The 2010 NHL playoffs have officially come to an end—and with all of the hype surrounding the World Cup, they have already been forgotten.
The NHL could not have asked for a better postseason. Ratings were the highest for the Stanley Cup Finals in years and the league’s youth was showcased throughout the playoffs.
There was a plethora of upsets and heroes, which made for one of the greatest postseasons in NHL history. And as the NHL declared before the start of the playoffs, “History was made.”
Looking back, there are plenty of things to take away from the NHL playoffs. Here are five things we have certainly learned.
After three Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams, Marian Hossa finally collected his first Cup.
“I mean, what a feeling,” the 31-year-old Hossa told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun after winning the Cup. “I’m so happy I’m finally on the other side. I’m truly enjoying this moment. It wasn’t easy. There were lots of hockey games three years in a row. This feels even better because of it.”
Some people don’t sympathize with Hossa’s previous Cup woes, and say he did it to himself—that much may be true, but it doesn’t make it any easier for the guy.
In the 2008 Cup Finals, Hossa and the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games. After the loss, Hossa reportedly turned down a lengthy contract with the Pens and went to Detroit for one season, only to lose to Pittsburgh in the finals the following season.
It’s nice to see a player who has worked so hard throughout his career finally get rewarded. Those tears Hossa was trying to hold back after Game Six should say enough.
If the 2010 playoffs have proven anything, it’s that Alex Ovechkin is human after all.
After Ovie and his Washington Capitals jumped out to a 3-1 series lead over the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, the series was in the bag. Wasn’t it?
Despite registering 24 shots on goal over the course of the final three games of the series, Ovie had just one goal and two points to show for it, and the Caps were upset in the first round of what many thought was going to be a Stanley Cup season.
The biggest criticism to come out of Washington’s first-round debacle was that Ovechkin kept trying to make the “big” play when it might not have been there. The 24-year-old never made things simple with a dump into the offensive and continually tried to skate the puck in with minimal success.
It’s clear that Alex “The Great” still has a lot to learn about playoff hockey.
The playoffs presented fans with a number of compelling stories, perhaps none bigger than the number of young players who stepped up into bigger roles.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, Joe Pavelski, P.K. Subban, and Drew Doughty were just several youthful players who had big postseasons for their teams. All of these players are also under the age of 26, Leino being the oldest.
I acknowledge that Doughty was eliminated in the first round, but he can’t even drink legally in the United States, and he was playing like Chris Pronger did for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The sheer volume of younger players who are paving the way for the future of the NHL is mind-blowing. Players like Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Neidermayer may be on their way out, but they will be replaced with a new wave of talent that is unlike any the NHL has ever seen.
In a league featuring a number of elite captains, it was two of four youngest captains in the NHL who led their teams to the Stanley Cup Finals.
With players like Lidstrom, Daniel Alfredsson, and Shane Doan leading their teams in the postseason, it isn’t easy for any captain to stand out and lead their team, but that’s exactly what Richards and Toews did.
Richards, 25, may not have had the best of finals, but was second on the Flyers in playoff scoring with 23 points. He also had nine points in Philly’s miraculous second-round comeback over the Boston Bruins.
Toews, 22, is the youngest current captain in the NHL, but that didn’t stop him from winning the Conn Smyth Trophy and leading his Chicago Blackhawks to their first Cup since 1961.
Toews led the Stanley Cup Champion Hawks in goals (12), assists (18), and points (30). He is the second youngest player to ever win the Conn Smythe.
It was a playoff year plagued by upset after upset—thanks in part to Jaroslav Halak & Co. who knocked off Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with relative ease once they trailed in each series.
Halak’s incredible effort in Games Five, Six, and Seven during the first round against the Caps will be nearly impossible to duplicate in future postseasons. He stopped 131 of 134 shots in the final three games of the series.
The Habs’ impressive series in the first and second rounds were impressive, but were just the tip of the iceberg in upset land.
The Flyers overcame a 3-0 series deficit against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to win the series 4-3. They were just the third team in NHL history—the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders were the other two—to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0.
Appropriately, the Flyers even trailed in Game Seven 3-0, only to win the game 4-3. The Bruins could not have asked for any better scenarios to win.