NHL Playoffs 2013: Ranking the Most Exciting 1st-Round Series

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIMay 9, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 8: Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on May 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The 2013 NHL playoffs have provided so many thrilling matchups and highlights in the opening first round.

When talking about the "most exciting" series so far, it's almost impossible to know where to start.

But you could probably rule out San Jose's sweep of the Vancouver Canucks (as exciting as I'm sure that was for Sharks fans) and you could probably do the same with the Western Conference's No. 1 seed in the Chicago Blackhawks, who are up 3-1 on the Wild.

Otherwise, every first-round series has something to pull for and is at an intriguing point in this week.

What are the most exciting first-round series still continuing that you simply cannot afford to miss? Read on for the top three. 

3. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders (currently 2-2)

Few expected the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed to be struggling against the No. 8 seed.

Even fewer expected it after the Penguins raced to a 5-0 lead against the Islanders in Game 1 and seemingly wrapped up the series win in the process.

Oh, how wrong we were!

The Penguins blew a two-goal lead at home in Game 2 and nearly did the same on the road in Game 3—winning in overtime after being up 4-2 at the start of the third period.

They would do the same again in Game 4 (allowing their 4-3 lead in the third period to finish 6-4) and surprisingly now find themselves in a tied series against an Islanders team with all of the momentum.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby is back, so there is no excuse there. The Penguins just are not defending well, and it's making for a thrilling first-round series so far.

2. Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings (currently 3-2, Ducks)

This might not seem like a close series at all given Anaheim's dominance over the Red Wings in their round's opening two wins.

However, the Red Wings have managed to take the Ducks to overtime, and twice they've prevailed.

Granted, one of those wins came after they blew a 4-1 lead in the third period, but even still, the Red Wings have done incredibly well to push the Ducks as much as they have so far.

And while a 3-2 Ducks' lead might seem like a foregone conclusion, do not rule out Detroit from seriously putting up a fight over the last one or two games this year.

Red Wings will be tough to break down in front of their home fans in Game 6 and will certainly be putting the pressure on their opponent if the round reaches a Game 7.

This series is a long way from being over.

1. St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings (currently 3-2, Kings)

If a close series is your thing, then the Blues and Kings matchup is one you definitely don't want to miss, as all five games of the series have shown.

After knocking out the Blues in dominant fashion last year, the Kings are starting to find their groove against St. Louis now.

However, mistakes and comeback goals rule out any chance of the Kings gaining an upper hand in the series.

Game 1 saw a terrible blunder from Jonathan Quick in overtime, leading to a Blues win, 2-1.

In Game 2, the Blues scored two goals in the third period (the second with just 50 seconds remaining) to win 2-1 and take a 2-0 lead against the defending champions.

Game 3 saw the Blues up 3-2 heading into the third period before a blistering two minutes had the Kings netting two goals and winning 4-3.

A close Game 4 had the Kings winning 1-0 to level the series. Star goalkeeper Quick made a staggering 30 saves (including some big saves in the final minutes) to give his team a huge home win on the night.

Then there was Game 5.

The Blues scored again with less than a minute on the clock, before the Kings chalked up a huge 3-2 road win thanks to an overtime goal by defenseman Slava Voynov.

These two teams have epitomized what playoff hockey is all about, and they are bound to do exactly that when they square off for Game 6.

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