Here we are a month into the NHL Playoffs and we are down to 4 teams. The 2009 Champion Penguins, the 2010 Champion Blackhawks, the 2011 Champion Bruins and the 2012 Champion Kings. So we are guaranteed to have a 2 time winner in the last 5 years. We’ve seen plenty of wild games, some upsets, some scares and a few steam rollings. I am going to take a look back at each series and compare its outcome with my pre-playoff predictions.
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
My Pick: Penguins in 6
After a first round that saw Ottawa cruise past Montreal in 5 games and Pittsburgh struggle to get by New York the table could have been set The Penguins came into this series as the co-favourites to win the Stanley Cup. After game 1 of this series they provided plenty of reason for optimism shutting out the Islanders. The next three games were a struggle for the Penguins losing 2 of them with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at the head of those struggles. Head Coach Dan Bylsma made a switch in goal for game 5 which paid off. Thomas Vokoun came in and played wonderfully for the Pens helping close out the Islanders.
Penguins in 6
(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
My Pick: Canadiens in 7
The Candiens came into this series struggling. Goalie Carey Price was never able to regain his early season form as be got badly outplayed by Senators goalie Craig Anderson until a knee injury in game 4 kept him out of the series. Speaking of injuries they destroyed the Canadiens core in the playoffs missing many regulars by game 5 with many more playing through those injuries while the Senators were starting to get their injured players back come playoff time. The Senators learned a tough lesson last year against the Rangers and used those experiences when it mattered most.
Senators in 5
(3) Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers
My Pick: Rangers in 6
The New York Rangers began the series by immediately losing games 1 and 2 in Washington digging themselves a rather large hole but experience and a King dug them out. Hendrick Lundqvist was spectacular in the series especially down the stretch shutting out the Capitals in back to back games to end the series.
Rangers in 7
(4) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs
My Pick: Bruins in 5
A surprising valiant effort by the Leafs came up just short in game 7. After dropping 3 of the first 4 games including both at home the outlook looked bleak for the Leafs. Heading back on the road for game 5 was probably a blessing in disguise for this Leafs team as they seemed to play better on the road for large stretched of this series and play better they did. After coming back and forcing a game 7 the Leafs jumped out to a 4-1 lead in game 7 only to see it slip away. As well as Toronto played in games 5 and 6 they got lucky to escape both games with a win after letting the Bruins walk all over them in the final 10 minutes of both games but were able to hold on. The same thing happened in game 7 unfortunately they couldn’t hold on against a much more experienced Bruins squad. Much like the Canadiens the tough playoff loss will only serve as experience for the Leafs who figure to be back stronger than they have been in at least a decade.
Bruins in 7
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (8) Minnesota Wild
My Pick: Blackhawks in 5
Before game 1 even began the Wild’s slim hopes of an upset over the top ranked Blackhawks became even less likely after starting goalie Nicklas Backstrom went down with an injury forcing backup goalie Josh Harding into the starting role. While Harding played well through the first three games of the series and eventual injury derailed his series and allowed the Hawks to cruise the rest of the way.
Blackhawks in 5
(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings
My Pick: Red Wings in 6
This was a great series with momentum shifts and comebacks galore. Not to mention four overtime games. The Wings best players played their best when it mattered most and the Ducks players did not. Henrik Zetterburg scored the overtime winner in game 5 and added another in game 7 while Corey Perry was held goalless throughout the seven game series.
Red Wings in 7
(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) San Jose Sharks
My Pick: Sharks in 6
The Vancouver Canucks are headed into their second straight offseason after a first round playoff loss. The Canucks are going to have to make some serious decisions about management, goaltending and their biggest need at this point some secondary scoring which was a much bigger problem against the Sharks than their highly publicized goaltending duo. The Sharks have more pure offensive talent than the Canucks and those players were at their absolute best during this series for the Sharks.
Sharks in 4
(4) St. Louis Blues vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings
My Pick: Kings in 7
The best series of the first round. It had goaltending and was extremely physical. After 2 straight Jonathan Quick mistakes gave the Blues a surprising 2-0 lead in the series heading back to Los Angeles the Kings and Quick got going. Quick was lights out the rest of the series and the rest of the Kings slowly starting imposing their will on the young Blues.
Kings in 6