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NHL First Round Playoffs Showcase Championship Worthy Games

Ben Ebert |
April 21, 2014 | 1:44 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Montreal has the most commanding series lead so far at 3-0 (Facebook / Canadiens).
Montreal has the most commanding series lead so far at 3-0 (Facebook / Canadiens).
The first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs is underway, and boy have we seem some terrific games thus far. Five out of 17 games have gone to overtime, allowing for electric sudden-death finishes. This isn’t your typical regular season overtime of four-on-four sudden death for five minutes. This is playoff overtime, with a full intermission between the third period and the 20 minute overtime period.
Some teams that had doubters have shown they are the real deal, while others have come out as expected. However, no matter what the series score is, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no team is out until their fourth loss. Here’s what we’ve seen in the first five days of every East and West matchup.

ALSO SEE: NHL Playoffs 2014: Western Conference First Round Preview

St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks

This has been arguably the most exciting series so far. The Hawks were expected to give St. Louis serious problems with the return of stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. However, the Blues are the ones leading 2-0 in the series with two overtime wins. Game 1 gave the crowd their money's worth, playing almost the length of two entire games, going into a third overtime period before Alexander Steen scored the game winner for the Blues. In Game 2, Chicago fought back with three unanswered goals before Brent Seabrook put a hard shoulder-to-head hit on David Backes; Seabrook received a three-game suspension for the hit. St. Louis scored on the ensuing power play with 6.4 seconds left in regulation. The Blues would win it in overtime yet again, just under six minutes into the first OT period, giving them an unexpected 2-0 series lead over Chicago.
It is also worth mentioning that Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was fined $25,000 for an “obscene” gesture towards the officials in Game 1, in which he grabbed his crotch.

Dallas Stars vs Anaheim Ducks

Ryan Getzlaf celebrating an Anaheim goal while sporting the face protector (Facebook / NHL).
Ryan Getzlaf celebrating an Anaheim goal while sporting the face protector (Facebook / NHL).
The Ducks came out blazing in the first game of the series, going up early 4-0. The Stars would battle back and make a game out of it with three straight goals, but it was too little too late. Ryan Getzlaf took a puck to the face, forcing him to wear a jaw protector on his helmet. Dallas had an early lead in Game 2 but could not hold on as Anaheim blasted back with three straight goals. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin haven’t seemed to have found their groove yet this postseason. Don’t count out the Stars just yet, as now the series heads to American Airlines Center for a pair of games on Dallas ice.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens

Tampa Bay won their only Stanley Cup back in 2004 and the odds aren’t in their favor this year as they have now dropped three straight to Montreal. The Lightning lost an overtime heartbreaker in Game 1 and were dominated in Game 2, both of which were on home-ice in Tampa. Apparently the forecast for Montreal had no signs of a lightning storm either, as the Bolts were held off by the Habs again, forcing Tampa Bay into must-win mode from here on out.

Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings

Many were expecting this matchup to be heading to Detroit with two wins in the bag for the Bruins. However, the Wings utilized a blend of youth and speed mixed with veteran experience both on the ice and behind the bench to not only make the playoffs this year, but to take Game 1 and home-ice advantage away from Boston. Pavel Datsyuk’s late third period goal was the only one needed to give the Wings an early 1-0 series lead. But the Bruins responded in Game 2, winning 4-1 and showing why they won this year’s Presidents’ Trophy. Let’s see what happens in Games 3 and 4 in “Hockeytown,” Michigan.

Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche

It was a back-and-forth contest in Game 1 of this series, but the Wild led late in the third, forcing Avs coach Patrick Roy to pull his goaltender. If not for the speedy skating of Defenseman Erik Johnson, an empty-net goal would have sealed the win for the Wild. After Johnson’s save, Colorado was able to put one in late, sending the game to an overtime period in which Paul Stastny would get the gamewinner.
Minnesota was unable to hold off rookie Nathan MacKinnon in Game 2, as he earned his seventh point in his first ever two Stanley Cup Playoff games. The Wild will have to find an answer to the Av’s high-powered offense and capitalize on home-ice if they want to have any shot of coming back in this series.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Columbus never trailed in the first game of the series until the third period, after Brandon Sutter wristed the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky. Both netminders, Bobrovsky and Marc-Andre Fleury, looked a tad off their game. Game 2 was one for the history books. The Blue Jackets trailed the entire game until Jack Johnson’s power play goal late in the third period. The game would go to a second overtime, where Matt Calvert would score his second goal of the game and give Columbus their first ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory. Now it’s on to Ohio, with the series knotted up at one apiece.

New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers

Penalties were costly for the Flyers in Game 1 as they allowed the Rangers to unleash in the third period, scoring three goals, two on the powerplay. Philly took four of their six penalties in the third period and clearly paid the price for them. New York came out strong to start Game 2, going up 2-0 early. The Flyers responded with four goals of their own, tying the series at 1-1 and snapping a nine-game losing streak at Madison Square Garden, dating back to February 20th, 2011. Games 3 and 4 will show us just how sunny it really is in Philadelphia.

Tomas Hertl gets his first NHL playoff goal in his first ever playoff game (Facebook / NHL).
Tomas Hertl gets his first NHL playoff goal in his first ever playoff game (Facebook / NHL).
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings

In the first two games of this series San Jose has come out looking like a school of sharks in bloody water. So far they have scored 13 goals, 12 of them against elite netminder Jonathan Quick. The Kings responded in the third period of Game 1 with three straight goals, but it wouldn’t be enough to match the Sharks’ five from the first two periods. In Game 2 L.A. jumped out early 2-0, only to allow seven unanswered, the most single-game goals against Quick in his career. What is clear is that San Jose has depth throughout all four of its lines and Antti Niemi has outplayed Jonathan Quick. The series now heads to Staples Center for the next two games. We shall see if home-ice plays as much of a role as it did a year ago between these two rivals.

Be sure to check back here for more Stanley Cup Playoff updates.

Reach Staff Writer Ben Ebert here.



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