By Adam Williams in Sports
April 26, 2012
If someone was to come up to me two weeks ago and say that by the end of the first round of the NHL Playoffs, that Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose, and Pittsburgh would all be eliminated, I would have told them that they were crazy.
Just get in.
That’s the motto of every team in the NHL. Once they get into the post-season, anything is possible and the 2012 campaign is no different.
The President’s Cup Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks were the No. 1 seed in the West and were disposed of in six games to the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings.
Roberto Luongo struggled in the first two games, forcing Alain Vigneault to resort to back-up goaltender Cory Schneider. Schneider picked up one win, but clearly not enough to advance the Sedin’s and company into the second round.
San Jose’s offense had an up and down season and the match-up against the defensive minded St. Louis Blues did not offer them much hope.
Ken Hitchcock, a favorite for the Jack Adam’s award which recognizes the best coach of the year, led his young team to an impressive series victory over the Sharks.
Andy McDonald was an absolute force, contributing eight points (4G, 4A) to the series and dominated on the power play.
Jaroslav Halak got injured in Game two for the Blues, but Brian Elliot came in and filled the void, going undefeated in the three games he played.
The Shark offense could not heat up at all and the core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski may need a shake up in the offseason to rejuvenate the aging West Coast favorites.
Detroit came into the playoffs slumping and it certainly showed going up against a powerhouse in Nashville.
Detroit’s star players did not show up whatsoever in the series. Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Zetterberg combined for seven points in five games.
The Predators have to be considered the West favorite as they easily took two games in Joe Louis Arena, an arena notoriously known for being difficult to play in and with Pekka Rinne playing at a ridiculous level in goal, this team is poised to make a big run, hopefully for them, ending in June.
The Pittsburgh Penguins shot up to Cup favorite as soon as captain Sidney Crosby was back in the roster and though the offense was there for the Pens, the defense and goaltending completely collapsed.
Philadelphia absolutely dissected the Penguins penalty kill, converting on more than 55% of their oppurtunities. The penalty kill was ranked third at the end of the season.
Goaltending was shaky for both teams, but the complete debacle of Marc-Andre Fleury in games two, three, and six was so uncharacteristic, it depleted the Pens sails everytime they attempted a comeback.
If the Malkin hadn’t torn the regular season apart, Claude Giroux would easily be the MVP. Scoring 14 points (6G, 8A) in six games, Giroux is a man possessed to lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
The first round has been absolute chaos with the amount of foul play being reviewed, suspensions being handed out, and rivalries developing more and more hatred, but the upsets have taken the NHL by storm. With new contenders for the Cup this year, the league has to love the evolution of smaller franchises like Phoenix, and the continuation of top contenders like Philadelphia.
What’ll happen in Round 2? One can only imagine.