Playoff Perspective From a Rangers' Fan

Just a few quick thoughts on the playoffs from this Rangers’ fan who has nothing better to do.

So far, every series that has seen at least 2 games is split at a game apiece. Phoenix just won their game 3 to take a 2 – 1 lead against Detroit and Chicago/Nashville have only played once with the Predators coming out on top in their matchup with the Western Conference power.

I’m surprised that Pittsburgh played so poorly in game 1 of their series with Ottawa. If there was going to be a series sweep, this was one I thought had a chance. Ottawa severely outperformed their goal differential and their goaltending is surely playoff unproven. It seemed to be a setup waiting for a 4 game sweep.

I am also disappointed in Washington’s effort in both games. They lost game one in OT, 3 – 2, despite firing 47 shots on goal. Ironically, Alex Ovechkin, who led the league in shots on goal with 368 in 2009 – 2010 and an incredible 528 in ’08 – ’09, was held without a single shot in more than 26 minutes of ice time.

Jose Theodore was pulled from goal in game 2 after allowing 2 goals on the only 2 shots he saw. Fortunately for the Caps, Niklas Backstrom came ready to play as he recorded a hat trick, including the game winner in OT, to offset Andrei Kostitsyn’s hat trick for the Canadiens.

Two games, two OT finishes and a split in the series is not what most people predicted from this series. I still feel the Caps will get it together but they’d better come to Montreal ready to play or else they’ll lose game 3 at the Bell Center.

The NJ/Philly series is about what I expected; it’s been a tough, highly competitive series. One of my concerns coming in was the play of Marty Brodeur; or more accurately, the freshness of Marty. It seems every year one of the issues surrounding Brodeur has been the wear and tear he endures during some inconsequential regular season contests.

The Devils haven’t been past the Conference semi-finals since winning the cup in 2002 – 2003. In that time, Brodeur has appeared in no fewer than 73 games in any season with the exception of the 2008 – 2009 campaign, a season in which he was injured. The question remains whether Brodeur expends too much energy in meaningless regular season games to the detriment of his post-season performance.

The Sabres/Bruins series is also tied 1 – 1 and that makes sense. They both ice great goaltenders in Ryan Miller (Buffalo) and Tuuka Rask (Boston). Boston finished 29th in the NHL in goals with 206 while the Sabres have 2 key forwards, Thomas Vanek and Tim Connelly, returning from injury.

I still think Buffalo overcomes the obstacle and wins this series though it may take 7 games.

In the West, Phoenix is doing what I thought they would. Even though the franchise hasn’t been to the playoffs for quite some time, they have players who are very experienced in the post-season. Veteran players Adrian Aucoin, Mathieu Schneider, Derek Morris and Ed Jovanovski have seen their fair share of playoff games.

My concern with the Red Wings was simply the wear on their key players. They have been through deep playoff runs in each of the last two seasons, reaching the Cup final in both campaigns. Several of their key players (Niklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Brian Rafalski, Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Brad Stuart and Johan Franzen are all 30+. I thought the Red Wings may fall victim to tired, old legs in this series with a young, up-and-comer like Phoenix.

As much as I like the Vancouver Canucks with Luongo in net and the Sedin twins leading the way offensively, I also thought the Kings have enough talent and experience to give the Canucks a run for their money. In fact, I picked the Kings to win this series. So far, they’ve kept it close dropping game 1 in OT, 3 -2, but following with an OT win in game 2, also 3 – 2.

Quick has held up in net for the Kings, even if he hasn’t been spectacular. The presence of Ryan Smyth, Rob Scuderi, Fredrik Modin and Sean O’Donnell has gone a long way toward calming the young Kings in their first postseason action in what, 7 or 8 seasons? I picked the Kings and am going to stick by that choice.

San Jose has done nothing to dissuade the doubters. They have had awesome regular seasons only to follow up with underwhelming playoff results in recent years. The Sharks again finished in the top spot in the West. As a reward, the Sharks were matched up with the 8th seed in the west, the Colorado Avalanche.

Despite the recent troubles the Sharks have had in the playoffs, it was though they should cruise through a very inexperienced Avalanche team. That hasn’t been the case so far. The Sharks needed overtime to win game 2 and even the series at 1 apiece. Evgeni Nabokov has looked pedestrian in goal for the Sharks and the squad looks primed for yet another playoff disappointment.

The Blackhawks are talented, had a great regular season and seemed ready to seize control in the Western Conference. Unfortunately the Hawks were matched up with a well-coached Nashville team in round 1. The Preds played a terrific game in stealing the first contest from Chicago on the road, 4 – 1.

Young goalie Pekka Rinne was spectacular stopping 25 of the 26 shots against. Former Hawk, JP Dumont scored 2 goals for the upset-minded Predators.

The Hawks biggest weakness heading into the playoffs was their goaltending. Antti Niemi was good in net stopping 22 of the 24 shots against.

Given Niemi’s encouraging performance and the sheer differential in talent, the Blackhawks should be just fine even after dropping game 1. Look for the Hawks to come out hard in games 2 and 3.

I love the competitive series’ so far and it looks like we may see a couple of 1st round upsets. I like the Kings to beat Vancouver in one upset and I think the Coyotes will prevail in their series with the Wings. I am concerned with the Capitals and they had better get it together or they will be going home early. Same goes for the Sharks. If San Jose comes up short again in the postseason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a roster blowup.

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