2013/14 Playoffs- Week 1 Recap

We’re officially a week into the 2013/14 NHL playoffs and we’ve already seen our share of overtime dramatics, borderline hits, curious officiating, and Pierre McGuire.  While every series has seen at least 3 games played, now is a good time to check in on what we’ve learned through week 1 of the dance and what we should expect over the next week.

Pittsburgh Penguins versus Columbus Blue Jackets- what we’ve learned: Well, Marc-Andre Fleury is still the great unknown for Pittsburgh in these playoffs.  While Fleury has been okay through three games so far (“okay” by his standards anyway), nothing strikes fear into the hearts of a Penguin fan after a puck is launched toward its team’s goal with only Fleury between the puck and the back of the net.   Despite a 2-1 series lead, Pittsburgh can’t feel comfortable with Fleury right now.

What we can expect: More of the same.  Expect a lot of goals between the two the rest of the way.  Columbus’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has yet to show the form that earned him a Vezina last season.  Columbus’ best shot at pulling the upset is with Bobrovsky playing the part of brick wall.  Instead the wall has sprung leaks in crucial times, most notably a stretch of 2:13 in game 3 which saw Columbus’ 3-1 lead turn into a 4-3 deficit.  Expect the Pittsburgh offense to continue its assault on the Columbus netminder (over 38 shots per game through 3 games) and control play.  It will be interesting to see how Columbus responds to its devastating game 3 loss.  They’ll play hard, but Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evengi Malkin and company will be too much to handle and the Penguins should move on.

Boston Bruins versus Detroit Red Wings- what we’ve learned: Besides that Pavel Datsyuk is pretty good at hockey (if you haven’t seen it a dozen times yet, just watch the highlights from game 1, please?)  How about that the Bruins are really good at hockey too (oh, we already knew that?)  After dropping game one 1-0, the Boston Bruin machine has started humming along.  They have allowed only 2 goals this series and are imposing their will on the Red Wings. The Bruins have 7 goals from 7 different goal scorers and Tuuka Rask is displaying why he’s a favorite to win the Vezina this year.

What we can expect: More Bruin dominance.  As well coached and solid a team as the Red Wings are, they simply are just out-classed by Boston right now.  They can score and defend as well as anyone and physically beat you up just for good measure.  Detroit was able to steal game 1 behind Jimmy Howard and Datsyuk, but Boston has taken over and should wrap up this series in 5 and get some rest before round 2 begins.

New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers- what we’ve learned: The Martin St. Louis-Ryan Callahan trade was a good one for the Rangers…a very good one.  Whether it was getting acclimated to a new team, or just a slump, St. Louis was starting to become a worrisome subject in Ranger-land in the regular season.  However the diminutive winger has responded well in the playoffs with 2 goals and 3 assists in helping the Rangers to a 2-1 series lead over the Flyers and has almost led Ranger fans to forget that Rick Nash still refuses to skate into the middle of the offensive zone with the puck.

What we can expect: More chippiness, hitting, cheap shots, and Steve Mason.  In other words, more Flyers hockey!  Backup Ray Emery played admirably, but the Flyers need their number one goalie to step up and make a big save if the Flyers want to prevail.  It’d also help Philly if Claude Giroux would play like the all-star center he is.  He’s racked up a couple of assists, but has generally been quiet against the Rangers.  To his credit he hasn’t shied away from the moment and guaranteed a game 4 victory for his club.  Expect him to make good on his promise and for this series to go to the limit.

Montreal Canadiens versus Tampa Bay Lightning- what we’ve learned: When you lose your starting goalie, it’s awfully tough to win in the playoffs.  Tampa Bay had the unfortunate situation of trying to play without starting goaltender Ben Bishop.  Backup Anders Lindback just couldn’t get the job done and posted a goals against average a shade under 4 in the opening round sweep.  It’s a shame that Bishop got hurt because on paper this series had the potential to be a wild, 7-game affair. 

What we can expect: Montreal gets a nice, lengthy rest while Tampa Bay gets a much lengthier rest.  At least we can hear the news sooner out of Tampa that they won’t pay Ryan Callahan $7million a year to block shots for them over the next half-decade. 

Colorado Avalanche versus Minnesota Wild- what we’ve learned: That maybe Colorado is better than we expected.  Advanced statisticians everywhere told us we’d rue the day to hop on the Avalanche bandwagon as their success was unsustainable.  A division crown and a 2-1 series lead over the Wild has that bandwagon running out of available seats in what has been one of the more entertaining series so far.

What we can expect: More Nathan MacKinnon awesomeness.  All the 18-year old did in his first 2 playoff games is drop 7 points on Minnesota, many of the “how did he do that” variety.  Just promise that we’ll do our best to keep Matt Cooke away from him, please?  Oh, Matt Cooke?  Yeah, he just did some more Matt Cooke things.  Expect the series to go a little longer than the Avalanche want, but ultimately they’ll skate on to round 2.  And no, don’t expect any more Matt Cooke this season.

Anaheim Ducks versus Dallas Stars- what we’ve learned: There is somewhere between zero and none percent chance that Jonas Hiller is back with the Ducks next season.  Anaheim opted for rookie Frederik Anderson over the veteran Hiller to start the playoffs.  Coach Bruce Boudreau is no stranger to goalie controversy (see his Capitals’ days) and he sure gave himself one here these playoffs.  Anderson has been steady, helping the Ducks to a 2-1 advantage, but will need to be better if the Ducks expect to play well into June.

What we can expect: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will get their points.  The two have combined for 3 goals and 3 assists through the first three games of the series.  Dallas doesn’t have a shut-down pair that can keep these two off the boards for long, so they are going to have to be able to score often on Anderson and hopefully get him a little rattled in net to steal this series.  Ultimately this series may come down to home-ice over 7 games and a Ducks’ victory.

St. Louis Blues versus Chicago Blackhawks- what we’ve learned: Apparently it doesn’t matter how you finish.  St. Louis closed the regular season with 6 straight losses and many pundits assumed that the trend would continue into the first round.  So what happened?  St. Louis won games 1 and 2 in overtime and outplayed a desperate Blackhawk team in game 3 before being blanked by Corey Crawford.  St. Louis was in a similar situation up 2-0 in last year’s playoffs before dropping four straight, so they can’t relax now.  But they’ve clearly shaken off the stench of their dismal close to the regular season.

What we can expect: More overtime games.  We’ve already seen two of them this series and with how closely these teams are matched, wouldn’t be shocked to see a few more.  Ken Hitchcock has his squad playing its best hockey in quite some time and should have enough to prevail in a long-drawn out series which will have a lasting impact into round 2.

San Jose Sharks versus Los Angeles Kings- what we’ve learned: These aren’t your father’s Sharks.  Spring used to be a time of warm weather, baseball, and the Sharks being bounced early in the playoffs.  Someone forgot to let this current group know.  Los Angeles came into the series with the fewest goals allowed in the regular season.  All the Sharks have done is drop 17 on them to open up a 3-0 series lead.  The team is loaded up and down its lineup with quality depth and through the first week of the playoffs, look like the favorites in the West.

What we can expect: The Sharks to breeze past the Kings.  Even if the Kings can muster some strength and grab game 4 to send it back to San Jose, the Shark Tank will be the last venue the Kings see this year.  The Sharks are playing too well right now and Jonathan Quick just doesn’t seem capable of putting the Kings on his shoulders this year to carry them to four straight wins.

Here’s hoping week 2 of the playoffs will be just as entertaining as week 1…

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