NHL Round Two a Treat for All
May 15, 2009 by Big Tony
Round two came to a close Thursday night and what a round two it ways. With three series going to game seven and the other an incredibly entertaining six game series the NHL should hold its head high tonight. Detroit/Anaheim and Boston/Carolina put the icing on the cake with two incredible game seven performances culminated with a game seven overtime won by the Canes over the Bruins. As much as I love hockey it has fallen from the graces of many people since the lockout in 2004, but this round has put the NHL back on the national map. Casual fans are tuning in and that base is continuing to grow as the ratings have skyrocketed as a result. Sports fans across the board have soaked up every moment of round two with many hoping the stage isn’t set for the Conference Finals to be a letdown. But with the stakes getting higher as we move onto round three it seems highly unlikely that something like that will happen. The time will come in short order to look forward to the next round but now is the time to reflecting upon round two and simply appreciate what we saw.
The Pens and Caps stole the headlines with plenty of star power, the incredible story of rookie netminder Simeon Varlamov, and six unbelievably entertaining games including three overtime contests and at least one lead change in every game. The Pens and Caps not only put on a great show but they further escalated a rivalry that will be sensational for years to come. The other second round series in the east did not have nearly the amount of drama as the Pens-Caps until game seven.
The Bruins and Canes gave us everything one hopes to get out of a game seven. Each team had a lead at one point in the game with the Bruins taking the early 1-0 lead before Carolina battled back to net two in a row only to see Boston send it to overtime. In the extra period there were chances aplenty stifled by tremendous goaltending by both Ward and Thomas. And just as it seemed like the game was destined for double overtime Scott Walker buried a rebound behind Tim Thomas to score his first career playoff goal… and boy what a time to do it.
In the West the headliner was the battle between the last two Stanley Cup Champions in Anaheim and Detroit. Despite Anaheim being seeded eighth many felt the Ducks had a chance to put away the defending champs. The two teams battled game to game until the series finally culminated in a game seven that went the way of the rest of the series. Both goaltenders put on a great show combined with a lot of heavy hitting and lots of drama with both teams getting ticked at the referees at one point or another. In the end however the defending champs showed their grit by scoring the series winning goal with three minutes remaining in the third period.
Lastly we’ll mention the upstart Blackhawks put away Roberto Luongo and the high-flying Vancouver Canucks. In their respective first round series the Hawks and Canucks traveled very different paths. Vancouver steamrolled St. Louis while Chicago had to battle to put away a banged-up but resilient Calgary Flames squad that had high expectations; as a result many felt the experienced Canucks would be able to dispose of a good but young Blackhawks squad whose “time was yet to come.” The people in Chicago—fans and players alike—had different plans as the young squad played each game like they had been there before withstanding early leads by Vancouver and eventually busting through the brick wall that is Roberto Luongo to advance to the Conference Finals.
Perhaps one of the best playoff rounds in any sport ever… and we’ve still got two rounds to go. See you in the Conference Finals everybody!