Thursday, April 29, 2010

History Will Be Made, indeed

What can be said about the opening series of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, except: I am so glad I'm a hockey fan. Non-hockey fans have NO IDEA what they are missing!

Now that the first round has closed out with the incredible Caps/Habs upset tonight, let's take a look back at this amazing first round. Is anybody surprised to realize that there's a full moon tonight?

- The league-wide #1 seeded team (Washington Capitals) starts off round one 3-1, only to be defeated in game 7 by the #8 seed in their conference (Montréal Canadiens) - a team which barely qualified to be in the playoffs in the final day of the season. One of the biggest NHL playoff upsets of all time.


- Two teams that would not even have qualified for the playoffs if the top 16 teams were selected by league-wide points, instead of conference points, are going on to round two - the Philadelphia Flyers (ranked 18th league-wide with 88 pts) and the Montréal Canadiens (ranked 19th league-wide, also with 88 pts).

- The majority of the 100+ point teams were in the Western conference, with 7 of the 8 Western first-round teams having 100+ point seasons. The 8th Western team, the Colorado Avalanche, had 95 points.

- By comparison, only four Eastern teams had 100+ points; the rest of the Eastern top eight teams had between 88-94 points.

- Two of the three Norris Trophy finalists were eliminated in the first round. The Norris is awarded to the "defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position". Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks is the only one to go on to round 2.

- All three Jack Adams Award finalists were eliminated in the first round. The JAA is awarded to the coach "judged to have contributed the most to his team's success".

- All three Vezina Trophy finalists were eliminated in the first round. The Vezina is awarded to the goaltender "judged to be the best at this position".

- The Jennings Trophy winner (who is also a Vezina finalist) was also eliminated. The Jennings Trophy is awarded to "the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it. Winners are selected based on regular-season play," and was won by Martin Brodeur of the NJ Devils this year.

- There was a lot of concern about the large crop of rookie goalies manning the nets across the league going into the playoffs. Three of those rookie goalies - Antti Niemi of the Blackhawks; Tuukka Rask of the Bruins; and Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings - took their teams to the second round.

- Three of the six shutouts earned in the first round were made by rookie goalies. Two of those three shutouts were made by Antti Niemi of the Blackhawks; the other was by Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings. The three non-rookie shutouts were Brian Boucher (Flyers), Evgeni Nabokov (Sharks), and Craig Anderson (Avalanche).

- Even more amazing - Niemi won those 2 shutouts in the first 4 NHL playoff games he ever played.

- Craig Anderson of the Colorado Avalanche stopped a record-making 51 shots on goal for a shutout of the San Jose Sharks. To make the victory even sweeter, the winning goal was knocked into the Sharks net - by a member of their own team.

- All three division winners from the Eastern conference (Devils, Capitals, Sabres) were eliminated in the first round.

- The remaining teams from both conferences are seeded, from their own conferences: 1 - San Jose; 2 - Blackhawks; 3 - Vancouver; 4 - Pittsburgh; 5 - Detroit; 6 - Boston; 7 - Philadelphia; 8 - Montréal. When is the last time that the remaining teams after round 1 were perfectly 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8?

- In the Eastern conference, the 6th-seed team now has home-ice advantage (Boston Bruins), vs. the 7th-seed team (Philadelphia Flyers).

- There have been a record 19 "too many men on the ice" penalties in a single series.


- The Red Wings won their first round one/game 7 on the road since 1964.

- For the first time in NHL history, a short-handed goal scored in the final minute of regulation ends up forcing OT in a playoff game - scored by Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks with 13 seconds left on the clock. The Blackhawks went on to win in OT, despite carrying four minutes of penalty time into OT.

* * *

And now a quick look at my predictions for round one. I want to think about round two a little bit before posting those predictions. What a monkey wrench bin in the east!


EASTERN

Canadiens vs. Capitals - Part of me wants to predict that the Capitals will just steamroll right over the Habs, ... And every team has its off days. Caps in five.

Ok, should've stuck with my gut feeling about the underdogs. And my little bit of Blackhawk angst towards Ovechkin for his remorseful boarding of Brian Campbell. But you know what? Karma's a bitch, and I'm ok with being wrong on this call.

Flyers vs. Devils - Devils in five.

Blew that one. At least I got the "in five" part right.

Penguins vs. Senators - Penguins in seven, with possible upset.

Well, I got the "possible upset" part right, as the Senators did their best to make it to round 2, but the Penguins won in six.


Bruins vs. Sabres - Sabres in six.

I expected Miller to steal this one for the Sabres; instead, rookie Tuukka Rask stole it for Boston - in six.

WESTERN


Sharks vs. Avalanche - I think Colorado will at least rattle the Sharks' cage a bit. Sharks in six.

Colorado certainly rattled the Sharks; but not enough to win the series, which went to six.

Canucks vs. Kings - Canucks in seven.

Well, it took six, but as predicted, these were some of the most interesting games of the first round, as a closely-matched pair of teams battled it out.

Coyotes vs. Red Wings - Look for an upset here. Coyotes in seven.

Well, it came close, but the Cinderella story ended at game 7, when the Red Wings showed they've still got it when it counts.

Blackhawks vs. Predators - Blackhawks in six.

It looked like the Hawks might be eliminated in five, but they rallied in game 5 in an electric finish, and went on to win the series in game 6.


1 comment:

  1. If there were widespread wagering on filled-out brackets, as in the NCAA basketball tournament, I'd like to meet the person who had these 8 teams filled in correctly. Personally, I don't think that person exists, though a few may claim to have done so after the fact. Me? I'm hanging up my crystal ball for the next 6 weeks and I'm just going to let the playoff wave drown me (how's that for a mixed metaphor?).

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