There has been plenty for hockey fans to get excited about through the first five games (with the exception of Kings-Canucks who will play Game 5 tonight) of each series during the first round of the playoffs. There was not a single sweep and six of the eight series are still alive with a number of realistic shots at going 7! But hey, in a world where everyone always wants more, this seems like the perfect forum to ask for it. Rather then attempting to predict the unpredictable in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, here is one fan’s (admittedly greedy) wish list for the rest of this wildly entertaining first round.
We will start with the East…
Rangers vs. Senators (Senators Lead 3-2)
Through five games it has been a back and forth low scoring affair with each team splitting in their own barn before Ottawa stole a pivotal Game 5 last night at the Garden. The series has seen its share of fireworks and controversy and all in all given fans everything they could hope for from a 1-8 matchup. For as much as having a Canadian team or two around for a deep run is great for the game, the Rangers have been too good all season and how that will translate in to long term playoff success remains one of the more intriguing storylines in this year’s playoffs. I am hoping the top seed advances here but love the fact we will have the opportunity to watch emerging superstar Erik Karlsson and the resilient Senators play no fewer than seven games in this season’s playoffs.
Bruins vs. Capitals (Capitals Lead 3-2)
No team has repeated as Cup champs since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. The Bruins came out of the gate slowly and appeared to be on track to follow suit with a “Cup Hangover” until an undefeated November catapulted them towards what would be a strong second place finish in the East. After a tough loss yesterday afternoon, the B’s are on the brink of elimination heading back to D.C.. This is a series that just seems like it should take seven games to settle, and I am not sure the Bruins have played their best or most physical brand of hockey yet despite some criticism for unnecessary rough stuff called out from behind the Caps bench. Regardless of who advances here they will give their second round opponent all they can handle, so I will take a Game 7 and just enjoy the ride.
Panthers vs. Devils (Panthers Lead 3-2)
Another back and fourth, close, and hard fought series….The difference here is that few people have much interest, myself included. It is nice to see the Devils back in the playoffs after a layoff, I am always intrigued by how Kovalchuk will handle spring hockey since it has been such an infrequent experience for him since entering the League in 2001 (9 playoff games in that time prior to this season for the Russian sniper), and I am happy to see Brodeur getting another shot as his Hall Of Fame career winds down. The Panthers have also enjoyed a resurgence after a decade long playoff absence and they have done so after Dale Tallon had one of the more interesting and eventful signing days in recent history last July. He put the necessary pieces together to lead the Panthers to a Division title in what was a soft Southeastern Conference, but realistically this is not a group that will be playing deep in to May. As sad as it is to say, I have watched little of this series and if I had one wish it would be that it would end and the winner could get on with their likely second round elimination.
Penguins vs. Flyers (Flyers Lead 3-2)
This series has lived up to everything we had hoped for and then some. The goal scoring, physicality, and pure hatred between these two have all been clearly evident throughout. Penguins Center Jordan Staal has taken his game to the next level as Pittsburgh has clawed back to make the series 3-2. I think every hockey fan outside of Philadelphia is hoping for a Game 7 here….That and that the seeding worked out differently so one of them could have played Florida and the other New Jersey and this epic battle could have taken place after Round 1.