The Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway and with just about 3 games played in each match up there has been some surprises thus far for the first round. We have seen everything from brawls, to higher seeds with the lead in the battle, head slamming on the glass and a series with over 30 goals in just 3 games!
The first interesting and possibly shocking outcome in the 1st round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be the number 8 seed Los Angeles Kings versus the number 1 seed Vancouver Canucks. The Kings hold a 3-0 series lead over the Canucks who were the winners of the Presidents Trophy during the regular season, finishing with the most points in the NHL. The Kings have really proven that a hot goal tender can very well steal a series, and the Kings have one of the best young goalies in the league in Jonathan Quick. In just 3 games Quick has given up only 4 goals, while shutting the Canucks out in game 3 last night in a 1-0 win. Can the defending Western Conference Champs bounce back from a 3-0 deficit? Something that has only been done 3 times in all of Hockey’s time? Or will Jonathan Quick put a stop to it and send the 8 seeded Kings to the 2nd round?
Staying in the Western Conference we have the match-up between the 3 seed Phoenix Coyotes and the 6 seed Chicago Blackhawks. Many, including myself had predicted that series would end early and the Blackhawks offense would be too much for goalie Mike Smith of the Coyotes. But with this series tied at 1, with game 3 tonight, and seeing 2 overtime games in the first 2 games, nobody knows how this series will end up. Both games the Coyotes had a 1 goal lead with under 30 seconds to go in the game, the first game the Blackhawks tied it with 15 seconds to go, but Martin Hanzal went on to score the overtime winner for the Coyotes and give them the 1-0 series lead. Phoenix in game 2 had a 1 goal lead with under 30 seconds to go when a shot was fired from the point and deflected in the net to tie the game with 5 seconds left in the 3rd period. Chicago went on to win the game with a goal from Bryan Bickell in overtime. With game 3 tonight in Chicago, who will prevail to take the series lead? Will Smith keep the Coyotes in the game with his goal-tending or will the high-powered offense of Kane-Toews-Hossa-Sharp, be too much for Smith the rest of this series? I still this series going to the Blackhawks, but in 6 games.
The Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings are in an intense battle in the Western Conference 4 vs 5 match up. A series that is led by the Predators at 2 games to 1. A series that has seen some great goal-tending from Pekka Rinne and Jimmy Howard, to an illegal hit to the head on Henrik Zetterberg from Predators Captain Shea Weber. Shea Weber towards the end of game 1 took Zetterberg by the head and slammed it into the glass. As you can see in the video here, you be the judge on whether or not this hit was suspension worthy.
After the game there was talk that Weber could be suspended for a few games, but in the end he was only hit with a $2500 fine and was able to return to action in games 2 and 3 of the series. Had Weber been suspended, this series may have gone in Detroit’s favor but with Weber still in the series and no suspension, this makes the Predators still a strong candidate to win this series.
The St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks are tied at 1 a piece in their series and with an injury to Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, we will now see a recent injured Brian Elliott back between the pipes for game 3 of this series tonight in San Jose. These games have gone back and forth and we will see which team will prevail with a win tonight and take a 2-1 series lead.
Heading over to the Eastern Conference we have the battle between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, the 5 seeded Flyers have the series lead with 3 games to 0. This is a series that has seen 30 goals scored in just 3 games. Both goalies are at the bottom in the playoff leaders for goals against average in a game and both bottom in save percentage leaders. Aside from the mammoth amount of goals being scored in this series, we have seen plenty of clean and dirty hits and also some big fights in this series. This is a heated rivalry for the two interstate teams and that has carried over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We have seen plenty of players fight and land some big hits on each other and in last nights game alone, we saw some major hits that could end in suspensions and fines for some players.
As you can see from these hits the Penguins have been letting out some frustration on the Flyers by laying out some of some big illegal hits on some of their big name players. Asham who is a repeat offender and often suspended player, cross checks Brayden Schenn in the neck and proceeds to punch him while he is defenseless on the ice. Neal who is not often a dirty player and one of the cleaner players in the NHL, takes a charge at Sean Couturier and lays him out and minutes later takes a shot at Flyers superstar player Claude Giroux, which then lead to a huge brawl between the two teams with many players thrown out of the game.
In the 1 vs 8 seed match up in the Eastern Conference we have the 1 seed New York Rangers and the 8 seed Ottawa Senators locked up in a 1-1 series tie, with game 3 tonight in Ottawa. This has also been a very dirty series with plenty of big hits and some fights to go along with the games. The Rangers won the first game 4-2 and looked like they could dominate this series the whole way, but with some bad bounces in game 2, we saw the Ottawa Senators win a 3-2 game in overtime and split the series in NY. In a series that just saw Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin suspended 3 games on what was deemed a dirty hit on his fellow countrymen Daniel Alfredsson, and a 1 game suspension for Senators Matt Carkner for blind siding Brian Boyle with a big hit then punches on the ground while defenseless, this series will have a lot of bad blood for it and with a potential 5 games left to play this series can get ugly fast. Is this hit suspension worthy? Or was Shea Weber’s hit more suspension worthy and this one just a fine? You be the judge of it and see if what was handed out to Hagelin was fair.
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With the other 2 series in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals, they are all tied up at 1 after each team won an overtime game in Boston. The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils are also locked up at 1 win a piece as they head to game 3 tomorrow in New Jersey. With the way these games have been played and the way the officiating has handled them, we can see a few more games get out of hand, and with many more games to be played, we expect the intensity to only raise higher and higher for each game.