Long series highlight first round of playoffs

By John Kreiser - Columnist

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Long series highlight first round of playoffs
Not that hockey fans mind the excitement, but a long first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is going to be a little longer.

The victories by Montreal and Buffalo on Friday night guaranteed that seven of the eight first-round series in this year's playoffs will go at least six games -- something that hasn't happened since the NHL went to its current playoff format in 1994.

There were no first-round sweeps this year for the first time since 2004 (there were three last year and one each in 2006, '07 and '08). But prior to 2010, at least two of the eight series had been decided in four or five games -- something that won't be the case this year after the wins by Buffalo and Montreal.

Should all remaining series be decided as quickly as possible, the minimum number of games that could be played in the opening round is 47 -- two short of the mark of 49 set in 1995 and five more than last year's total of 44.

The all-time record for an opening round is 54, set in 1992 when the first four teams in each division qualified and the opening round was played within the division. Under the current format, adopted after the 1993 playoffs, the top eight finishers within each conference qualify and are seeded 1-8.

The opening round in 1992 featured a record six seven-game series -- a total that could be matched or exceeded this year.

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It was a big dream. [Messi] is probably the best athlete out there, so it's a big honor, for [Kuznetzov] as well. It's maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the best player in soccer right now. I'm a big Barcelona fan and Messi fan, so it's huge. You can take [Michael] Jordan, [Mark] Messier, [Wayne] Gretzky, those kinds of [people]. It's an honor to meet. It's nice to be in that position.

— Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin told told Monumental Network after meeting soccer star Lionel Messi prior to Argentina's practice at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. on Friday
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