I had this one all wrong, that's for sure. My pick of the Rangers in 5 was nearly on target but...Penguins in 7! I should be embarrassed. Looking back, I should have known Sidney Crosby would not be able to dominate and carry his team in his first playoff situation. Gretzky, Messier, Lemieux and Michael Jordan in the NBA all had to endure the "process" of winning championships. Ottawa has been to the playoffs so many times and it showed with the Senators winning in 5 games.
For starters, Ray Emery clearly outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury in goal. And the old saying, "good defense beats good offense" was certanly true in this thumping. Ottawa shut down the Baby Pens and Gary Roberts, brought in for leadership, just could not provide enough of it to get the young Penguins over the hump. Have no fear though...Pittsburgh will be back for years to come amd they will look back at this series as a stepping stone.
As the Senators look forward they will meet either the Rangers or Devils in the 2nd round. With Martin Brideur not at his best and the Rangers on a roll it's easy to figure the Senators wouldn't mind a meeting with Jersey.
Funny how things work out. For the past 2 years most NHL observers thought the Senators got the short end of the stick in the Heatley (and Greg DeVries) for Marian Hossa deal. With Heatley moving on and having a big series against Pittsburgh and Hossa acting like a dead man skating and getting swept out of the playoffs, perhaps some will rethink their positions. One must acknowledge Heatley is surrounded by a better and more experienced team but the playoff Hossa wasn't even close to the regular season version of Atlanta's #18.
They are partying in the Big Apple and scratching their heads in Hotlanta! The Rangers completed a dominant 4 game sweep of the Thrashers, giving NY its 1st playoff series win in 10 years. Not since Messier and Gretzky, remember them?, had the Blueshirts advanced in the postseason. The Rangers got timely goals from Jaromir Jagr, rookie Ryan Callahan and the offensive star of the series Michael Nylander. Add the fiesty Sean Avery to the mix and New York had the Thrashers whipped. Of course, the key was the great net work of Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers will be rested for round 2 where they will likely meet Ottawa or Buffalo. Who knows...they are hot and their home crowd is nuts. Rangers to the Cup finals? Stranger things have happened. It would be super for the NHL to have New York playing for the big trophy.
On the flip side, Atlanta traded away solid players and high draft picks to make the playoffs. There were locker room issues but the deals seemed to cure those. Then came this series! Their big offense led by Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov and deadline pickup Keith Tkachuk went home quietly in the 4 game sweep. Atlanta didn't even have a lead until game 4. Mix in poor goaltending by Kari Lehtonen in his game 1 and 3 losses and the Thrashers were doomed early on. Johan Hedberg played well losing game 2 2-1 and dropping the final game 4-2 (with an NY empty netter). One must question the decision by Coach Bob Hartley to go with Lehtonen in New York in game 3. Hedberg was solid in the 2nd game and has had playoff success in the past. Lehtonen bombed losing 7-0 and down 3 games to none the series was done. Where Atlanta goes from here will be interesting to see. Tkachuck and Kozlov are free agents and they need help on defense. The Thrashers dealt away good young defenseman Braydon Coburn and will regret that in years to come. Of course, had the team come through and made a playoff run the deals would have looked good.