Playoffs off to a great start…Leafs better watch and learn


Have the playoffs been good so far or what? Every series was split at the top seed’s home ice, only 7 of the 20 games have been decided by 2 or more goals, and 3 of those games included 1 or more empty net goals. Seven games have been decided by overtime, although, every time overtime comes around and I get all excited about a possible 3-overtime thriller, someone scores, like Dan Boyle on his own net, and ruins my fun.

One thing’s for sure: the Leafs have a very, very long way to go before they will be ready to compete at this level. For awhile there at the end of the season, I was starting to think that maybe they weren’t really that far off. But the level of competition in these playoffs has been the best I’ve seen, perhaps since the lockout, with more parity from series to series than ever before. I’m still confident we could be a potential playoff bubble team next year, but that’s only because I refuse to underestimate Brian Burke.

Here’s my thoughts on each playoff series so far:

San Jose must be cursed. Pierre Lebrun thinks so, and I can’t help but agree. 51 saves from Craig Anderson last night, and a miscue from Dan Boyle gave the Avs a 2-1 series lead in Denver. Dany Heatley better get healthy quick, because the Sharks’ powerplay desperately missed him last night. I still think the Sharks can win, but the Avs are showing that they should not be taken lightly.

Yesterday’s game in Chicago showed exactly why I think the Hawks can be Cup champs this year. The Preds are great at turning hockey games into defensive stalemates, but all it took was a couple real quality scoring chances for the Hawks to pull it out yesterday. Look for Jonathan Toews(0 goals, 1 assist so far) to start making an impact on the series as it heads to Nashville.

In Vancouver, Andrew Alberts needs to stay the hell out of the penalty box. He’s got 23 penalty minutes through 2 games, and the Kings have ridden their red hot powerplay to 4 goals already and scored 2 in their 3-2 win on Saturday. Tough break for Luongo on the game winner, as it kicked in off the knob end of his stick. Drew Doughty has been great so far, as well, averaging over 28 minutes of ice time, and playing most of it against the Sedin twins.

I may have been wrong about Phoenix. They are looking more and more like they truly belong in these playoffs, and will certainly give the Red Wings a run for their money. Touted as underdogs, I think the Coyotes are just fine with that title, as they have played a physical, disruptive style of hockey through 3 games that seems to counter the professionalism of the Wings very well. Friday night’s 7-4 Detroit win was probably my favorite game of the playoffs so far. The loss of Shane Doan, however, could be a big blow to the Coyotes, although it didn’t show in the 3rd last night.

Nicklas Backstrom has been great for the Caps so far, and Ovechkin played like we all know he can for the last 22 minutes of Saturday’s game. Plenty to talk about in net, as goaltending debates heat up on both teams. The Caps seem to have found a weakness in Jaroslav Halak, scoring 3 of their 6 goals on the high glove side the other night, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carey Price get at least one of the starts in Montreal, especially if the Habs lose Game 3.

I’m loving every minute of the Flyers-Devils series. Marty Brodeur has been great, but so has Brian Boucher, and if he keeps it up, the Ilya Kovalchuk blockbuster won’t look like such a huge success for Lou Lamiorello. Kovy has been the most productive Devil so far, but Mike Richards has been even better, with 2 goals and 4 assists already. Dan Carcillo had a great game last night, scoring the game winner in OT last night and the Flyers’ physical forecheck has worked wonders against the Devils’ defense. Only complaint I have with Carcillo’s play so far is this terrible piece of acting that should have gotten him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty:

Buffalo-Boston has played out as expected, so far, with both Ryan Millerand Tuuka Rask playing great between the pipes. The loss of Thomas Vanek will be huge for the Sabres, and if he’s not good to go tonight, they’ll have to dig deep. Chara has played a great series so far, banging bodies and scoring goals like he did last season.

Finally, can Sidney Crosby get any better?? After making Jason Spezza look like a peewee in Game 2, he scores the game winner last night, showing incredible patience as he walked the puck out of the corner and somehow managed to carry it through a maze of sticks and bodies before flipping it over a sprawling Brian Elliott. The best player for the Sens so far has been Peter Regin: 2 goals and an assist in 3 games so far, and he nearly had another one last night that would have totally changed the complexion of the game. It was disallowed because he clearly kicked it in, but he was trying to kick it to his stick, and only a heads-up defensive play from Sergei Gonchar kept him from getting wood on it and making it a good goal. The biggest concern for Pitt so far has to be the play of Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s looked verrrry shaky at times, and although he’s been better through the last 2, they’ll have to hope he gets back to true playoff form or they’ll be in trouble down the stretch.

Tags: Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Chicago Blackhawks Colorado Avalanche Daniel Carcillo Detroit Red Wings Ilya Kovalchuk Los Angeles Kings Montreal Canadiens Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils Nicklas Backstrom Ottawa Senators Philadelphia Flyers Phoenix Coyotes Pittsburgh Penguins San Jose Sharks Sidney Crosby Tuuka Rask Vancouver Canucks Washington Capitals