The relief in Vancouver when Alexandre Burrows scored the series-winning goal against Chicago in Game 7 of their first-round series on Tuesday night was palpable. But what the Canucks did two nights later might have been just as impressive.
The Canucks became the 32nd team to win a series by scoring an overtime goal in Game 7 (Boston became No. 33 one night later when Nathan Horton's goal beat Montreal). But two nights after ending the Hawks' reign as Stanley Cup champions, the Canucks were all over the Nashville Predators in a 1-0 victory that gave them the lead in their Western Conference Semifinal series.
What's so special about that? After all, the Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy as the regular-season champs; the Predators were fifth in the West and finished 18 points behind Vancouver.
It's notable because teams that come into a series off the high of winning Game 7 in OT generally struggle in their next game. Before Vancouver's win on Thursday, nine of the last 10 teams and 10 of 12 under the current format to win a Game 7 in overtime had lost the opener of the next series. In all, only 10 of the 30 teams that won a series by taking Game 7 in OT won the first game of the next series (the other two were Game 7 in the Final).
Vancouver became the first team ever to post a shutout after winning Game 7 of the previous series in OT.
The Canucks are also trying to defy another piece of history. Since the 1967 expansion, only four of the 27 teams to win a Game 7 in overtime went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Canucks had a good view of the last one -- the 1994 New York Rangers won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in OT, then beat Vancouver in the Final for the Cup. The Canucks had beaten Calgary in OT in Game 7 to win their first-round series that year -- getting some revenge for losing in Game 7 of the first round in 1989 in OT and watching the Flames go on to win the Cup.
On Saturday, Boston also defied the odds by winning its series-opener on Saturday by beating Philadelphia 7-3. The seven goals were the most scored by a team in its first game after winning Game 7.
Working overtime in Round 1 -- Overtime is one of the things that makes playoff hockey special. This year's glut of OT games helped make the first round one to remember.
In all, 14 of the 49 games in the opening round were tied at the end of regulation, and seven of the eight series had at least one OT game. The 14 overtimes, including 12 in a record nine-day streak was just one short of the first-round record of 15 set 10 years ago.
Nor did the overtimes abate as the eight series went on -- the nine-day streak came on the final nine days of the opening round. Three of the series were decided in overtime, including two of the four Game 7s. The overtime parade picked up again Friday when San Jose beat Detroit 2-1 in OT, the first game in the second round to go beyond regulation.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
First goal matters more than home ice
By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist
Getting the first goal has been critical in the playoffs thus far -- through the first 33 games, the team that scores first has won 27 times. READ MORE ›
No-so-special teams? -- If the first round is any indication, you don't necessarily need great special-teams play to win a playoff series.
The Boston Bruins became the first team in playoff history to win a seven-game series without a power-play goal when they beat Montreal on Wednesday. But not only did the Bruins go 0-for-21 (and allow a shorthanded goal), they were also torched for six power-play goals by the Canadiens.
The Bruins weren't the only ones who will need to improve their special-teams play in the second round. Nashville beat Anaheim in six games despite allowing eight power-play goals on just 22 attempts. San Jose advanced despite going just 2-for-23 on the power play -- but they'll be playing a Detroit team that allowed Phoenix to score six times on just 18 chances in the opening round.
Didn't take long -- The Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks played an offensive-minded series -- they combined to average seven goals a game and became the first teams since 1993 to play a series that saw at least one goal scored in every period.
So what happened in Game 1 of the Predators' series against Vancouver? Naturally, there were no goals in the first period.
Still perfect -- Dwayne Roloson really is at his best when the stakes are highest. Roloson stopped all 36 shots he faced Wednesday night in Tampa Bay's 1-0 victory in Game 7 at Pittsburgh, enabling the Lightning to move into the second round. He allowed just four goals in winning Games 5, 6 and 7, enabling the Bolts to rally from a 3-1 series deficit. Roloson is now 6-0 lifetime in elimination games -- he led Minnesota back from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round in 2003 -- leaving him one short of the best start ever by a goaltender in “win or go home” games: Glenn Resch of the New York Islanders won his first seven in 1975 before losing in Game 7 of the semifinals.
Mirror image -- There's something new every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and 2011 is no exception. This year, for the first time under the current format, the Eastern and Western Conference had the same seeds reach the second round. Both conferences saw the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 teams win their opening-round series. It's the second year in a row that sequence has come out of the West, and the first time since 1996 that the first three seeds in both conferences have made it to the second round.
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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