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.

Penguins, Canucks on brink of elimination

After losing each of their first two games at home, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks headed into their respective Game 3’s on Sunday looking to get a huge road win. Unfortunately for them, neither Pittsburgh or Vancouver were able to get a win on Sunday, and they now find themselves down 3-0 in their series’.

Many people were predicting that the Canucks and Penguins would meet in the Stanley Cup Finals this year heading into the playoffs. The Canucks had just locked up their second straight President’s Trophy, and the Penguins were finally a healthy team with Sidney Crosby back. Each team looked destined for a deep playoff run. However, both sides are now facing elimination in Game 4 of their respective series. You can blame the Canucks and Penguins for “choking,” but give credit where credit is due. The Kings and Flyers have been playing excellent hockey through their first 3 games of the playoffs, and they have earned their 3-0 series leads.

Let’s start with the Flyers. As great of a season that the Flyers had, finishing 5th in the East with 103 points, they were looked at as the underdogs heading into their first round matchup with Pittsburgh, and rightfully so. As I mentioned before, Pittsburgh was on a roll heading into the playoffs having become a fully healthy team for the first time in a long time. This did not intimidate the Flyers one bit. They came into this series with the mindset that they are the better team, and they will do everything to prove that. So far through the first 3 games of this series, the Flyers have out-hustled and out-played the Penguins in just about every aspect of the game. In the 3 games that have been played, the Flyers have 20 goals. That is pretty much unheard of. The Penguins defense has had no answer for the offense of the Flyers. Because of the high number of goals that the Flyers have scored, Marc-Andre Fleury’s confidence has been shot. This is one of the best goalies in the world, who has already won a Stanley Cup. Assuming that the Flyers go on to win this series, they instantly become a top contender for the Stanley Cup.

Moving out West now, the Canucks find themselves down 3-0 in their series with the Kings. Vancouver came into the playoffs as the defending Western Conference champions, and fresh off of their second straight President’s Trophy-winning season. The L.A. Kings, on the other hand, barely made it into the playoffs as the 8 seed following what can only be described as a disappointing regular season. People expected them to contend for one of the top spots in the West this year, but they just never seemed to be able to play consistently good hockey. Well, they are now. They have outscored the Canucks in this series 9-4, with Jonathan Quick registering a shutout in last night’s game. The Kings’ defense has proven to be too much for the Canucks so far in this series, and their offense has essentially booted Roberto Luongo from his starting job in goal. For the first time all season, the Kings seem to be putting together an all-around, consistent style of winning hockey. They definitely have the potential and the right set of players to make a deep playoff run, but it remains to be seen if they will fall back into their regular season form and abandon their current style of play. Jonathan Quick has been great all season long, but only now are his teammates playing up to their potential.

These are two shocking deficits that the Penguins and Canucks find themselves in, but don’t get too surprised by them. The Flyers and Kings are two very talented hockey teams that are playing phenomenal hockey right now, and they deserve a ton of credit for putting the Penguins and Canucks on the brink of elimination.