What We Learned in the 1st Round of NHL Playoffs

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Well, the first thing we learned is that the NHL is following the NBA’s lead in not waiting until each series of a round to be finished before starting the next round. With the divisional format, there is no need to wait, so even though Game 7 between Anaheim and Nashville is tomorrow night, so is game 1 between Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders.  Thus, my first round review is being written before the first round is completely over, but such is the [NHL] world we live in now.

The second thing we learned is that the East is a much more predictable conference than the East. I didn’t publish my bracket anywhere, and not to brag, but I picked every series winner in the East almost perfectly…the West? Not so much.

I am a shocked about how easily Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay downed their opponents, though for different reasons.

In Tampa, I thought the loss off Stamkos would make their series with Detroit go at least 6 or 7 games. However, Tampa is proving that there may be life-after-Steven and guys like Hedman (stud), Tyler Johnson (stud? At least Playoff stud), and Ben Bishop just dominated the series and sent Detroit home in 5.

With Pittsburgh, even though I have the Penguins making the Stanley Cup Final and even though I thought they were playing the best out of all the Eastern Conference teams heading into the Playoffs, I didn’t think the Rangers would roll over like they did. The Penguins have constantly been tormented in the Playoffs by hardworking teams that push them to the limits (and most times, over the limits and on to the golf course), but this year the Rangers had no push back that the Penguins couldn’t handle.

For the record, I had the New York Islanders versus Florida Panthers series as a 50/50 proposition but I picked the Isles to win because I think Tavares is unreal; I thought Tampa minus-Stamkos versus Detroit was a 50/50 prop (picked Tampa); I had Pittsburgh defeating the Rangers with difficulty (it wasn’t difficult); and I had Washington beating the Flyers with difficulty (it was fairly difficult).

Over in the West, my bracket is busted. I had the LA Kings winning the Cup, so I’m already wrong there; and I had Chicago beating the St. Louis Blues…wrong again. I did have Dallas winning their series, and I have the Ducks winning their game 7 tomorrow night.

But aside from the fact that I cannot predict the Western outcomes, here’s what I learned about that conference: The Dallas Stars need Tyler Seguin to come back in a hurry if they don’t want to learn how to play defense.

Aside from game 1 (a 4-0 win for Dallas) the Stars’ series with the Minnesota Wild was a goal-counter goal event.

In game 2, Dallas scored at 10:23 in the 3rd period to stretch their lead to 2-0. Just over 2 minutes later, the Wild scored to make it 2-1, and ended up outshooting the Stars 8-4 in that period, ending the game with Dallas on their heels.

In game 3, Dallas scored twice in the first 4:10 of the 1st period, but Minnesota scored 4 times in the next 42:16. Dallas scored again about 7 minutes after the Wild’s 4th, only to be countered 5 minutes later by the Wild’s 5th goal.

In game 4, the Wild scored 5 minutes into the second period, then Dallas 4 minutes later. Then Minnesota a minute after that; then Dallas 3 minutes after that and again 5 minutes after that.

Game 5? Minnesota held a 2-1 lead going into the 3rd period when Dallas scored a minute into the frame to tie it up. Then Minnesota scored 50 seconds after that to retake the lead. Seven minutes later, Dallas scored to tie the game 3-3, then 30 seconds after that to go up 4-3. 8 minutes later, Minnesota tied the game at 4 and eventually won the game 5-4 in overtime.

Game 6 the crazy continued. Dallas was up 4-0 heading into the 3rd period until a flurry of Wild goals—at 3:48, 4:04, and 8:39 of the period—got the Wild within one. Dallas scored at 10:28 to etch their lead to two, but the Wild scored under 5 minutes later to make the game tense until the final buzzer.

Good viewing? Absolutely. Solid playoff hockey? Not so much.

There’s two ways to look at the Stars right now. One, you have to credit them for holding on when they needed to hold on. Yes, they coughed up leads and yes their defense is erratic, but at the end of the day, they got the job done. On the other hand, if you’re a Stars fan, you’re a little nervous because once the Stars meet a good team in the Playoffs (don’t kid yourself, the Wild are not a good team. If they were in the East, they would have missed the Playoffs), those comebacks might fall short. Worse, the leads they built up might not be there so the flurry of goals against will be putting them in a deficit.

This is why they need Seguin back in the line-up.

The Stars aren’t going to become a stout defensive team before the next round starts, but if they can get Seguin back in the line-up, they’ll add a goal or two (one way or the other) for per game. If they’re going to play run and gun hockey, they definitely want all their gunners in the line-up.

I’m rooting for the Stars. I have a friend who works for their organization, my best friend is a die-hard Stars fan, and I love their jerseys, but this isn’t 1984 and they aren’t Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers. If the Stars are going to make a run at the Cup, they have to either stop playing goal-for-goal hockey, or start scoring a lot more.

What do you think?