2012 NHL Playoffs: Ranking Each Quarterfinal Series
If you lived under a rock for the last two weeks, it'd be tough to believe that Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Jose, Boston, and Chicago are all done and we are only a quarter of the way through the playoffs. But it's true, and that's why the NHL playoffs cause the most exciting two months in sports: anything can happen.
Don't get me wrong; every series was extremely thrilling, and even though my Red Wings were the first team to be eliminated (sigh), I watched every game of every other series intently. In my opinion, here's how the quarterfinal series stacked up in terms of entertainment.
8. St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks
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Before the playoffs began, I was convinced that this would be the best series. It looked that way after Game One's double-overtime thriller in which Martin Havlat scored to give the Sharks a 1-0 advantage on the road. Game Two was also thrilling, as the Blues tied the series at home and a line brawl broke out after the final buzzer.
After that, the long series everyone was still expecting never happened, as the Blues took complete control of the series and dominated the Sharks in five games.
7. Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings
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Every game of this series was tight, but then again, every game seemed to have the same result. Detroit completely out-shot and out-chanced Nashville all series, but Pekka Rinne stood in the way while the Predators capitalized on every chance they had. The series was close enough that it should have lasted more than five games, but in the end, the Predators were clearly the better team.
6. Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings
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It's extremely hard to put a series in which the No. 8 seed knocked out the top team in the NHL this low, but that's how good these playoffs have been so far.
This was a monumental upset which included a great overtime finish, but the Kings seemed to dominate the Canucks for almost all of the series; especially after winning the first two games in hostile territory. Despite their explosive offense, the Canucks had no answers for a determined Los Angeles club that is on the way to the second round for the first time in ten years.
5. New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators
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This was an amazing series, as the eighth-seeded Senators took the first-seeded Rangers to seven games and did all they possibly could to tie up Game Seven in the last minutes. This series, however, was marred by inconsistent suspensions and officiating; nobody could agree with the decisions about the Hagelin and Carkner suspensions.
The Senators put up a valiant effort and gave the Rangers all they could handle, but New York's Henrik Lundqvist was the hero in Game Seven.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
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I know I'm going to take some heat for putting this series at No. 4 on my list. I'll be the first to admit, I love everything about this series; this has to be the greatest rivalry in hockey right now and this series definitely lived up to its expectations.
The reason I have it here is, well, obviously because the other series were even better; but the scoring was blown out of proportion in many of these games. There was not a lot of defense played by either team, especially Pittsburgh, who suffered 8-5, 8-4, and 5-1 losses. The Flyers also gave up ten goals at home in a Game Four where they could have swept their arch rivals.
This series was entertaining, but a lack of defense and tightness in the games puts it at No. 4 on my list.
3. Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks
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The first FIVE games went to overtime!
I wanted to put this series higher, but I could not decide on the order for the top three.
This was a classic series; Phoenix seemed to be leading almost every game until the final minutes, where the Blackhawks seemed to always tie it up. Mike Smith turned out to be the hero in the end, becoming a brick wall to the Blackhawks in Game Six as the Coyotes took a 4-0 win in the only game that did not go to overtime.
2. Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils
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In their first playoff series since 2000, the Florida Panthers looked to knock off the New Jersey Devils; the team that swept Florida and went on to win the Stanley Cup that year. They split the first two in Sunrise, and New Jersey coughed up a 3-0 lead on home ice to lose Game Three 4-3. The teams traded shutouts in Games Four and Five, with Martin Brodeur breaking the record for playoff shutouts with his 24th in Game Four, and the series headed back to Newark for Game Six.
After leading 2-0 in Game Six, the Devils blew another lead and the game went to overtime. With New Jersey's season on the line, Travis Zajac found the back of the net to send the series to a decisive Game Seven back in Sunrise.
In Game Seven, New Jersey jumped on an early 2-0 lead but the Panthers clawed their way back yet again; tying the game at two goals apiece and sending it to overtime.
Nobody scored in the first overtime, but rookie Adam Henrique gave the Devils the series win with a goal just under four minutes into double-overtime.
Also, this was the only series in which the home team won more than half of the games.
1. Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals
For the first time ever, all seven games of a playoff series were decided by one goal, with four of the seven games going to overtime...how could I not put this as the best series of the first round? In fact, I think this was the best first round series I have ever seen.
Despite the extreme parity in this series, who doesn't love a story of an underachieving team characterized as a playoff choke knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champions in an overtime Game Seven on the road?