We're just about a week into the postseason and already we've got several exciting series, a number of interesting storylines and many hints for what's to come. Here are some of the things I've noticed so far from the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
ARE THE ISLANDERS CREATING THE BLUEPRINT?
In Game 3 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, the Isles jumped out to a quick lead and suddenly the Penguins took over. Now, the Islanders came right back before the Pens eventually won in overtime, but there were a few things worth noticing.
First, that quick Pittsburgh rally just shows that team's skill level and how few chances they need to score. The Islanders have had the better chances and more shots, but Pittsburgh gets a chance and it goes in. Douglas Murray gets a chance and he scores. Pascal Dupuis gets a chance and it's in. They're just so talented, and that's the difference. Everybody on that team can score and the Islanders don't have that luxury. Almost nobody does. Only a few teams in the NHL have that kind of luxury and Pittsburgh is by far the best in that area.
All right, folks. After 720 regular season games, it's finally time for what we've all been waiting for -- the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were some surprises as for who made it to the postseason this year, but the one thing that won't surprise me is how much fun the next two months are going to be. There are some tremendous first-round matchups this spring, and as the playoffs move forward it's sure to only get better.
In the Eastern Conference we've got some great physical matchups like the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs and some exciting rematches like the New York Rangers against the Washington Capitals, and the Western Conference has some doozies as well. I won't waste any of your time here, though. Let's get to what you're all waiting for.
Here are my picks for the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As we reach the final week of the regular season, there are still several teams in each conference battling for that final playoff spot. This week we're going to take a look at each team and who has the toughest or easiest road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Let's start with the Eastern Conference, where four teams -- the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets -- are fighting for the final three spots. Here's what I think of each team and which is likely to be the odd one out.
Position: Sixth place, 53 points
Games remaining: at Carolina, at Philadelphia, at Buffalo
My take: The Islanders have been a great story. For a number of years people wondered if they really knew what they were doing out there after hiring Garth Snow as the GM when he had no experience whatsoever and after making deals like that massive contract with Rick DiPietro. It looked like they were really out of control. But suddenly they've drafted pretty well, they've brought in some solid veterans like Evgeni Nabokov, Lubomir Visnovsky and Mark Streit, and they've got John Tavares, who is as good a player as there is in hockey. Quietly this has become a very good hockey team, and yeah, they have to finish the season with five straight road games, but they've already won two of them and they've got Carolina next, whom you would think they would also beat. With the way this team is playing, where they are in the standings and who they've got left, I think it's safe to say the Islanders will end their six-year playoff drought.
It was only a few years ago that we were looking at Alex Ovechkin being one of the biggest stars in the world, and then by the beginning of this season it looked as if he was the highest-paid grinder in the NHL.
Well, after writing the poor guy off at the start of the year, it's no secret that Ovi's back.
Ovechkin had been written off by just about everybody, but now he's leading the League in goals after one of the most impressive offensive stretches we've seen in years, and the Washington Capitals, who struggled throughout the first half of the season, are reaping the benefits. It certainly looks like the Caps are going to win the Southeast Division unless they completely fall apart, and even when they've had obstacles lately -- like Saturday night when they nearly blew a 5-1 lead -- the Capitals have managed to stay afloat.
Washington's 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday was a wake-up call. The Caps tried to win without playing the third period, and I think it was a good lesson for them, but the biggest news out of that game might have been that Ovechkin scored yet again. At the start of this season Ovi was hitting everything that moves and making a number of hard checks, but he wasn't scoring at all. That's completely changed now. He's scoring highlight-reel goals, his wrist shot is happening again, he's confident and he's still continuing to hit and play aggressively.
He's back to being Alex.
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