The NHL Playoffs Meet Expectations: An Overview of Each Series


Wow!  Dynamite!  Electric!  Exciting!   You can describe the 2011-12 NHL playoffs in a variety of many one word answers and you really can’t go wrong with the words you pick.  Unless you say boring, because obviously that means you’re not a hockey fan and aren’t a fan of the thrilling theatre that is the NHL playoffs.  It has been awesome.  The first four days of the NHL playoffs have seven overtime games, with two of those games going to double overtime.  Road teams have shown up, winning eleven of the first sixteen games.  The games have been close, back and forth, edge-of-your-seat exciting, and the fans have responded.  According to the NHL, ratings for the first night of the playoffs were up  twenty nine percent on the NBC Sports Network compared to last year.  Here’s hoping that the ratings for the rest of the playoffs are just as good.  Let’s take a look at the series so far:

**Editor’s note: Post does not include series results from Monday, only through Sunday


#1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators (series tied 1-1)

After the Rangers cruised by the Senators in 4-2 in game one, most thought that it was foreshadowing what was to come.  But the Senators were the aggressor in game two.  Fights broke out like crazy.  In fact, there were 45 penalty minutes in the first period alone, and several players may face suspensions for their roles in the fighting.  Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin  got suspended three games for his hit on Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.  Two Senators may also be suspended.  Chris Phillips gave an elbow to Rangers captain Ryan Callahan that could lead to him missing a game, and Matt Carkner’s unnecessary attack on Rangers center Brian Boyle could lead a multiple game suspension.  The Senators won game two 3-2.  Bottom line: if the Senators continue to match the Rangers physical play for physical play, they may win this series.  But, it is difficult to match the Rangers style of play game after game.  It will be interesting to see how the rest of this series unfolds.

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals (series tied 1-1)

Two games, two overtimes.  Boston scored the game-winner less than two minutes into overtime of game one.  Game two went to double overtime until the Capitals Nicklas Backstrom got one by Tim Thomas who has been brilliant in this series.  But the star of the series so far is little known Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.  Forced into the lineup due to injuries, all Holtby has done is give up two goals in two games to a Bruins team that has great shooters.  Holtby has stopped 72 of 74 shots in the first two games and is frustrating the Bruins with his fantastic stops.  With the Capitals struggling to get pucks by Thomas, Holtby has kept his team in it and as a result, the series is tied at one apiece.  The Bruins still have the more talent and should win, but with Alexander Ovechkin and a change of venue coming in the series, this has the makings of going seven games.

 #3 New Jersey Devils vs. #6 Florida Panthers

The Panthers-Devils series is knotted at one apiece after the Panthers 4-2 win in game two.  Goalie Jose Theodore made some big stops in game two and Stephen Weiss added two goals.  Heading back to New Jersey, you’ve got to think that the Devils are in prime position.  They have the home ice advantage now, and truth be told, they have the better team.  Florida’s a good story and all, but the Devils have the better offense and the more experience goaltender.  Look for the Devils to win game three Tuesday night.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers(Flyers lead series 3-0)

The most shocking playoff series right now is unfolding in the Penguins-Flyers series where the Flyers have won all three games, winning two of those games in Pittsburgh after trailing for much of the game.  The Flyers are beating the Penguins at their own game by excelling on special teams.  Through three games, the Flyers have five power play goals and three shorthanded goals in the series so far.  The Penguins pride themselves on special teams and they have looked downright awful.  What a disastrous series for the Penguins, a team who many people (including myself) picked to win it all.  Marc Andre-Fleury has been terrible in net for the Penguins.  He has given up too many rebounds and allowed too many soft goals.  At this point, he is a liability for the Penguins.  No doubt these two teams hate each other, but the Penguins lost their cool in game three.  They had 89 penalty minutes in game three, although the Flyers weren’t much better with 59.  There were also seven game misconducts, five from the Penguins.  Expecting this series to go seven games now would take a miracle.  Flyers will most likely get the sweep.  Game four is Wednesday in Philadelphia.


#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings (Kings lead3-0)

Who would have ever thought that the Canucks-Kings series, a one seed-eight seed matchup would be 3-0 in favor of the eight seed?  Not this guy and if you said yes, you’re a liar.  What the Los Angeles Kings have done is nothing short of miraculous after their 1-0 win in game three.  It took til the third period, but finally Dustin Brown, the MVP of the series in my opinion, scored on a rebound to give the Kings the only goal they would need.  The Canucks came out like the more desperate team, because let’s face it, they are.  They came out with more intensity and more determination, but couldn’t get anything by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.  Of note, the Canucks started Cory Schneider in place of Roberto Luongo.  Schneider was good and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he started game four for the Canucks.  The team is just hoping the Sedin twins will be able to play.  Daniel Sedin hasn’t played a game in this series, which is a big reason why the Canucks are trailing, and Henrik Sedin got injured in game three.  At this point, the Kings are just the more physical and hungry team and will make it to the second round of the playoffs.

The Kings are up in large part to #23 Dustin Brown and goaltender Jonathan Quick (pictured) who has frustrated the Canucks with his superb play.

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks (series tied 1-1)

The Sharks were able to steal a game in St. Louis and take home ice advantage away from the Blues.  Nothing has really stood out much, but the play of both goaltenders has been pretty good.  Sharks goalie Antti Niemi was great in net for the team in game one and played well in game two, despite the fact that the Sharks lost.  Blues goalie Jaraslov Halak has played very well in this series as well, recording a shutout in game two, but he may not play in game three.  The Blues need to win a game in San Jose to regain home ice advantage.  Despite their bad playoff history, if the Sharks were to win both games at home to get up 3-1 in the series, I think that their playoff experience would win out over the Blues.  At this point, it seems very difficult to pinpoint which team will win this series.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks(series tied 1-1)

Twice the Blackhawks have found themselves trailing late in the third period.  Twice the Blackhawks have scored with only seconds to go in the game.  They lost game one 3-2 in overtime, but won game two 4-3.  This series could easily be 2-0 Coyotes if they hadn’t given up the two late period goals.  But the Blackhawks could be up be up 2-0 in the series as well, but the Coyotes goalie Mike Smith played out of his mind in game one, stopping shot after shot as the Blackhawks kept attacking.  As the series shifts to Chicago, the Blackhawks have the momentum and they have the better team.  Look for them to take control of the series.

 #4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings (Nashville leads 2-1)

Interesting note in this series that all three games have ended 3-2.  Nashville has won games one and three, Detroit game two.  Nashville didn’t look particularly impressive in the first two games apart from goalie Pekka Rinne who made some very nice saves.  In game one they got a couple of fortunate bounces, one resulting in a goal.  Detroit looked like the better team in game two getting the win, but in game three Nashville really came to play.  They got a 2-0 lead on the road and were able to stave off multiple rushes by Detroit to tie the game.  They have taken home ice back from Detroit, but this series has six or seven games written all over it.  Both teams play so evenly that it is difficult to say who’s got the edge.  Right now, it’s Nashville.

Hope everyone is enjoying the 2012 NHL playoffs.  It’s been a great week so far and here’s hoping we have many more days of great action and games to come.