2012 NHL Playoffs: Power Ranking the First Round Series

Andy Campbell @@andycampbell16Correspondent IApril 25, 2012

2012 NHL Playoffs: Power Ranking the First Round Series

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    Like March Madness, the Bowl Season, the NFL and NBA playoffs or any other postseason action in sports, the 2012 NHL playoffs have begun with a bang and the story lines are many.

    Fans have come to expect the unexpected, and on any given night, any team has a shot to win a game.

    When reflecting back on the first round of the playoffs, every series came with a bundle of joy, anxiety, controversy and great overall play.

    When looking at the impact of each series, it is critical to consider the teams involved, the strength of each side, the popular interest in each series, close competition and what made each one truly unique.

    Based on some of this criteria, let's take a quick look at the Power Rankings of each first-round matchup. 

8. San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues

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    The score lines looked close, but other than a Game 1 overtime loss, the St. Louis Blues were in complete control of the this series.

    Players such as Patrik Berglund, Brian Elliot and Andy McDonald were huge for the Blues, and they dispatched the Sharks rather easily.

    Though this series lacked the flair for the dramatic, do not be fooled by how potent the St. Louis Blues can be. They have as strong a chance as any to come out of the West and should be considered a major threat to win the Stanley Cup.

    For the San Jose Sharks? What's next? A summer with a lot to think about.

7. New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers

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    Let the jeering begin. Who am I to rank a seven game series seventh on the Power Rankings? Well, let's look at what this series does and doesn't have.

    Yes, seven games is brilliant, and both teams have won games in the opposition's barn. Travis Zajac kept the Devils alive with an OT thriller, and it is very tough to predict the outcome of Game 7 on Thursday night. It certainly has been fun to watch.

    At the same time this series fails to captivate a lot of fans because of lack of star power, controversy and extraordinary goaltending. Let's be realistic for a moment, will either of these two teams come out of the East in this year's playoffs? It's doubtful, and I would put money on the victor of this series losing in Round 2 in four or five games.

    Don't get me wrong, this has been a great series, but ranking it ahead of others because of the length doesn't mean it has showcased the best of what the NHL postseason has to offer.

6. Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators

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    The Detroit Red Wings could not hold off a stacked Nashville squad, and while many think the Wings looked aging and bewildered, it's never easy to beat the wheel twice in their own barn.

    This series had the controversial Shea Weber hit, as well as timely scoring and impeccable goaltending by Pekka Rinne. Though Weber's hit made headlines, his overall play in the series was nothing short of superb. 

    As I said with the St. Louis Blues, the Nashville Predators are the real deal, and they could also introduce Mr. Stanley to Nash-Vegas this June.

5. Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Five of the six games in this series were decided in overtime, and it was Coyotes' netminder Mike Smith who stole the show.  

    While some 'Hawks fans believe it could have gone either way, the bigger, more rugged and downright better team won the series.

    This series had two big suspensions, and the outcome of every game was always in question. Cheers to Shane Doan for finally getting past the first round for the first time in his career.

    Like many teams that have bowed out in Round 1, the 'Hawks have a lot to wonder about before next season begins. 

4. Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks

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    It's always big news when the Presidents' Trophy winning club is doused in the opening round. The Los Angeles Kings won three games in Vancouver to dispatch of the Vancouver Canucks in a five-game series.

    Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown led the upstart Kings to one of the more shocking stories of this playoff season.

    Though the Canucks saw light when Daniel Sedin returned to the lineup and they won Game 4, Jarrett Stoll rifled a wrist shot in overtime of Game 5 to seal the deal.

    Yet, another playoff disappointment for Vancouver fans in what will be a very long summer ahead.

3. Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers

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    This series has been thrilling to the core. The New York Rangers backed by the play of emerging rookie, Chris Kreider, forced a Game 7, Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

    It's a shame that Brian Boyle was knocked out of the series in Game 5, but the Rangers have finally gotten help from Brad Richards as they look to clinch tomorrow evening.

    For the Senators, this may be the best hockey Chris Neil has played in his career. He has been anywhere and everywhere and Craig Anderson has also been huge.

    What will happen tonight? Who knows, but this series has given fans of both teams all they can handle.

2. Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins

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    In Game 4, Troy Brouwer scored late to give the Capitals an elimination game on home ice.

    In Game 6, Tyler Seguin scored a nifty goal in overtime to force Game 7.

    You knew about Tim Thomas, but few knew about Braden Holtby. This young man has pushed the Bruins to the brink, and tonight is anyone's contest.

    Every game has been air-tight, and without a doubt, Game 7 tonight should be an epic finale to a terrific first-round series.

1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    No, this series did not go the distance. No, this series did not have spectacular goaltending. But it did have everything else.

    Without a doubt, the battle for supremacy in the state of Pennsylvania lived up to the hype. Night in, night out, nobody knew what to expect.

    You had tremendous performances from the likes of Claude Giroux, multiple hat-tricks in this series, scraps, suspensions, goals, goals and more goals. This series looked like it belonged in the 1980's.

    When the series seemed all but over, the Penguins routed the Fly-boys 10-3 in Philly, a score unthinkable in today's playoffs. The Penguins pushed it to a Game 6, when the Flyers finally pulled away.

    If sports is to be considered entertainment, then this series succeeded in grabbing the attention of the sporting world. For these reasons, it sits atop of the rankings.