All eight opening games are complete, and 3 road teams snatched series leads and home ice advantage. Those three teams were of course Montreal, Nashville and Buffalo. Most people seem to like Buffalo to win the series, and an overtime shutout win on the road at the defending conference champs certainly should do nothing to temper those expectations for the Sabres. But one thing that I’ll point out is the excellent play of the much maligned Philadelphia rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Taking a shutout into overtime should do something to quell the detractors, but then again he plays in Philadelphia, where they boo their own teams and fire snowballs at Santa Claus. So, maybe Bobrovsky’s one goal allowed loss hurts his status in Philly. They’ll call for Brian Boucher, until he loses 2-1, and then they’ll call for Michael Leighton. All kidding aside, it looks like Bobrovsky certainly made his case to earn another game and perhaps start to cement his status as the Flyers franchise goalie. The Sabres win probably made this series a lot more interesting.
Nashville also turned in a comprehensive beating of the Anaheim Ducks, thanks mainly to stud center Mike Fisher outscoring the Ducks 2-1 by himself (Fisher also added an assist, and went home to Carrie Underwood. Winning?). What was more surprising was Anaheim’s decision to roll Dan Ellis in net. Ellis has been nothing better than dreadful this year, yet it would seem he must have been the only goalie on the roster physically ready to play, because if Ray Emery or Jonas Hiller were able to play you would have to think they would start over Ellis. But alas, it was Ellis taking the 4-1 loss, and I feel this upcoming Game 2 is imperative for the Ducks if they are to even reach a seventh game in this series. I picked the Ducks in seven, but I also predicated that upon Hiller or Emery playing, so I effectively now have the Ducks to win a six game series in six, and that number will keep decreasing with every game Ellis starts. Truthfully I’d rather see Nashville win anyway; I like the disciplined style they play.
The biggest story of the Game 1s, thanks to Washington’s overtime escape, was without question Carey Price. The young veteran pitched a 31 save shutout in Boston last night, and the elderly tandem of Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez hooked up on both goals against Tim Thomas in a 2-0 Montreal victory. The Bruins are saying all the right things following the loss, things like “we lost the first game last year and won the series against Buffalo,” and “nobody’s ever won the Stanley Cup in Game 1.” They are correct, and if you’re a Bruins fan it certainly is calming to hear the players saying things that would indicate an even keel. But the flipside to that even keel mentality is that this next game is pretty close to a big f-ing deal for the Bruins. Going down 0-2 and hitting the road usually doesn’t end well for any team, so the Bruins need to make sure that while they keep level heads they also raise their attention to detail and find ways to turn the red light on, as well as continue to play very good defense. There’s no reason for Boston to beat themselves up over the loss, as they did outshoot Montreal 31-20, which they should always do at home. Chalk this one up to Montreal achieving, but I still think Boston’s size and physicality will wear Montreal down, and I still expect Boston to find a way to enter Game 6 with the 3-2 lead, keeping my B’s in 6 prediction alive.
In the most pleasant surprise for me, the Red Wings played a magnificent second period and swung a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead, which ended up being a 4-2 victory in Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes. No game really went against my evaluations except this one. If Phoenix is unable to correct their play I would be surprised, but the Coyotes would also be eliminated. What’s more surprising is that the Red Wings were able to play their game without Henrik Zetterberg. I know it’s just one game, but that one game made Detroit look certainly equal to the looming second round test against the San Jose Sharks, who escaped Game 1 against the LA Kings in overtime. Speaking of which, that series almost looks watchable. Like to the point that it almost seems that San Jose is determined to create a farcical test out of this series. But credit Antti Niemi and the Sharks for hanging in there and getting the W. And also credit the Kings for sending in their letter of intent, as it doesn’t look like they feel overmatched at all, despite the absence of their most physically dynamic forward in Anze Kopitar.
All in all they were some very interesting Game 1s, and now we will have the Game 2s over the next two days — four tonight and four tomorrow. Five road teams will have the opportunity to swing the pendulum in their favor entering their salivating home openers in Game 3. The remaining three roadies have the opportunity to deliver a knock down in the form of a 2-0 lead coming home. Should make for a great couple days, keep following and enjoying the greatest playoff in the world!