The first round is complete, and the Atlantic Division has 3 of 4 spots in the Eastern Conference. We were treated to two game 7 overtimes. The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils going into double OT.
It was a rough start to the first round, but things settled down some towards the end. What will the second round be like?
Josh has put together our previews, laying out records, head-to-head match-ups, season fight history, line-up advantages and his own predictions. Check them out and vote.
The Phoenix Coyotes have won a playoff series. I've never had the chance to write that before. Given the ownership situation, I'm not sure if I ever will again, but it's happened. Phoenix may have won the division, but the Chicago Blackhawks had the better record this season and many experts picked the Hawks to win.
The Coyotes franchise hasn't won a series since they were the original Winnipeg Jets in 1987.
The series went into overtime for the first five games before the Coyotes shut it down 4-0 in game 6. It could have been Shane Doan praying enough to make Tim Tebow look like an atheist. Or it could have been Mike Smith looking like a Conn Smythe winner already.
The Coyotes will play the Nashville Predators in the second round. Queue the "yes, they play hockey there" jokes you'll hear on ESPN all week. Ha yuck yuck.
Patrick Kane, still trying to escape the reputation of the taxi incident from a few years ago, showed some major class last night. He received a misconduct with a few minutes to go in the game and left the ice. The game was over, the series was lost, and he came back onto the ice for the traditional handshake. That's class, and one of the reasons I love hockey.
The St. Louis Blues dispatched of the San Jose Sharks last night in just five games. On the brink of elimination, Joe Thornton scored with under a minute left in the second period, putting the Sharks ahead 1-0. Mid-way through the third the Blues broke through, scoring two goals within a minute to take the lead for good. An empty-netter sealed the deal and the Blues have joined the Nashville Predators in the next round of the playoffs.
Still scoreless in the second period, there was a scrum around the Sharks' net. Chris Stewart was tangled with Andrew Desjardins when Tommy Wingels came in and dropped the gloves with Stewart. The fight was almost all Stewart, landing plenty of rights on Wingels until Wingels dropped to a knee and the linesmen broke it up. The size difference looked much greater than the listed height difference of two inches.
Raffi Torres was suspended for a hefty 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa. NHL SVP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan said, "This is a violation of three NHL rules – interference, charging and illegal check to the head." You can watch Shanahan's full explanation after the jump.
The Phoenix Coyotes, sans Torres, went into last night leading the series over the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1. The franchise that has never made it into the second round in Phoenix took the lead in the second period, but the Blackhawks tied it mid-way through the third and then took the game just a few minutes into overtime, sending the series back to Chicago. All five games have gone into overtime.
The Penguins and Flyers had a mess of a game Sunday afternoon. En route to putting up another eight goals against the Pens, the Flyers had a game against their rivals that looked more like the last couple of regular season games than a typical playoff game.
Mid-way through the first period, after a scrum is just about settled, Sidney Crosby knocked away Jakub Voracek's glove as he went to pick it up, re-igniting everyone on the ice. Crosby wound up pairing off with Claude Giroux and the two quickly went to the ice as Crosby threw a couple of punches with a linesman stepping in.
Kris Letang squared off with Kimmo Timonen. This bout was all Letang, who landed some decent shots as Timonen got tangled up in his own jersey. Letang had eight NHL fights, including the preseason, in his NHL career, but this was the first NHL fighting major for Timonen. Giroux had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Philadelphia head coach Laviolette said he'd rather see Giroux keep his gloves on, but "that's playoff hockey." He added, "I love it... Two of the worlds best players dropping the gloves." You can see Laviolette's comments in full below. They come at about the 3:20 mark in the video.
There was another dual-scrum situation towards the end of the game. With a little under five to play, and the Flyers up 7-4, players started tangling up and it appeared as though some minors were going to be handed out and that was the end of it, but some more jawing and pushing set everything off again.
James Neal was the focus of the Flyers' attention. Wayne Simmonds started yapping at him, again, on the way to the box and as Neal was turned around and led off the ice Scott Hartnell started skating over. Crosby grabbed Hartnell and then Craig Adams came in fists-first to protect his captain. After landing some shots they broke away from each other, squared off, then grappled near the Pierre McGuire containment unit. Ray Ferraro was spotted inside the unit with McGuire. Someone apparently designed a penalty box for silence.
Only a couple of minutes into the Matt Carkner jumped Brian Boyle and started throwing punches quickly. Boyle never reacted by the time everyone else had joined in and the scrum was separated. Only Carkner received a fighting major. Brandon Dubinsky, the first one to join the pile, was ejected with Carkner. It wasn't a typical thrid-man in situation, where another player joined a clear altercation (fight or not), but all players were rushing in and the game misconduct given to Dubinsky seemed excessive.
Later in the period Boyle accepted a challenge from Chris Neil. They squared off and quickly fell to the ice with few punches thrown.
Our Conference Quarterfinal previews are up. Josh Kidd did a great job with them, laying out records, head-to-head match-ups, season fight history, line-up advantages and his own predictions. Check them out and cast your vote for which team you think will win.
By the time the late game started Thursday night, the Sharks had clinched a playoff berth, but they played as though the season was on the line - and for both teams the game could decide playoff position.
The Kings took the lead three times, with the Sharks battling back every time. The Sharks then took their first lead with under eight minutes left in regulation, but the Kings were able to tie up the game and send it into overtime. Scoreless in OT, the Sharks took it in a shootout. I won't miss those next week.
Throughout the figurative battle, there were three literal ones. Drew Doughty got into his first career fight against Joe Thornton. Jumbo Joe used his size advantage well and fed Doughty a series of lefts. Thornton, who fought a few times a season earlier in his career, hadn't had a fight in almost three years.
Ryane Clowe had a pair of fights. His first was against Matt Greene and it came shortly after the Thornton-Doughty fight. His second came in the second period vs Kyle Clifford. Clowe fared well in both bouts and had a goal and an assist: a supersized Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Thornton also picked up a GHHT.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins ended their national game with a bang today. The Flyers win put them in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins entered the game in 4th. If the season ended today the two would meet in the first round of the playoffs, making it the must-watch series before the games start.
All players gathered on the ice and Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette started yelling over the benches at Pens head coach Dan Bylsma. Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube held back Laviolette while Penguins assistant Tony Granato acted as a buffer between Laviolette and Bylsma.
Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves with Wayne Simmonds, it was the only pair of fighting majors handed out, although not for lack of attempt. Arron Asham tried getting at a few Flyers, including Brayden Schenn at the beginning of the scrum and Zac Rinaldo minutes later.
The Penguins were upset that Schenn crosschecked Sidney Crosby earlier in the period, although there was no penalty called when the clock was reset due to a goal that wasn't called on the ice but was confirmed by replay.
The Flyers were upset the Pens' fourth line was out that late in an already-decided game. There was only one fight in the previous four games between the Pennsylvania rivals.
Before we get to any potential playoff series, the two teams will play again on Saturday, the last day of the regular season.