In the past few days, the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins all said goodbye to the post season.
Out of the eight series that make up the opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, three remain to be determined.
Out of the six teams remaining, three are guaranteed to move on, as their respective series for a best of seven have now changed to a best of one.
Wednesday, April 25: Washington Capitals @ Boston Bruins
This has been the closest series to date this year.
For the first time in NHL history, all six games leading to a decisive Game 7 have been one-goal games, and I didn't expect any less.
It's going to come down to who's hungrier for the next round.
The Capitals have not won the prize in their 38 years of existence in the NHL. That can be motivational for a team that is 1-3 in Game 7 situations during the Ovechkin era.
The Caps have the chops to get a series done.
How? If Bradan Holtby, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom can hold it together and not let frustration set in, they can take this series.
If they try to take the game solely on their stick, they could be in danger of golfing early should the Bruins pick up on it.
What the Bruins have on their side is experience, recent experience at that. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup last season and did it in dramatic style.
The Bruins are in their fourth Game 7 in five series. Having played this many series in such a short period of time can fuel their desire to get it done, but they need to be careful as you can only teeter on the edge before finding solid ground so many times.
I have stated in recent articles that if the Bruins' top scorers can get on the board, the Caps could be in trouble.
How? Now the Caps have to watch these players more carefully.
Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin are three of the top scorers and stepped up on Game 6 to force the final game of the series.
The Caps may have to now watch for at least six players if these players are warmed up.
It doesn't seem to matter if home ice is the advantage or not, as each team won one game at home and two on the road.
What I think? The series can go either way. I cannot pick a winner on this one because it's all going to come down to who is going to create the turnover that will sink their team.
I'm looking forward for this game to get underway.
Thursday, April 26: Ottawa Senators @ New York Rangers
The Rangers win Game 6 on a controversial-filled game.
Sens Filip Kuba was called for the hooking penalty to put the Rangers on the power play. Just 16 seconds later, Sens forward Nick Foligno was called on a goaltender interference call when the replay showed him being helped into Ranger netminder Henry Lundqvist. The resulting 5-on-3 power play allowed Mike Richards to put in the go ahead goal.
Near the end of the game, there was a reviewed goal that allowed the Sens to get within one goal as there was no conclusive evidence that Sens agitator Chris Neil ever touched the puck in a clear kicking motion. In the same sequence, there was goaltender interference that was not picked up by Neil and that got Lundqvist and the Rangers very hot under the collar.
Regardless, the game went to the Rangers, and they live to fight in a Game 7.
Sens Captain Daniel Alfredsson was clearly irritated and went on a couple of mini rampages that resulted in a stick and a Gatorade bottle being the casualties.
This could be the fire that the Sens needed to get the job done.
If the Rangers can harness the frustration that they were obviously venting at the end of the game during the media scrums, then they can take this series.
If they allow it to affect them, they are done.
What I think? The Sens can take this series.
Thursday, April 26: Florida Panthers @ New Jersey Devils
The Devils forced Game 7 as they were on the brink of elimination. That series is anybody's game now.
The Devils have not gotten past the first round since the 2006-07 season and won their last Stanley Cup Championship in 2003.
They are looking to veteran and future Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur to backstop the team to the next round. He has been shaky at times.
The Florida Panthers are experiencing just their fourth playoff season in their 19-year existence and have not been in the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season only to lose in the first round.
The closest they have gotten to Lord Stanley's Mug was in just their third year only to be swept by the Colorado Avalanche.
What I think? Look for the Panthers to make a push to advance to the next round.
These final statements for each series are gut feelings, a blind toss at the post if you will. All three series are that close and each team, in their own merit, has a equally illegitimate shot at advancing.
Round 1 ends in the next two days. Best of luck to all six teams, and hopefully we won't have too many officiating controversies to ruin the party.
This is Cory Ducey saying "Hit Hard, But Keep It Clean".
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