2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: 4 Conclusions from the First Round

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2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: 4 Conclusions from the First Round
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes knocked out the Blackhawks on the road in Game 6.

Each of the four first round Western Conference playoff series are now concluded and there are a few leftover takeaways to be consumed.

Takeaway No. 1:

Goaltending, as it always is in the playoffs, was crucial to each of the four teams now in the Western Conference Semifinals: St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings.

In the Blues' cases, two goalies were needed to advance due to Jaroslav Halak's injury. Brian Elliott spelled him admirably, making easy work of the San Jose Sharks.

Although none of these teams is a traditional power house, a couple could truly emerge as Stanley Cup favorites with tremendous play between the pipes.

Takeaway No. 2: 

More on the four starting goalies in the Western Conference.

It's amazing if you look at where each of these backstops were selected in their draft year: Jonathan Quick (third round, No. 72), Mike Smith (fifth round, No. 161) Pekka Rinne (eighth round, No. 258), Jaroslav Halak (ninth round, No. 271) and Brian Elliott (ninth round, No. 291).

What do all these numbers prove?

Well, not a lot in actuality, just that the NHL draft process is an inexact science and solid goaltending can come through excellent coaching and determination.

Takeaway No. 3:

There were a lot of demons exercised after the first round of the Western Conference quarterfinals as each of the victors had been mired in playoff futility and must feel a bit lighter today as they approach the next round.

For the St. Louis Blues, the franchise had not won a playoff series since 2002, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.

In Nashville, it's just the second playoff series the Predators have ever won since joining the NHL in 1998.

Los Angeles had a similar story—its last postseason series victory came in 2001.

Lastly, you have to go back to 1987, when the Phoenix Coyotes were still the Winnipeg Jets (no, the other Winnipeg Jets, eh, it's confusing) for the last time the franchise knocked off a team in the playoffs.

Takeaway No. 4:

So what are we left with?

Firstly, neither the Coyotes or Predators, who will meet next round, have ever been to the Western Conference Finals.

That adds a little added incentive for both teams.

Rightly so, the Preds and Yotes deserve this opportunity as they've both played solid hockey, behind great goaltending all year.

Also, not to takeaway from the accolades of any of these final four teams, but the NHL is in a world of hurt in terms of ratings.

With Vancouver, Chicago and Detroit out of the Western Conference running, ratings will be down as non-traditional, smaller hockey markets like Los Angeles, Nashville, Phoenix and St. Louis are left standing, with the Gateway City being the only location of the four subject to have actual winter conditions during a hockey season.

 

Ryan O'Leary is a writer and researcher for Bleacher Report's Video Production Department with seven years of experience in sports media. 

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