Monday, April 23, 2012

NHL Playoffs Week 3 - First Round Coming to a Close

Welp Bottom Dwellers, half of the 8 series are in the bag including my Pens losing a heart breaker in game 6.  Meanwhile the other half will finish up this week.  Two more could wrap up tonight, a third tomorrow, and the fourth definitely Wednesday.  It won't go any longer than Thursday.

The Good:  TV ratings.  At an all time high for non-Stanley Cup finals games and it's only the first round!

The Bad:  Who would have guessed the first four teams to be eliminated would be (in order) - Detroit, San Jose, Pittsburgh, and Vancouver? These four are yearly Stanley Cup favorites.  It goes to show you how much parity exists in the league today.

The Ugly:  After the Marian Hossa hit laid by Raffi Torres of Phoenix, the NHL came down hard on the guy with a 25 game suspension.  This will continue as long as the Coyotes are in the playoffs and if it doesn't, it will carry into the regular season next year.  Which, by the way, is a forfeiture of over $20,000 a game.  If you think that's bad, check out this elbow yesterday from Metta World Peace going Ron Artest on James Harden.  Just based on prior history alone and the fact Harden has a concussion, "Artest" should be gone for some time.  What a joke.


#2 St. Louis Blues downed the #7 San Jose Sharks in just 5 games.
  • The Sharks, a popular pre-season pick to win it all (Boomer included), just never got it together during the regular season or in this postseason.  Life will be interesting for them this summer.  My gut tells me they will be in HARD for the services of Blue Jacket Rick Nash.  While the media weeps over SJ, you cannot forget the amazing effort that is the team from St. Louis.  The Blues have the goaltending, defense, coaching, and timely goals needed to make a deep run.
#8 Los Angeles Kings upset the #1 and President's Trophy winner Vancouver Canucks (at Vancouver btw) in just 5 games.
  • What a heavy disappointment this has to be in Canada.  After getting within 1 game of winning it all last season, the Canucks barely win a game in the first round now.  After 2 games, G Roberto Luongo was benched for Cory Schneider.  Now they have a decision to make this summer with Cory being a restricted free agent.  Not to douse the excitment in Los Angeles, because that city is going to be hopping over the next week with the Lakers, Kings AND Clippers all competing in the postseason!
#4 Nashville Predators defeat hated rivals #5 Detroit Red Wings in another surprisingly quick 5 game series.
  • I finally got a series right! I felt really good about Nashville finally owning this division and they proved me right.  I thought Detroit would put up a heavier fight though.  In fact, Detroit will be another giant this summer.  They have oodles of cap space and will look to land several heavy hitting free agents.  They are down but not out for long.  Meanwhile, the Predators just continue to do everything right.  They will have nearly a week off before their next game so we'll see how that affects them.
#5 Philadelphia Flyers destroyed my #4 Pittsburgh Penguins in an excruciatingly long 6 game extravaganza.
  • The Pens finally got back-to-back wins at home and on the road but it wasn't enough to halt the Flyers hot streak.  The Flyers just dominated all series long.  Their power play was clicking at over 50% and Claude Giroux potted 6 goals and 14 points while becoming a superstar.  To say this was a disappointing result for the Pens would be underwhelming at best.  Completely healthy, it became painfully obvious how bad the defense had become.  The penalty kill, while dominating the past few  years in the regular season, continues to finish dead last in the playoffs.  What's to happen this summer with superstars Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby's contracts up after next season?  I'm shuddering just thinking about it.

GAME 6's

#1 New York Rangers @ #8 Ottawa Senators (Sens lead 3-2) 7pm NBC Sports Network
  • While Ottawa dominated the Rags in the regular season, I thought NY was going to get over the hump with this team.  I was wrong.  The Sens can win the series at home tonight and in even better news, they are getting their Captain Daniel Alfredsson back as well.  Does Lundqvist have what it takes and where the heck has Marian Gaborik been?
#3 Phoenix Coyotes @ #6 Chicago Blackhawks (Yotes lead 3-2) 9pm CNBC
  • C Jonathan Toews saved the Hawks season another game after burying the OT winner in game 5.  By the way, all 5 games have gone to OT, the first time since the early 1950s!  Phoenix has not gotten out of the first round since they moved here from Winnipeg in the mid 1990s.  This has been their best chance.  The longer you let Chicago hang around, the worse it's going to get.
#3 Florida Panthers @ #6 New Jersey Devils (Fla leads 3-2) 7:30pm NBC Sports Network
  • The only game of the night features a chance for the Panthers to win a series for the first time in forever.  The series has been Jekyll and Hyde for both clubs and goalies.  Florida needs to close em out because you don't want to allow Marty Brodeur any more time to steal a series.  Check out this interesting way fans down in Miami celebrate playoff victories, RATS!


#7 Washington Capitals @ #2 Boston Bruins (tied 3-3)
  • After a wild back-to-back weekend, Saturday and Sunday 3pm games, these two Eastern juggernauts head back to Beantown for an epic game 7.  This has arguably been the best series of the first round and I believe it going to 7 games signifies that argument.  Tim Thomas has been shaky at best.  Braden Holtby has been unreal for the Caps in between the pipes.  Ovechkin finally got on the board as did Tyler Seguin for the Bruins in yesterday's OT game winning goal.  Should be an epic finale unless it's similar to a previous game 7 for Boston in last year's Stanley Cup Finals (blowing out the Canucks) or for the Caps back in the 2009 (Pens crapped on them).
Wednesday: Chicago and Phoenix could be playing Wednesday night as well in a game 7 if necessary.
Thursday: Ottawa and NY Rangers & New Jersey and Florida could be playing game 7's as well.


On Friday we got the rookie nominations, today is the Selke and Lady Byng nominations.

Selke (Sell-key) Trophy Nominees: (in order I think they finish)

  1. Patrice Bergeron - Center, Boston Bruins
  2. Pavel Datsyuk - Center, Detroit Red Wings
  3. David Backes - Center, St. Louis Blues

The Selke Award goes annually to the top defensive forward in the NHL.  As a defensive forward, that usually means you go up against the other teams best players, kill penalties, take key face-offs, and don't take penalties.  Datsyuk has been nominated 5 times and had won 3 in a row before last year.  They might rename this award after him someday.  Backes really emerged when Ken Hitchcock took over as coach.  Backes just kills people with his hitting and makes opponents lives a living hell. A dark horse to win this thing.  However, the favorite all year has been Bergeron.  He was second in the league in face-offs, was a +36 which led the NHL, and took only 10 penalties for the 2nd leading scorer on his team.  My favorite to win.

Lady Byng (Bing!) Trophy Nominees: (in order once again)

  1. Defenseman Brian Campbell - Florida Panthers
  2. Left Wing Matt Moulson - New York Islanders
  3. Right Wing Jordan Eberle - Edmonton Oilers

The Lady Byng is given each year "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."  In other words, who played well enough offensively/defensively without taking many penalties.  Campbell would be only the 3rd defenseman to ever win.  He took only 6 penalty minutes all year including none over the final 25 games. He also had 53 points from the blue line.  Eberle had 76 points in his second season coupled with only 10 penalty minutes including 31 games between penalties.  Moulson finished 10th in the league at 36 goals and only 6 penalty minutes including a 47 game stretch between his only 2 games with penalties. This award is relatively meaningless.  I picked Campbell because they made the playoffs thanks in large part due to his play and the fact defensemen never win.  Moulson would seemingly be the favorite though.