A Cinderella Story: How The Final Four Teams Made it This Far
If this year's playoffs have shown us anything, it's that anything can happen. While the Eastern Final has the 7th and 8th seeds, the Western Final has the numbers one and two seeds.
Two of the Original Six teams are in the final four, and one of the six Canadian teams in the NHL has a shot to make the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Sharks didn't choke like everyone thought they would and the Flyers beat history to achieve their place in the conference finals.
What makes this year's playoffs so crazy? Let's find out.
Halak Has Been Consistent In Net Throughout
In the middle of the crazy first round, everyone had their money on Tuukka Rask being this year's goalie who came out of nowhere and led his team to the Cup.
Then Mr. Halak of the Montreal Canadiens realized he wanted some of the spotlight and took down the unrelenting offense of the Capitals. He still wasn't satisfied so he anchored the ass-kicking of the defending Stanley Cup winners in round two.
Rask and Boston got officially embarrassed for all time by allowing the Flyers to come back from being down 3-0 in the series and beat them in game seven. Sorry Tuukka, but you just didn't have what it takes.
Halak is the Conn Smythe favorite right now in my opinion, because he is the sole reason that the 8th seeded Canadiens have made it to the Conference Finals. As long as he keeps up his amazing play, which he should considering he gets better as the situation becomes more dire, Montreal could easily take this series from Philadelphia.
San Jose Stars Need A Line Change - From Second to First
Sure the top line is producing like they're paid to, but what made the difference out west is the second line players who are stepping up their game.
Joe Pavelski is having a stellar playoffs so far, and is one of the main reasons that the Sharks are in the West Finals. He is currently sixth in the playoffs with 15 points, and in second place with 9 goals. Those numbers are exactly what coaches are hoping for from their second line players in the playoffs.
"Little Joe" has proven that a team is only as good as its weakest link, and when your second line is playing better than your first, you know you're in good shape. In the playoffs it's all about depth, and the Sharks have shown they've got it.
Flyers Don't Need a History Lesson
In round one, they were the underdogs. Playing against the New Jersey Devils, with their super-goalie Martin Brodeur, and their offensive stars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, many thought the Flyers would be out in a hurry. Nope, not this time.
In round two, they had injuries and were falling down hard to a the tune of Boston winning the first three games. History was against them, their stars were out, and all the critics wrote them off.
Then, in the locker room before game four, the Flyers got up and said F*** history, let's take these guys!
If there's one thing you need in the playoffs to win, it's determination. Only two other teams in history have ever come back to win after losing the first three games, and only three more teams had made it to game seven, and eventually lost.
Philadelphia didn't care too much about that and just played their game, coming back once again in the final game from a 3-0 deficit to win. Unbelievable.
Hawks Getting It Done
Unfortunately or fortunately for them, whichever way you want to look at it, the Blackhawks were the only team of the four remaining who everyone predicted would get to this point.
The video game NHL 10 predicted it, the hockey experts saw it coming and everyone else assumed it would happen. But after what we've seen so far this postseason, there was no guarantee that anything would happen the way it should have.
Their offensive production has been nothing less than stellar with 49 points between Kane, Toews and Sharp, and Niemi has been a solid goalie to lead them this far.
The Hawks have the third highest goals per game rating in the playoffs, and the fifth lowest goals against per game, alongside the second highest penalty kill. They have played a solid game and rightfully earned their spot as one of the favorites to hoist the Cup.
Don't doubt them.
Nabakov Removed Choke From His Vocabulary
Evgeni Nabakov, the goalie for the San Jose Sharks, has been a solid player over the last few years, but could never make it happen in the playoffs. This year, that all changed.
Nabakov hasn't been one of the best netminders in the playoffs statistically, but he's been doing his job to get the wins when they count. You don't need shutouts or nights with 50 or 60 saves to be a great goalie. You need wins, especially in the playoffs.
When it came down to it, San Jose turned to their goalie and he stepped it up. Finally. Nabakov is a big part of San Jose's success this time around and doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Montreal Boys Putting It In The Net
Led by the outstanding play of forward Mike Cammalleri, Montreal is finally getting some offense to take the pressure off of Halak. Big Mike's 18 points are tops on the team and Gionta, Plekanec and Gomez have pitched in to combine for 52 points between the four of them.
Not only are they scoring goals on a regular basis, but also when they count. Cammalleri has three game winners already, and Gionta and Plekanec each have one. That means that out of the eight wins that Montreal has, these guys have won five of them.
Considering all the hype and talk surrounding their goalie Halak, some credit should be sent over to the forwards who are getting the job done.
Plus, Cammalleri's "home run" goal was just ridiculously amazing.
Gagne Comes Out Of Nowhere To Be The Savior
When word came out after round one that Flyers' forward Simon Gagne would be injured to start the next round, everyone knew Philly would be hurting. No one realized they would go down 3-0 without him and center Jeff Carter.
So in game four, with a sweep looming, Gagne laced up his skates and only had one thing on his mind: getting the win.
He was the hero in overtime keeping the Flyers alive, but barely. Then, a few nights later after Philadelphia had clawed back to force a game seven, Gagne was there again to finish the comeback and score the game winner yet again.
When you have a guy injured who has to sit and watch his team get rocked in the first three games, you know he's going to be pissed. All I can say is that the Flyers could very well owe their spot in the Eastern Finals to their French-Canadian forward.
Chicago Is The Team To Beat
Love them or hate them, Chicago has the best chance of winning this round, and possibly the Cup as well.
You probably disagree, but there are certain factors that can't be denied:
Chicago has 40 goals for so far in the playoffs, six ahead of San Jose. Of those 40 goals, 26 have been scored during road games.
Their penalty kill is at 88%, the highest of the remaining teams.
They have the second best power play of the remaining teams, only .1% behind Philly. Their power play on the road is 6% higher than Montreal's is, the next best team of the final four.
You can hate on the Blackhawks all you want, but you have to admit that they're playing some of the best hockey of the playoffs, and are probably the only team that didn't overcome some ridiculous challenge or odds to get to the conference finals.
Chicago is the real deal, and unless San Jose figures them out, the Sharks will see themselves behind in a hurry.