In the first round, I didn't predict either of these teams correctly, but for very different reasons. I thought the Wild could have won at least two games and perhaps a third, but after they lost their starting goalie in the warmup all bets were off. They put up the best fight they could given the circumstances and who knows if a healthy Backstrom would have made a difference or not. For the Wings, Datsyuk and Zetterberg stepped up in the clutch moments and outperformed the big guns on Anaheim. Given the depth on the Ducks roster, there is no excuse for letting Detroit win that series.
Now we have an original six match-up and this is where Detroit's cinderella season comes to an abrupt end.
Unlike the Ducks, the Hawks have big name players who actually perform in the clutch. Toews, Hossa, Sharp, and Kane is as good as it gets in hockey. But the fun doesn't stop there. They now have a dynamic rookie in Saad added to the mix, and proven playoff performers like Stalberg, Bickell, and Shaw in their ranks.
When I look back on my round one predictions for these two teams, I correctly predicted both series, and got them both wrong at the same time. I picked the Sharks to beat the Canucks, but did anybody think it would be a sweep? I also thought the Blues would put up a much better fight this time around and come out on top. They did put up a great fight and were very close to leaving L.A. with a 3-1 series lead before it all fell apart. Now we have a battle of California and given how well these two matchup against each other, it's anyone's guess who will skate away victorious. Though, from a betting perspective, there is only one clear choice.
There were a lot of surprises in the first round of the NHL playoffs this year, but not when it came to these two teams. The Penguins goaltending was clearly a front and center topic heading into round one and it became an even bigger story when Vokoun supplanted Fleury for the number one spot. I suspected the Islanders could snatch a couple victories from them and they almost did more than that. Meanwhile, the Senators used their 2012 playoff experience wisely and quickly took care of a Montreal team that wasn't quite ready for prime-time. So what happens when these two square off tonight in Pittsburgh?
The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years. Should we expect much of the same or have the changes on the rosters set the stage for something new?
Seeing is Believing?
If there is one series that has unknowns, this is the series. Which Ovechkin will we see? The guy who's fallen from grace over recent years or the Rocket Richard winning sniper who propelled them to a division crown? Will we get the rejuvenated Holtby who went on a tear in the final two months after getting a contract extension? Will Lundqvist raise his game to a new level and finally be the playoff goalie we've all expected of him? How will Nash do in his second playoff appearance of his career? There are lots of big questions surrounding the key players
The entire hockey world was hoping for a Habs vs Leafs first round matchup, but instead we'll get to see Montreal vs Ottawa. It may not have the history or bad blood that a Toronto series would've brought, but this is as compelling of a matchup that we'll find in round one. Let's take a closer look at the key factors.
Surprised? On paper, this should be a very close duel between Anderson and Price, but I'm going to focus on Price here because I think he is the make-or-break factor of the series. I know that's not ground-breaking analysis, but no one is quite sure what this guy is made of when the spotlight is on. He won a series in his rookie season, but nothing since then. He is often heralded as the best Canadian goaltender and praised as one of the elite. Can someone smarter than me explain how that happened? By my measure, I like to know what a guy can do in the playoffs before I declare him the best anything. Putting up nice regular season stats is nice for poolies, but I'm still not sure Price is the guy who can lead Montreal to glory.