time they switch up their look in Ottawa.

25. Florida Panthers

espnchicago_g_campbell_mb_600 877px-Stephen_Weiss_2012-03-09

A pretty typical Florida uniform set. Really bright colors that don’t look very well on a sports jersey.

26. Philadelphia Flyers

Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers Story

I’m going to assume I’m in the minority on this one, but I don’t like the Flyers’ uniforms. The different-colored nameplates just look bad, and the stripe going down the sleeves doesn’t look good.

27. Nashville Predators

usp-nhl_-columbus-blue-jackets-at-nashville-predat-4_3 Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn

My first instinct when I saw their home jerseys for the first time was, “Are they serious?” I don’t know why anyone would ever consider making their jerseys yellow like Nashville did. Their whites aren’t bad, however.

28. San Jose Sharks

15212325832_std 7211920670_slide

These are the new jerseys that San Jose will be wearing this year. They’re awful. They look like practice jerseys. Why they decided to ditch their previous look confuses me. Even with those (and the new ones), I don’t understand why their primary logo needs to be present on the jerseys in 3 different spots: the chest and both shoulders. Couldn’t they develop a secondary logo by now?

29. Dallas Stars

940-dallas-stars-new-logo dallas-stars-new-logo-jerseys-28

This is the third new set of uniforms that we’ll be seeing this season, and I have to ask, what was Dallas thinking? These look like they belong in the AHL or some junior league.

30. Anaheim Ducks

Ryan-Getzlaf-Getty Xd7r_XiVVK-l

Easily the worst jerseys in hockey. I’ve hated these since day one. Their third jersey should become their new home jersey, and they should design a white one based off of that look.

Iginla to Pittsburgh

174Jarome_Iginla._2008What just happened? I think that was the reaction of most hockey fans this morning when we found out that Iginla had been traded to the Penguins overnight. As of last night at midnight (CT), Iginla had been dealt to Boston according to TSN’s Aaron Ward. Many other writers and analysts on Twitter were reporting the same thing. After waiting all night to hear that the deal was official, I went to bed once I heard what Ward had to say. Wrong move on my part.

It was reported by numerous people all night last night that Iginla had been dealt to the Bruins in exchange for two prospects: Alexander Khokhlachev and Matt Bartkowski. Along with Iginla, both Khokhlachev and Bartkowski were late scratches from the lineup before their game last night. Understandably so, this led many people to believe that a deal with Calgary was done, or almost done. Apparently the latter is what was true.

As the night progressed, more and more people began saying that Iginla was a Bruin. Heck, even Claude Julien (Boston’s head coach) said in his postgame interview after last night’s loss that he pulled a few guys into his office before the game to notify them that they had acquired Iginla. It was still later in the night that Aaron Ward said the deal was “official.”

Then, around 1:30am (Eastern time I believe), Pittsburgh apparently made one last offer to Calgary for Iginla. The odd part is that Pittsburgh’s offer was not as good of an offer as the one the Bruins put together. Yet, Calgary at the last minute backed out of its talks with Boston and accepted the Penguins proposal. Calgary will receive prospects Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski, both still in college, as well as Pittsburgh’s first round draft pick in this summer’s draft.

So why would Calgary accept Pittsburgh’s offer? Well, it is being reported that Iginla wanted to be a Penguin all along during this whole process and that Calgary was trying to use the other 3 teams on Iginla’s “list” to get the Penguins to make a better offer. If the Flames made it look as though they were seriously considering trading Iginla to Boston, Chicago, or L.A., they were hoping that Pittsburgh would be forced to increase their offer. I’m not sure that that’s what actually ended up happening, but nonetheless, Iginla is a Penguin.

After trading for Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray earlier this week and now trading for Jarome Iginla, I think it is safe to call the Penguins the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. That team is stacked. They got tougher, they got bigger, and they got more skilled (yes, that last part apparently was possible). Odds are that they will place Iginla on their second line with Evgeni Malkin who is a better center than anyone Iginla had ever played with in Calgary.

While I am definitely disappointed that my team, the Blackhawks, did not get Iginla, I can only imagine what Bruins fans are going through right now. The last 15 hours for those people have not been good, to say they least. First, they lose in a shootout to their biggest rival, the Canadiens (and lose their division lead), then they wake up this morning to find out that Iginla is a Penguin, not a Bruin. You want to talk about going from bad news to worse news…

It will be interesting to see which teams make moves to try and counter Pittsburgh, and not just in the Eastern Conference. No one will be able to make as many big moves as the Penguins, but teams like Boston and Chicago (among others) will be looking to improve their rosters between now and April 3rd, and they’ll have to if they want to beat Pittsburgh in a 7-game series.

Penguins, Canucks Eliminated

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.