At the time of posting the Eastern Conference “Wish List” all four series were alive and well! This list will be a bit different as two of the four series out West have already wrapped in five games, but we will give it our best shot as we either reflect on what could have been or look forward to what is to come with each match-up.
Canucks vs. Kings (Kings Lead 3-1)
Perhaps no GM had more pressure on him at the trade deadline than the Kings Dean Lombardi. He has shown great patience over the years in his young core but with the talent they had with that crop and after acquiring Mike Richards in the off season, missing the post season would have almost surely meant the end of his tenure in L.A.. Fast forward two months and not only did the Kings sneak in to the playoffs with the 8th seed, but they have the two time Presidents Trophy and defending Western Conference champions Vancouver Canucks on the brink of elimination after they jumped out to a surprising 3-0 lead. The Canucks don’t seem to have a huge fan base outside of British Columbia and who doesn’t like an underdog story? The Kings struggled to score goals all season long but have enough talent with the likes of Richards, Carter, Kopitar, Brown up front, Doughty on the blue line, and Quick between the pipes to be an incredibly entertaining team this post season. A Kings first round win makes for a more exciting playoff ahead for sure.
Blues vs. Sharks (Blues Win Series 4-1)
It’s all over but the celebration in St. Louis as Blues fans will experience second round action for the first time since 2001-2002. They continue to be an incredible story since early season replacement Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench. The Blues lost just six games at home all season but responded nicely after losing game two in St. Louis with three straight wins to close out the series. While it would be nice to see some of the Sharks associated with the annual playoff collapse finally break through and win the big one, St. Louis is a compelling story this year with an interesting cast of young talent, veteran leadership, solid goaltending, and an excellent system. If L.A. can knock off Vancouver, Blues fans could enjoy home ice all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals (at least). Happy to see them advance and excited to see how long this fairy tale story of sorts can go.
Coyotes vs. Blackhawks (Coyotes Lead 3-2)
Talk about a series that has had it all. We have seen each of the first five games go to overtime and that is not even the most intriguing storyline for most fans. That honor would go to the 25 game suspension the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, handed down to the Coyotes Raffi Torres after his hit that knocked Hawks star Marian Hossa out of the Game 3 and likely the remainder of the series and playoff. Message sent, message received. Now the Yotes will need to try and figure out a way to close out the series without one of their most playoff tested warriors. Few people are bigger fans of the NHL’s expansion to non-traditional markets than I am, and I understand the impact a few more playoff wins by Phoenix could have on the game in the desert, but for my viewing pleasure, I will watch Toews, Kane, and Seabrook over Vermette, Klesla, and Vrbata any day. Seven games and a Hawks victory on the road sounds good to me.
Predators vs. Red Wings (Predators Win Series 4-1)
It took just five games for the well coached Predators to dismantle the talented Red Wings. In the end, Nashville was just too tough, too strong defensively and between the pipes, and just too good for the Wings for Detroit to have a chance. But if I had one wish for this series, it would have been that it went TWO more games. There is no question the best team won. I love the excitement that has been building all season in Nashville and the fact the town now has the platform to showcase their team and fans. But five games of watching one of the games best talents and two way players in Pavel Datsyuk in the playoffs just isn’t enough. Combine that with the fact that despite still having immense ability that would make him a welcome addition to the Wings or any NHL blue line, you never know when Nicklas Lidstrom will decide to call it quits, and I really wish the Wings were able to keep the series going. Again, the best team clearly won here, and I am excited for a potential Preds run, but I would have loved to have seen the Wings stick around bit longer.