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2010 NHL Playoffs: Thoughts on the first round

Image (1) HalakOvi-thumb-200x300-10469.jpg for post 1310

As we prepare for a quick turnaround into the conference quarterfinals, with the San Jose Sharks taking on the Detroit Red Wings tonight, here are some final thoughts on the first round of playoff action.

- As we prepared for the playoffs to begin, nearly everyone was aghast at just how bad the Eastern conference was. None of the lower seeded teams seemed to actually want to make they playoffs, as the Flyers, Canadiens, Rangers and Thrashers all stumbled to the finish line. After the bruins sleepwalked through their ‘revenge game’ against the Penguins, the finally turned it on. Yet no one believed that any of these teams had a chance in the playoffs, as there was a clear line drawn between the top four and the bottom four in the East. I guess we were wrong, and that’s the beauty of playoff hockey.

- If I had to name my Stanley Cup favorite after one round of hockey, it’s tough not to turn to the Vancouver Canucks. While they’d need Roberto Luongo to stay out of the funk he keeps falling into, I don’t know how you can say there’s another team playing with more confidence and more firepower than them. The Red Wings and the Penguins would be next on the list.

- We now have no Vezina finalists, no Jack Adams finalists, and just one Norris finalist remaining in the playoffs. When the Hart Trophy finalists are announced later today, I’m guessing that one of those won’t be in the playoffs any longer either. All of the voting is done before the playoffs begin, but it’s incredibly interesting to see how the ‘best of the season’ do once everything is on the line.

- I’m guessing that we won’t be having another Mike Green debate next year when it comes to the Norris Trophy. While he could certainly have another monster year next season, there’s no way the voters will forget how he became an incredible defensive liability in the playoffs while contributing nothing on the scoreboard.

- I know that everyone is going to be turning to Alex Ovechkin and focusing on his issues in this playoff series, but it’s far from fair to say this loss was all on him. Despite all his struggles, he was the leading scorer on his team; when a team that relied on it’s team offense all season long loses it’s secondary scoring ability, that’s when top-seeded teams lose playoff series in the first round.

- I’m trying to think of another time when a goaltender has been shellacked in back-to-back games, benched, then come back and absolutely dominated and carried his team to an upset win. That was one goaltending performance for the ages, and it’s one that Halak will never be able to duplicate again.

- I debated bringing this up, but screw it. Seeing just about half of the Capitals give a momentary salute to the crowd after the game for some reason got up under my skin. Seeing the crowd start emptying out before the game was over really rubbed me the wrong way. I understand this is just about as disappointing a loss as there is, but the fans and the team owe it to each other to salute one another for a great season, no matter how it might have ended. I know there’s incredible anger and sadness at the outcome involved, but seeing how both the team and the fans reacted in the final minutes of the Capitals’ season spoke volumes about what might be wrong with the team and the franchise. Just because you have a great crowd, a great arena and a great season does not mean you are entitled to a great postseason. The Capitals played like they expected a win and didn’t do what was needed to get there. It was a sad night in D.C., but the fans and the players deserved better.