NHL Playoffs 2012: 10 Things We Learned from the First Day of Games

Nick KostoraContributor IIIApril 12, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 10 Things We Learned from the First Day of Games

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    The NHL Playoffs first night of action raised both questions and answers.

    If anyone was wondering if the Los Angeles Kings could contend with the top seeded Vancouver Canucks their doubts should now be remedied.

    And if fans were expecting little involvement from the officials throughout the postseason then they are likely to be sorely disappointed.

    This is only one night and it would be easy to overreact to everything that has happened, but still there are some clear things to be learned from the trio of games that took place.

    Let's take a look at 10 things we learned from the first night of NHL playoff games.

     

10. Philly Is Resilient

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    The Philadelphia Flyers are a scrappy and resilient team that made their presence felt right away against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Philly played a tough brand of hockey against the rival Penguins and knocked superstar Sidney Crosby around whenever possible.

    But beyond the rough stuff they also showed that they can find ways to win.

    Philadelphia overcame a 3-0 deficit to take Game 1 and ruin Pittsburgh's home-ice advantage.

    The lesson to be learned?

    Never count the Flyers out of a game.

9. The Roberto Luongo Scrutiny Will Never End

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    Roberto Luongo's every move will continue to be dissected and broken down until he wins a Stanley Cup.

    This may come with the territory of being one of the best goaltenders in the world and having a suspect track record in previous postseasons.

    In Game 1 he did not do too much to move the needle in any direction.

    Vancouver lost, but Luongo did not play terribly.

    Of course, he also did not play exceptionally well.

    The questions surrounding the Canucks goaltender will undoubtedly continue.

8. Jimmy Howard Will Not Decide the Red Wings Fate

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    Jimmy Howard will have to be play perfectly for the Red Wings to get past the Predators in Round 1, but he is not the most important factor to Detroit's success.

    Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne showcased his ability and flexed his proverbial muscles tonight to the tune of 35 saves and numerous denied scoring chances.

    Detroit needs to find ways to score even strength goals on Rennie before they can worry about the netminder between their own pipes.

    Strong play from guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula will quickly remedy any weakness from Howard.

7. Byron Bitz and Shea Weber's Actions Will Not Be Tolerated

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    Intensity and aggression are commonplace in the NHL, but the actions of Vancouver's Byron Bitz and Nashville's Shea Weber were simply unacceptable.

    Bitz earned a game misconduct for his hit while the fate of Weber remains undetermined.

    What is known is that cheap shots like the ones these players took on the opening night of the playoffs will not be tolerated.

6. Daniel Sedin Is Clearly Missed

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    The Canucks are built on the foundation of the Sedin Brothers and when one of them is sidelined something just feels off.

    Vancouver has enough talent to contend without Daniel but they were clearly outmatched against the Kings in Game 1.

    Chemistry and fluidity are key elements of any team and the Canucks were clearly lacking such characteristics without one of their best players.

    If Daniel's injury proves serious and hampers his ability the rest of this series than Vancouver may not be playing too far into April.

5. The Nashville Crowd Brought a True Home-Ice Advantage

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    Was there a more spirited crowd on opening night than the one in Nashville?

    The Predators fans let Detroit know that home-ice advantage matters in the NHL as they heckled goalie Jimmy Howard and created deafening noise.

    Detroit had four penalties in the first period alone as Nashville out-shot the Red Wings 13-5 through 20 minutes of action.

    Road wins are always tough to come by in the postseason but the Music City fans have added a serious element to an already exciting Central division postseason matchup. 

4. Mike Richards Will Be a Factor

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    Mike Richards scored an awkward angle goal on Roberto Luongo and assisted on both Dustin Penner and Dsutin Brown's goals later in the game.

    If Los Angeles is going to continue to compete with Vancouver in this series it is because their abundance of stars all play to the top of their abilities.

    Tonight Richards proved he is up to that task.

3. Sidney Crosby Is Still the Penguins Most Important Player

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    Evgeni Malkin is a bona fide superstar and Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the best goalies in the world.

    James Neal is one of the games best young stars and Pascal Dupuis finds his way onto the score-sheet in seemingly every contest.

    But there is only one Sidney Crosby.

    Whatever your sentiment towards "Sid the Kid" there is no denying that the Penguins are a better team with him in the lineup.

    He brings a presence and playmaking ability that few in the league can match.

2. Vancouver/LA Is Not Your Typical 1 vs 8 Matchup

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    The matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings is much more evenly matched than seeding may indicate.

    The Kings walked right into Vancouver and thoroughly beat the Canucks in their own building by outplaying and out-skating them.

    This is a team that was rather streaky during the regular season and did not always play to their potential.

    However, Los Angeles possesses enough firepower to compete with any team in the NHL and seems to be getting hot at the right time.

    If goaltender Jonathan Quick gets on a roll then this team could be scary the rest of the way.

1. Officials Will Not Be Invisible in the Playoffs

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    If only one lesson can be taken from last night's trio of games it is that for better or worse the officials have no problem making their presence felt.

    Nowhere was this more evident than in Nashville where the Predators and Red Wings accounted for a combined 17 penalties.

    Hockey fans prefer officials to go unnoticed but the first day of the postseason indicated a trend towards just the opposite outcome.

    The stripes are in full force in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.