|Before the start of the NHL Playoffs a couple of weeks ago, hockey experts spent a lot of time on the huge Western Conference quarterfinal match up between division rivals, the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings.
Of course, they discuss the trouble the Predators had in the first two playoff series against Hockeytown.
At the same time, most of them believed Nashville finally had the talent to compete and maybe even knock out one of the NHL’s original six franchises in the opening round.
Well, last Friday, the Predators did exactly that and proved most of them right by winning Game 5, by a score of 2-1, in front of an emotional sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
It is safe to say it was the biggest win in the team’s short history.
Now, everyone is wondering if the Predators make it all of the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
First, they have to get past another tough but winnable matchup against the No. 3 seeded Phoenix Coyotes.
The Predators might have a key advantage in the second round series against the Coyotes.
This series has become long and legendary between Phoenix and Chicago.
All five games went to overtime with the Coyotes barely staying afloat against the Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup a couple of years ago.
The Phoenix team is owned by the league itself knocked off the transitional power in six games.
In Game 5, the Blackhawks won in overtime, thanks to a goal by the team leader and one of my favorite players on the ice Jonathan Toews.
Phoenix finished off Chicago in Game 6 on Monday 4-0 thanks to a shutout by one of the best goalies so far in the playoffs, Mike Smith.
The signature and horrible moment of the series came in Game 3, when the Coyotes' Raffi Torres nailed Blackhawks star Marian Hossa with a hit that sent him to the ice and out on a stretcher.
Torres was suspended 25 games for that incident, while Hossa is recovering from a concussion.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy physical play, but that was uncalled. Plays like that give the sport a black eye.
With the opening round almost completed, it will go down as one of the best and worst in NHL history.
First with the best, regardless of the seeding all of the series have been mostly competitive except for a few games.
The two teams that played for the greatest trophy in all of sports might be heading home before the first round is even done.
Well, one of them is already done, while the other has to go to a Game 7 against one of the most lethal offensive machines in the league.
The Vancouver Canucks were one game away from winning Canada’s first Cup since 1993.
However, the President’s Cup winner this season for having the best record in the league was knocked out in five games by the same team that lost that final, 19 years ago, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings came in as the No. 8 seed, while the Canucks were ranked first in the Western Conference.
As for the defending Cup champions, the Boston Bruins, its first round series has been just as tough.
The Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed is heading to a Game 7, which was played last night against the Washington Capitals, the No. 7 seed. The Capitals have one of most exciting players in the world, Alexander Ovechkin.
Like most of the series so far, it has been a gritty affair that has had it share of offense and physical play.
But nothing beats the Eastern Conference matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, which the Flyers won in six games. But that is not the main story of this series.
If you like lots of goals and fist cuffs this was must see television. In the four Philadelphia wins, the Penguins scored a total of 25 goals. The Penguins countered with 10 goals in a single game in its Game 4 win.
In the meantime, Game 3 was a classic in a different sense. In the 8-4 Flyers win, there was a total of 158 penalty minutes, including a brawl between two of the best players in the NHL, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and one of my favorite players, the Flyers Claude Giroux.
Both are normally known for their scoring touch, but on this night they had no problem taking the gloves off.
If the first round is any indication on how good and bad the NHL playoffs came be at times. I can not wait to see what happens next.