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Wild playoff ride just getting started

Thursday, 04.22.2010 / 9:56 AM / NHL Network

By Brian Duff - NHL Network

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Wild playoff ride just getting started
Between too many men on the ice, surprise series leaders and disappointing goaltending, the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been anything but the norm.
Thirty-one games, 16 penalties for too many men on the ice, the No. 7 seed leads the No. 2 seed in both conferences, none of the Vezina finalists lead their respective series, and one of them (with the initials R.M.) says, "It would almost be better if we get scored on first."

Welcome to Day 9 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

I don't know what you were expecting this spring, but if you were paying attention to the regular season, you probably could have and should have seen this coming.

Well, some of it at least.

Honestly, how hard is it to count to five?

The Ottawa Senators have thrice been guilty of too many men -- ironic when you consider they still can't stop Sidney Crosby. Twice a too many men call has been the precursor to an overtime winner. The Kings took advantage of Vancouver's misfortune Saturday, and Wednesday the Bruins buried Buffalo on a double-overtime double-bogey by the Sabres. New Jersey has lost both games when they've failed to execute "the count."

And then there's the Capitals, who figured after being dominated for 18 minutes of the second period of Game 4, "Heck, why not kill our own power play by throwing an extra guy out there?"

The result was a shorthanded, game-changing, potentially series-changing goal that left the Bell Centre faithful in disbelief.

Among the non-surprises so far would have to be the top four in scoring -- Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Zetterberg. The first three because it's a carry-over from their regular seasons; the Red Wing because that's what he does at this time of year.

And now that we have teams on the brink of elimination for the first time, more and more questions come to mind.

If the Devils come up short against Philadelphia, was it worth the gamble to go after Ilya Kovalchuk? Would you, as a Devils fan, want them to re-sign him? Is it time for New Jersey to incorporate a younger goalie into a more regular rotation?

If fellow the Sabres fail to rally from 3-1 down for the first time in franchise history, is it time to make a dramatic shift among the core forwards? Thomas Vanek has played four periods and still leads them in scoring this series. Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, and Paul Gaustad -- the top three centers -- have zero goals. Mike Grier, an incredibly effective role player at age 35, saw the second-most ice time among Buffalo forwards in the double-overtime Game 4 loss. Did he look tired on Satan’s winning goal? Yes. But did coach Lindy Ruff have any better options at his disposal?

Are the Senators merely victims of the injury big biting at the worst possible time? Or do they again enter the offseason with questions in the crease?

With no teams in the West on the brink just yet, we'll save those questions for seven more days.

In the meantime, expect the unexpected -- like a few seven-game series in the East, even though they appear unlikely at the moment.


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