Kings vs. Blues
Los Angeles was lucky to be alive and playing into overtime; thanks in large part to the outstanding play of Jonathan Quick, who gave the Kings a chance to steal the opening game from a St. Louis team who could not have played any better.
Call it a chip on their shoulder, or old fashioned revenge, the Blues came out flying and dominated from the opening face off right up to the point of Justin Williams' sniper shot over the shoulder of Brian Elliot to tie the game with 31 seconds left in regulation.
I am not going to sit here and analyze Quick's bad play to death. He knew he screwed up royally, and his teammates also knew they wouldn't have been in a position to take a 1-0 series lead, which most likely would have happened hadn't Quick gift-wrapped the game for Alex Steen and the Blues.
The good side to this shocking ending last night is just what I said a moment ago; the St. Louis Blues cannot play any better than they did last night, nor do they possess any player in its lineup who is going to steal the show and score 2-3 goals in one game. Even with the Blues' outstanding effort, they were on the brink of losing that game.
On the other side, the Kings knew they could have played a whole hell of a lot better, and I have every confidence in the world they will come back much stronger and take it to St. Louis after this one.
I just cannot see this inexperienced Blues team, or Brian Elliot strong enough to knock out a Kings team that just trumps any such talent, leadership and experience the Blues have.
I still think the Kings take this series in five or six.
Maple Leafs vs. Bruins
Ever since Sunday night, I knew Toronto was in trouble. I would gladly take my chances against any other team in the East other than Boston in round 1. So basically, everyone went home happy Sunday in Boston, as the Senators got the win and avoided the Penguins in round one, and the Bruins were left to face a team they have owned for the last several seasons.
Give the Leafs some credit, they came out with some fire and scored the first goal of the game and series storming the cage around Tuukka Rask.
After that, it seemed to go downhill.
Mark Fraser was awful, committing at least three bad, careless mistakes in his own zone. Fraser has been getting worse and worse it seems throughout this short season. There is no time for stupid, lazy miscues in the playoffs.
I guess this is a learning experience, not just for Fraser, but for the entire team.
James Reimer made some key saves in the first period, but allowed a stoppable shot from Wade Redden, who was not even in the NHL this past year, to sneak through his arm.
James van Riemsdyk made a nifty play, stick handling the puck into the slot on a short handed chance after a steal at his own blue line. The shot rang off the crossbar, and back came the Bruins on a counterattack in which Carl Gunnarsson was once again caught in no-mans land, not knowing whether to challenge the shooter or let the Bruin walk right in on Reimer and fire. Gunnarsson's indecision cost him and his team a goal.
Also, another goal allowed in the final seconds of a period which will just kill you.
The bottom line here for the Maple Leafs is this...even with an outstanding performance from Reimer, the Leafs will be lucky to win even one game in this series against a much stronger Bruins team, loaded with experience.
Furthermore, the lack of playoff experience from both Mark Fraser and Mike Kostka is just not going to help your chances either. And soft, indecisive plays from Carl Gunnarsson will also be a factor when this series is all said and done.
At least we have identified three guys Toronto cannot rely on at this time.
I hope I am wrong, but there's plenty of reasons for the Bruins NOT to lose this series while there's plenty of reasons for the Maple Leaf TO lose this series.
Boston in five.
Chicago vs. Minnesota...Backstrom goes down before the series starts, while his teammates still cannot find ways to score with the additions of Parise, Suter and Pominville....Chicago in five.
Anaheim vs. Detroit...I have been let down by the Red Wings this season. In games I have seen them in action, they just didn't seem to have much fire. I think they are looking forward to leaving the West and getting into the East...Anaheim in five.
Vancouver vs. San Jose...I still think the Canucks are always the team to beat come playoff time. And whoever beats them seems to be in line for the Cup. However, this team still feels like they have something to prove, and sorry for the Sharks, there's no shootout to save you in the playoffs...Vancouver in six.
Pittsburgh vs. NY Islanders...I still think it will be a tough battle for the mighty Penguins without their heart and soul Sidney Crosby. The Islanders played their butts off and seemed to be highly inspired by the outstanding play of John Tavares. However, I still don't see anyone strong enough in the Islander net to shut down the Penguin attack. Too much inexperience against too much experience here...Pittsburgh in six.
Montreal vs. Ottawa...The team I hoped the Leafs would face in the first round was Montreal. Neither of these two Northeastern division rivals are tough enough to get much further in the playoff rounds. Montreal has the upper hand with Carey Price in goal, plus a healthy P.K. Subban will help against an even softer Senators team without Jason Spezza...Montreal in seven.
Washington vs. NY Rangers...The Capitals started off very slow, most likely due to all of the enormous egos they have to deal with in the clubhouse. Fortunate for them, they got hot winning a very weak Southeast Division. The Rangers, with Henrik Lundqvist. also got off to a slow start, but have started to show signs from last season, in which they played as the best team in the East before losing to the Devils in the East Finals...NY Rangers in six.