Well the first round of the NHL Playoffs has come to an end, and quite the first round it was. From the LA Kings upset to the battle of Pennsylvania, this first round was one for the ages. I now present to you the top 5 stories from the first round, and there was plenty to choose from.
5. No Suspension, Sorry What?!- In the dying moments of Game 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators, Nashville captain Shea Weber proceeded to grab the head of Red Wing star Henrik Zetterberg and slam it into the glass. When sheriff Shanahan failed to hand down a suspension to Weber, and fined him a measly $2500, he continued to prove to the league that if you are a superstar player, you can get away with almost anything. Shanahan claims that since Z wasn’t injured, no suspension was necessary. If the NHL is going to crack down on head shots based on injuries and not on intent, then they are headed in the wrong direction. Here is the video of the incident in case anyone missed it.
4. See ya Raffi- Shanny certainly had his work cut out for him in the first round. His biggest suspension (so far) came in the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes series. Coyotes winger Raffi Torres hammered Blackhawks all star Marion Hossa, leaving him motionless on the ice and forcing him to be taken off on a stretcher. Torres is a repeat offender, and Shanny came after him hard, handing down a 25 game suspension to Raffi. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it didn’t matter much as they were ousted in the first round for the second straight year.
3. Changing of the Guard- There was a time when the Central Division was the joke of the NHL, but that time is no more. Four of the five teams from the division made the playoffs, and two of those teams moved on to the second round. Now you would expect those two teams to be a pair of fairly recent Cup champions, the Red Wings and the Blackhawks, but you would be wrong. The Nashville Predators defeated the Wings and the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks to continue their quest for Lord Stanleys Cup. This represents a changing of the guard in the Central Division, where the Blues and Preds have established themselves as bona fide contenders, and the Hawks and the Wings have some serious questions heading in to the summer.
2. The Presidents Trophy Means Nothing- Now this isn`t completely true. The Presidents Trophy means you had an outstanding regular season. However, this means nothing when the puck drops on the playoffs. This years winners, the Vancouver Canucks, were taken down in the first round by the eighth seeded LA Kings. The Kings, led by captain Dustin Brown and goalie Jonathan Quick, stymied the Canucks top players. Last years playoff stars like Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Alex Edler looked like anything but stars in the first round. This series also represented a possible change in Vancouver, with Corey Schneider taking over from Roberto Luongo in the first round, and proving that he could be a number one goalie. There will be a lot of questions for the Canucks this summer, but they do have one thing to be happy about, nobody rioted this year! To soon?
1. Battle of Pennsylvania- This was the series that everyone was looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. Right from the puck drop, it was clear that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyer’s were going to lay it all on the line in this epic first round match-up. The Flyer’s jumped out to a quick 3-0 series lead thanks to some outstanding comebacks, some great play by their rookies, and some below average Penguins goaltending. However, was there ever any doubt that the Penguins would make this one interesting? The Penguins took the next two games, before Claude Giroux decided enough was enough, and Ilya Bryzgalov got over his fear of bears. The Flyer’s took the series in 6 games, and this will go down as one of the most exciting playoff series’ of all time.
These weren’t the only stories worth mentioning in the first round, in all reality I could have fired off a top 7-8 but that just sounds kind of silly. I have to mention the outstanding goaltending from Pekka Rinne, Mike Smith and of course Jonathon Quick. I also cannot finish without mentioning the play of 23 year old netminder Braden Holtby of Washington. Holtby was unreal in helping the Caps beat out the defending Cup Champion Boston Bruins. We will have a new Champ this year, and that makes the remainder of these playoffs all the more exciting.
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