The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks are set to square off in the first Original Six finals match-up since 1979. The Blackhawks, who were heavily favorited to go all the way after starting the season with points in their first 24 straight games, had a difficult time in the semi-finals against the Red Wings but were able to recover and skate their way into the finals for the second time in four years and face a tough, streaking team in the Boston Bruins. (Photo Credit: onesecondleft.com)
With Pittsburgh beating Ottawa 4 - 1 and Los Angeles beating San Jose 2 - 0 last night, The Checking Line: Isles Edition will take a look into the other two semifinal series. (Photo Credit: Torch Creative)
The first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs are in the books, eight teams have been sent packing to hit the links while eight teams remain to square off in the conference semi-finals. (Photo Credit: Torch Creative)
The first round did not disappoint hockey fans who have come to expect physical, fast, dramatic hockey in the playoffs and year after year they are not disappointed.
One year after the Los Angeles Kings became the first eight seed ever to win the Stanley Cup both seven seeds and both six have managed to advance to the semi-finals. The Eastern Conference Semi-final match-ups pit the Pittsburgh Penguins (1) against the Ottawa Senators (7) and the Boston Bruins (4) face off with the New York Rangers (6), while the Western Conference will feature the Chicago Blackhawks (1) who will try to hold off the Detroit Redwings (7) and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings (5) will face their fellow Californians, the San Jose Sharks (6).
A battle of two teams out of the playoff picture happens tonight in Raleigh, NC. What will the storyline be? Will both teams play for pride? Steve Mason gets the start for the Flyers as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
For those that grew up during the great cup runs in the 80's and the "epic" playoff battles that took place in the 90's, fans already know how loud the Nassau Coliseum can get.
But for fans like myself, who were either not born or old enough to appreciate what was taking place on the ice in Long Island at that time, there is only the first round elimination series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2002 that truly proves merit to the Coliseum's nickname, the "Madhouse off the Meadowbrook."
In a truly critical contest, the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Tuesday night, putting the Flyers 7 points away from the Islanders, who now sit in in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak at Nassau Coliseum.
After the Flyers committed an icing, took a timeout, and failed to get the puck deep when play continued, the Islanders rushed the puck up the other way. Colin McDonald found Michael Grabner streaking down the wing after a pick by Keith Aucoin. Grabner snapped it past starter Steve Mason to give the Islanders the 2-1 lead.
The 2013 NHL season is no longer an 82 game marathon, but instead is a 48 game dash to the finish line.
Will teams that had multiple players skating in Europe fair better? Will veteran squads win because they will have fresh legs all season long? Only the next few months will tell.
Here are my Eastern Conference power rankings.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins – A healthyEvgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby will lead Pittsburgh deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The addition of veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun gives Coach Dan Bylsma a solid option if Marc-Andre Fleury falters.