The first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs is now complete and there is no doubt that this will be remembered as one of the most exciting rounds in NHL history. There were a number of occurrences in the first round that really turned heads.
Here is my list of the top 5 first round surprises:
In what can only be described as “astonishing” there were four series’ which went 7 games and 2 of those games actually went to overtime. This is just a clear sign of the competitive balance that now exists in the NHL.
This is one of the few series’ in NHL history that saw five different goalies get ice time. Miller was yanked for Enroth in game 7 and the Flyers were forced to start/yank Sergei Bobrovsky in game 2, start/yank Brian Boucher in game 5 and then start/yank Michael Leighton in game 6. Though the Flyers are synonymous with goaltending inconsistency, this is just absurd.
The Blackhawks embarrassed themselves after dropping the first 3 games and then made a stand to tie the series. This team has the talent and depth to make a historic comeback, but the surprise was that they lost game 7. After seeing the Stanley Cup Champions dominate in games 4-6, I was expecting a little more “umph” in their game 7 performance, but all we saw was a team that was clearly shut down. Credit can definitely be given to the Canucks for getting their act together, but I really expected a Blackhawks win; it almost felt like they blew it…
The Penguins have been battered by injuries to key players like Crosby and Malkin, but they still managed to be a solid good team in the second half of the season. The first round of the playoffs had the Penguins quickly silence most critics (myself included) by taking a 3-1 lead against a solid Lightning team. After blowing games 5 and 6, the Penguins went back Pittsburgh and were actually shutout in front of their own crowd. The Penguins team we saw in game 7 was NOT the same team that we saw end the season 8-2 in their final 10 games.