5 things we learned from Thursday's action

April, 16, 2010

1. We say anything can happen in the playoffs. While it's technically true, "anything" sometimes doesn't happen very often. For instance, after Tomas Plekanec gave Montreal a 1-0 series lead over Washington with his overtime winner Thursday, both eighth seeds found themselves enjoying early series leads.

Colorado is the other No. 8 seed, and it takes a 1-0 lead into Friday night's Game 2 against San Jose. ESPN stats-meister Vincent J. Masi tells us this is just the third time since the NHL went to the conference-based playoff format in 1994 that both eighth seeds won the first game of a quarterfinal series. Strangely, the first two times took place in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003.

The most telling part of this statistic is only one of the four teams (New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens) managed to complete the upset and move on to the second round. That team? Drum roll, please … the Canadiens. In 2002, they upended Boston in the first round with … another drum roll … current Washington netminder Jose Theodore in goal.

2. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night to take a 1-0 series lead in that West quarterfinal. Still, the Kings got a positive answer to a question hanging over them through the end of the regular season: Would Jonathan Quick give them enough in goal? Quick was marvelous in Game 1, turning away 41 of 44 shots before Mikael Samuelsson ended it at the 8:52 mark of the first overtime.

The loss extended Quick's personal winless string to nine games (he hasn't won since March 22), but the 24-year-old proved he is going to be able to keep the Kings in it. His save on Henrik Sedin on a 2-on-1 in overtime was a keeper. Now all the Kings have to do is get to another goalie who was facing some questions of his own, Roberto Luongo. Luongo allowed two goals on 27 shots and made a spectacular diving save, sweeping the puck from along the goal line not long before Samuelsson won it for the Canucks.

3. It's nervous time for Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Jose and New Jersey; all four teams were expected by most to win their opening-round series, yet head into Game 2s tonight trailing 1-0. But what does it mean? Well, let's use last season's first round as an indicator. In the eight series, teams managed to rebound from an opening-night loss only twice. The Washington Capitals, also down 1-0 this spring, lost the first two games to the New York Rangers before rebounding to win in seven. The Carolina Hurricanes dropped their first game to New Jersey and came back to win in dramatic fashion in seven games as well.

4. The Bruins and Sabres produced a little Adams Division flashback in Game 1 in Buffalo on Thursday as the two teams had a chippy affair. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was given a double-minor for boarding and roughing after a hit on Patrick Kaleta, and then returned to the ice when the first of the two minor penalties had expired. The crowd complained it took some time before officials realized Chara had been given an early release and sent him back to the box to serve out the remainder of his time. The Sabres got terrific goaltending from Ryan Miller and a goal from Thomas Vanek, but the game-winner came off the stick of an unlikely hero, defenseman Craig Rivet. The Sabres captain had just one goal in 78 regular-season games this campaign.

5. The Vancouver Canucks are no strangers to keeping it close in the first round. Last spring, the Canucks won three of four games -- one of which went to overtime -- by one goal, en route to sweeping the St. Louis Blues.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer




You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?