It is only the first round of the playoffs. Competition heats up as play goes on. But considering the level of intensity that has already been achieved, what on earth do the next rounds have in store?
Chief disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, has been busy in the first week of the playoffs. He has handed out four suspensions and four fines to players and teams. Boarding, elbowing, instigating, illegal hits to the head. These guys are playing for all the marbles (and the big shiny silver thingy). Two more players have hearings on Tuesday morning that might add to the total.
Last season? There were four suspensions total in the playoffs and only two fines.
Can you tell these teams want to win? At all costs?
It is this kind of heated intensity that makes watching the playoffs fun. Even when your team is not in it. Instead you find teams that you hate and root against them. Or find other teams to enjoy (for the playoffs only) and root for.
Which leads me to surprises. Certainly the number of suspensions has been a surprise, but it is no surprise that there are some upsets in the making. That comes every year without fail and this year is no different.
The first surprise that comes to mind is, who would have thought that the Los Angeles Kings would have a 3-0 lead in the series against the Vancouver Canucks? The Canucks have won the Presidents Trophy two years in a row. They were the runner up in the Stanley Cup Final last year. The Kings have never, ever had a 3-0 lead in any playoff series in their 44 year history.
You have to realize that as a Ducks fan, seeing the Kings do well sticks in my craw. OK, it really annoys me and just reinforces how much I hate that team. But you have to give credit to them for getting the job done and goaltender Jonathan Quick has been terrific.
Quick was the only standout earlier in the season when the Kings could not score a goal to save their life. He still kept his team in the game and gave them a chance. His .965 save percentage leads the league in this young post season, but there is no reason to think he will not continue his stellar play if the team ahead of him can continue to score goals. He’ll do his part if they’ll do theirs. It makes the Kings a dangerous team, even if they’ll never have any home ice advantage for the entire playoffs.
Another surprise is the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh series. You know those two teams hate each other and are bitter rivals. But who would have thought that the scores would look like pond hockey? On occasion you get those wild games where everything goes in the net for both teams, but then things settle down. Not so for these two teams. You won’t find Marc-Andre Fleury or Ilya Bryzgalov at the top of the goaltender stats leaderboard.
Pittsburgh, currently down 3-0 in the series, is going to have to find a) goaltending and b) the ability to outscore Philadelphia. If not, they are quickly heading to the golf course where no one figured they would be at this point.
There will certainly be more surprises revealed as play goes on. The nicest thing is that every single game is being televised. The problem is, which game do you watch while there are concurrent games going on?
One thing is for sure, they are worth watching.