Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Round Winners And Losers

The first round of the NHL playoffs had just about everything. And age old rivalry, some new foes in post season play and more game sevens than you can shake a hockey stick at. This is what the playoffs should be, right? Some games have been whoppers of games, while others have been snoozers.

So let's get to it, the first round winners and losers:

The Winners

Versus - Over the last couple of years, the Versus network has done a fantastic job of covering all the big games in the playoffs. But they keep getting better. Even the intermission breaks have gotten more entertaining. They have brought in Jeremy Roenick, former coach Mike Keenan among other big names to break down the action. The double headers made us stay up until one in the morning as the west coast games went into extra periods. Versus seemed to be there for the news maker games and the big contests. Overall I think they have done an awesome job. I just wish they could do more double header games (Eastern Conf. and Western Conf.) during the regular season.

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Danny Briere - The little hockey player that could, did. Against his old team even. Flyers offensive little guy seemed to be there when his team needed it the most. Briere scored 4 goals in the last three games of the series. He put an exclamation point on game seven scoring the second goal to make it 2-0 leading to the Sabres decline. He is tied for first in the league in playoff goals with recently dismissed Teemu Selanne.

Michal Neuvirth - The best stats of the playoffs so far. With a .946 save percentage and 1.38 goals against average, he leads all goaltenders in the playoffs with both stats. For what he has done, no one really seems to be talking about him much (most likely because he is not in a game seven at the moment like every other team in the east). Neuvirth's play helped the Capitals end their series against the Rangers early and giving them some much needed rest.

Dwayne Roloson - While he hasn't been perfect, his record in elimination games in which he was the starting goaltender is. 7 straight victories (including a shutout win against Pittsburgh) which propels him to a interesting stat that will be hard to duplicate any time soon. He was also the number one reason Tampa makes it to round two.

The Boston/Montreal series - While it started slow and looked like the Habs were going to run away with it, the finish was anything but boring. Through the first four games, the home team did not win a game. Of course it was going to a game seven and both teams left it all on the ice. It was too bad these guys weren't playing for the Eastern Conference Final, but the first round match up was a gem. The Bruins would take the series on a Nathan Horton goal in overtime.


Vacouver GM Mike Gillis - He had a whine-fest about the officiating after the Blackhawks forced a game seven. It led to a fine by the NHL and just made him look like a man offering up excuses for what could have been yet another early exit by the Canucks in the first round. Lucky for him, his team downed the reigning champs and move on to round two.

Ice conditions - I know it's spring. Temps outside are rising and the ice in some of the arenas are less than ideal. But it seemed every series had to deal with some sloppy ice conditions. In game seven in Boston, the ice looked like lakes behind the net at the start of every period. I guess the league is going to have to send out for a few more A/C's.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Coyotes - Who knows if this team will return to the desert. But all signs point to this being the last NHL game played in Glendale for some time. At least the boys could have done was put us some kind of fight against the Detroit Red Wings, a team they took to seven games a season before. But they were swept in a ho hum kind of way and all is left is to ponder their future.

Bobby Ryan - The Anaheim Duck forward could have been a factor in the series against the Nashville Predators, but his stomping on the foot of a Preds defender got him sidelined for two games. While his return was welcomed by his team, it just wasn't enough. Ryan put his team in a rut. All because he lost his cool a bit.

Bruce Boudreau's comments on MSG - As true as it might be, Boudreau nearly had to eat his words as the rant about the building seemed to light a fire under the Rangers and their fans. It did lead to some innocent fan rivalry between Madison Square Garden and Verizon Center, but if the Rangers won game four, it would have prolonged the series and possibly change the outcome.

Ryan Miller - He needed to be a factor in the series against Philly, but he would end up coughing up 4 goals in game seven and would get yanked. While not all the blame goes on to Miller's shoulders, he let in a softie or two and the Buffalo Sabres are busy making golf reservations. Tough way to go.

Over all it has been a great playoff round and it can only get better in round two.

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