1 Reason Not to Count out Every NHL Playoff Team Trailing in Round 1

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2013

1 Reason Not to Count out Every NHL Playoff Team Trailing in Round 1

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    It doesn't look great, but it's not the end of the world.

    Just because a team loses the first game—or two—of its NHL playoff series, it doesn't mean the lights are out.

    Last year, two out of eight teams who lost Game 1 of their quarterfinals recovered to win their series. Plenty of others have come before them.

    The first round is the land of six and seven-gamers, long overtimes and crazy upsets. Momentum in a series can shift on a dime.

    The Detroit Red Wings have already come back to tie their series with the Anaheim Ducks. For the other seven teams who are down, but not necessarily out, here's a look at one good reason they'll each be able to get back in the game.

    Which teams do you think have the best chance of coming back and moving on? Talk about it in the comments below.

Los Angeles Kings: Homeward Bound

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    Three days into the 2013 playoffs, the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings find themselves in the biggest hole so far, down 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues.

    The Kings didn't trail in any series during their entire run to the Cup last year, so this adversity is a brand new situation.

    Still, the first two games have been close and have been settled by uncharacteristically poor plays from Conn Smythe winning netminder Jonathan Quick.The Kings dominated the early part of Game 2 and held a 1-0 lead until Patrik Berglund got the Blues on the board at the 3:44 mark of the third period.

    Quick has been excellent for the most part. Two small mistakes really have meant the difference between winning and losing.

    A return home to the friendly Staples Center in Los Angeles could be the change of scenery that the Kings need to get back into gear. Game 3 goes Saturday night in LA.

Minnesota Wild: The Harding Effect

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    The Minnesota Wild were huge underdogs heading into their series against the Presidents Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks.

    Their task got that much tougher when No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom was injured during the warm-up for Game 1, forcing backup netminder Josh Harding to start.

    After announcing last fall that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Harding played in just five regular-season games this year as he struggled to find a way to cope with his disease.

    In Game 1 against the Hawks, Harding rose to the challenge, stopping 35 shots and forcing overtime before the Wild eventually succumbed by a 2-1 margin.

    Harding's inspiring performance could be the catalyst for Minnesota to build on as they strive to keep pace with the best of this year's NHL.

Vancouver Canucks: Sharks' Road Woes

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    The San Jose Sharks swam into Vancouver on Wednesday night and collected a 3-1 win against the Canucks, becoming the first road team to take a series lead in the 2013 playoffs.

    It was an unlikely outcome, since the Sharks had the worst road record of any playoff team in the Western Conference during the regular season. They were just 8-14-2 away from the Shark Tank.

    Chances are, the Sharks' true colours will surface as the series grinds on. It's also worth noting that San Jose won Game 1 last year against the St. Louis Blues before eventually falling in five games.

    On Wednesday, the Canucks and Sharks were evenly matched through 40 minutes. If Vancouver can score some goals and keep up their intensity until the final buzzer in Game 2, they have every opportunity to set this series back on even terms.

New York Islanders: History Is on Their Side

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins may have dismantled the inexperienced New York Islanders in Game 1 on Wednesday night, but the fishermen have one thing going for them: The Penguins have never beaten the Islanders in a playoff series.

    The last time these two teams met was back in 1992-93. The Penguins had just won back-to-back Stanley Cups, but fell to the underdog Islanders in seven games in Round 2. Prior to that, the Islanders beat the Penguins in five games in the preliminary round in 1981-82 on their way to their third Stanley Cup, and they knocked off Pittsburgh in seven games in the quarterfinal round in 1974-75.

    Yes, each one of those series went to its limit. The series see-sawed back and forth but each time, the Islanders prevailed. Click here for a detailed breakdown of the past series, from newyorkislanders.com.

    This year's young squad faces a tough challenge against the built-for-playoffs Penguins. Drawing inspiration from the teammates who came before them might help raise their play to the level they'll need.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Reinforcements

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs have had their first taste of playoff hockey in many years, and it didn't go down very well at all.

    After being thoroughly outplayed by the Boston Bruins in Game 1, the Leafs should have a better idea of what's expected of them going forward. They'll also be shuffling their lineup in an effort to gain a positive outcome.

    Coach Randy Carlyle told The Canadian Press (via The Hockey News) that defensemen Mike Kostka and Cody Franson would both miss Game 2 due to injury. The skilled Jake Gardiner could be a positive addition on the blue line.

    Changes are also expected up front, with one or more of Joe Colborne, Ryan Hamilton or Matt Frattin possible to draw into the lineup, likely in place of tough guys Frazer McLaren or Colton Orr.

Montreal Canadiens: Keep the Foot on the Pedal

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    In Game 1 of their series against the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens were out-dueled in net by the NHL's best goaltender for 2013. They fired 50 shots but were only able to get two past Craig Anderson as they fell 4-2 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals opener.

    Anderson's a difference-maker, so Montreal will need to keep firing shots and applying pressure if they want to have any chance of outscoring Ottawa in future games.

    A strong start in Game 1 was frittered away with a weak third period. The Canadiens will be back on the ice in less than 24 hours for Game 2 on Friday. They'll need to push the Sens for the full 60 minutes if they hope to get their series back on even terms.

New York Rangers: Better Discipline

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    The Washington Capitals only went 1-for-5 with the man advantage in the opening game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers. But Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal midway through the second period got his team on the board and began an assault that would lead to the Caps' 3-1 victory.

    Washington finished the regular season with the NHL's best power play, clicking at 26.8 percent. True to form, it was their fourth opportunity on Thursday that got them on the board, opening the gates for tallies by Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera to secure the Washington victory.

    If the Rangers can limit the Capitals' extra-man opportunities while scoring themselves against the 27th-best penalty kill, the shift in special teams productivity could be enough to determine the outcome of Game 2 on Saturday.


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