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.
So the Islanders have made it to the semi-finals. Some probably doubted the team's ability to make it this far, especially when competing with some of the biggest stars in the league. But it comes down to these next few days to see whether or not they will be competing in the final round.
That is, of course, for the cover of EA Sports' NHL 2013. John Tavares so far has eliminated Jordan Eberle in the first round and Pavel Datsyuk in the second round. Currently Tavares is facing off against Pekka Rinne, the starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators. Rinne might be tough for JT to beat, considering he received more votes than New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.
Throughout the world of hockey, the Red Wings are considered to be the team with the most bandwagoning, fair-weathered fans in the NHL. Us true fans obviously disagree, but that's besides the point. Today I am posting wondering, whose bandwagon are you jumping on now that the Wings are out?
Do you have a hatred for the Predators defeating us, or do you want them to win to make the division look good? Do you like the Flyers because they knocked out the Penguins? Do you like the Kings as the underdog? Do you want the Predators and Devils to make early exits to perhaps make the chances of their key free agents coming to Detroit better? Take the poll below, I'm interested to see what everyone things.