NHL Playoffs first round is almost complete, with only two pairs still ongoing. So far there have been plenty of surprises – especially in the Western Conference.
Regular season powerhouses, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild, who were two of the best teams in the West, are already out. Blackhawks didn’t stand a chance against gritty Nashville Predators. Red hot goalkeeper Pekka Rinne stopped the star studded Chicago attack and Predators offense produced when it mattered. Even if Nashville was predicted to put in a solid challenge, not many believed it would be a clean sweep.
Dominating at times in the regular season, Minnesota Wild were supposed to have a clear upper hand against St. Louis Blues, led by former Wild head coach Mike Yeo. Wild outplayed Blues at times, but fell 4-1 after two devastating overtime losses at home. Scoring against Jake Allen and Blues’ strong defence proved too big a task for Wild. A massive disappointment once again for Minnesota, which leaves many wondering what went wrong this time in NHL Playoffs.
Young guns in Edmonton beat the aging artillery of San Jose comfortably 4-2 and will next face another sweeper Anaheim Ducks. Ducks destroyed Calgary Flames on their way to clean sweep and left no doubt they are definitely the black horse in the West.
In the East, reigning Champions Pittsburgh Penguins ousted Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. Despite losing no.1 goaltender Matt Murray to injury, the Penguins outscored BJ’s in a high-octane series of five games. Blue Jackets seemed to run out of gas already at the end of regular season. Also, their goalkeeping by Vezina-candidate Sergei Bobrovski left a lot to be desired against Penguins. The reigning champions were once again dominating in offense and are manning the top spots in scoring race with four players in top six.
The other team through in the East is New York Rangers. Rangers won a close matched series against Montreal Canadiens in six games. Battle between the top goalkeepers, Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price finished with the Swede on top. Lundqvist did have better scoring help as well and as many predicted, Montreal’s attacking depth especially in the middle was lacking.
Yet to be decided pairings in NHL Playoffs include no. 1 ranked Washington vs Toronto and Boston Bruins vs Ottawa Senators. The Western Conference Semi-Finals are set, with Nashville Predators taking on St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks facing Edmonton Oilers.
You can find the updated NHL Playoffs bracket at NHL.com website