The Biggest Surprises Early in the 2013 NHL Playoffs
The 2013 NHL playoffs have gotten off to a roaring start, and moments like Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson's return to the lineup, the play of Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding in Game 1 and the resurgence of Boston Bruins defenseman Wade Redden have been very surprising thus far.
Part of the reason the Stanley Cup playoffs are so exciting is that every player has the chance to become a hero, and many players, including Harding, Karlsson and Redden, have elevated their games thus far.
There have been some other surprises as well, which include negative play, and players like Jonathan Quick have to step up their game.
With that in mind, here are some of the biggest surprises early into the 2013 NHL playoffs.
Jimmy Howard's Play
Howard has a 3.00 GAA through two games.
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Although the series is tied, Jimmy Howard's play has been below average for the Detroit Red Wings.
Howard had a solid regular season, but he has surrendered six goals in two games. For a goalie of Howard's stature it has been very uncharacteristic, and it will need to change going forward. He was hot for the Red Wings down the stretch, but he has looked different against the Ducks.
Things would be worse for Howard and the Red Wings, a lot worse, if the Ducks had completed the comeback, but there is still some cause for concern.
It was the first time since March 31 that Howard allowed more than three goals, and Thursday night's game against the Ducks has to be an anomaly going forward. He earned a huge contract after playing well for the Red Wings down the stretch, and he needs to come through in the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings Trail the St. Louis Blues
Jonathan Quick has not played well.
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Last year, the Los Angeles Kings were the road warriors of the playoffs, but this year, they have lost two straight on the road.
Jonathan Quick has given up two soft, game-winning goals that have allowed the St.Louis Blues to take a 2-0 lead, and it is very uncharacteristic of him. Quick was money in the playoffs last year, and it is very surprising that the Kings will head back to the Staples Center trailing in this series.
The Kings will have a chance to even the series at home, but at this point, the Blues are in the driver's seat as they attempt to give the Kings a dose of their own medicine. The Kings swept the Blues last year in the second round, and the Blues will attempt to sweep the Kings this year.
Erik Karlsson Is Back on His Game
Karlsson has given the Senators a boost since returning.
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Erik Karlsson was supposed to miss the rest of the season after he suffered a horrific injury to his Achilles tendon, but he was able to return to the lineup way ahead of schedule. Karlsson played well in his regular season return, but in Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens, Karlsson took things to a new level.
Karlsson had two points, he played 29:11 and he blocked three shots. Whenever a player returns from a major injury, it would be expected that there would be a learning curve upon return, but Karlsson hasn't missed a step.
Karlsson's return to the lineup has rejuvenated and galvanized the Senators, and they could be dangerous going forward.
Josh Harding's Performance Against the Chicago Blackhawks
Harding gave the Wild a boost in Game 1.
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Josh Harding appeared in only three regular season games this year because of multiple sclerosis and because he needed to adjust to the various medications used to limit symptoms. When Harding was forced to start Game 1 because of an injury to Niklas Backstrom, nobody would have been bent out of shape if he were rusty.
That was not the case in Game 1, as Harding gave an amazing performance against the Chicago Blackhawks. After sitting out most of the season, no one could have expected Harding to play one of the best games of his career during the playoffs, and it really gave the Wild a boost.
Throughout the game, Harding looked sharp, and that is something that can help the Wild going forward. Harding didn't look out of place, he was reacting well to shots, he didn't give up too many rebounds and he kept the Wild in the game. Harding's performance was one of the best moments of night one of the playoffs, and he could really help the Wild during this series.
Wade Redden's Resurgence
Redden has played well for the Bruins.
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Wade Redden started this season as a healthy scratch in the AHL because the New York Rangers didn't want him to get injured, and he eventually was bought out. Redden was then signed by the St. Louis Blues, and he was traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.
Thus far in the playoffs, Redden has looked more like the Wade Redden that played for the Ottawa Senators in the mid to late 2000s than the Wade Redden who played for the Broadway Blueshirts.
In Game 1, Redden had a goal and an assist, and he was defensively sound. With Redden playing his best hockey in years, the Bruins are looking very smart for taking a chance on him at the deadline.
Braden Holtby Was the Better Goaltender in Game 1 vs. Rangers
Braden Holtby was clutch for the Capitals in Game 1.
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Surprising as it may be, in the Game 1 matchup between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, Braden Holtby was the better of the two goaltenders in net.
Holtby was rock solid in a 3-1 win, and there are two goals that Henrik Lundqvist wants back. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner had an off night for the Blueshirts, and he will have to be better than Holtby in Game 2 to get the Rangers back on track.
The New York Islanders' Lackluster Play Against the Pittsburgh Penguins
Things got intense towards the end of the game.
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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with a ton of intensity in Game 1 against the New York Islanders, and it is very surprising that Islanders lost by a score of 5-0. Despite Sidney Crosby's absence from the lineup, the Penguins dominated the Islanders throughout the night, and it was surprising to see the Islanders get steamrolled.
This is an Islanders team that played well down the stretch in order to earn their first playoff berth since 2007. Although their roster doesn't match up with the Penguins, fans probably expected them to show more life in Game 1.
The Penguins are a good team, but the Islanders have given the Penguins fits during previous regular season meetings. The two teams have a recent history of bad blood stemming from a brawl during the 2010-11 season, and you could see that intensity flare up when Marty Reasoner hit Jussi Jokinen with his knee.
The Islanders are going to need to bounce back, and with Sidney Crosby returning to the lineup for Game 2, it seems like the team can't catch a break.