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Early Returns In The Race For The Cup

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
NEW YORK (April 19, 2010) -- A statistical summary of the first five days of NHL playoff action confirms what those watching at home or in person already know -- that the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs are off to a sensational start.


From upsets to comebacks to cliffhanger overtimes, following are notes on the exciting first 20 post-season games.

Competitive Series (1): For the first time since the current playoff format was adopted in 1987, all eight first-round series were tied 1-1 after two games.

Competitive Series (2): The #7 and #8 playoff seeds (Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche) have combined to post a 6-4 record against the #1 and #2 seeds (New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks) despite playing eight of those 10 games on the road.

Offense: Teams are combining to score an average of 5.75 goals per game, a 46% increase over the corresponding period in 2004, the last playoff year before the adoption of several rule changes designed to limit obstruction. What's more, the dramatic increase in offense is from playing five-on-five -- there have been 24% fewer power-play opportunities to date (158) than in 2004 (209). In fact, the number of power-play opportunities is the lowest of any playoff year since at least 1988.

Close Games: Each of the first eight games in this year's playoffs was decided by one goal. The ninth was a one-goal affair until New Jersey scored into an empty net in the last minute of a game against Philadelphia. Through Sunday, 16 of the 20 games have been one-goal affairs (excluding empty-netters). Teams have been tied or separated by one goal 88% of the time.

Comebacks: The winning team in 13 of the first 20 games trailed at some point in the contest. All three of Saturday’s winners -- the Boston Bruins (at Buffalo), the Washington Capitals (vs. Montreal) and Los Angeles Kings (at Vancouver) -- came back to win after trailing 2-0. The Capitals overturned a 4-1 deficit late in the second period to post a 6-5 overtime win.

Sudden-Death Overtime: Seven of the 20 games have been decided in overtime, already more than during the entire first round in 2009 (six in 44 games). Two series have featured overtime games in each of the first two games (Washington-Montreal and Vancouver-Los Angeles). The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche also have played two overtime games and avoided extra time in another only because Colorado scored the game-winning goal with less than a minute left in regulation.

Physical Play: There were 44 hits in the average regular-season game in 2009-10; that number is up to 63 in the playoffs, a jump of 43 percent.

Good to the Last (Puck) Drop: Eight of the 20 games played so far have been tied through 55 minutes. And nine game-tying goals have been scored within the final 5:00 of regulation, including three in the final 2:00.

Hats Off: Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn and Washington's Nicklas Backstrom already have recorded hat tricks in the 2010 Playoffs. Over the last 18 playoffs, there were three hat tricks through the first 20 games only one other time, in 2006.

Overflow Crowds: All 20 NHL playoff games played through Sunday night were sold out. In fact, six teams managed to squeeze in more fans than their buildings' respective published seating capacities. Averaging 18,673 fans per game, these NHL Playoffs so far are playing to 102.1 percent capacity.
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