NHL Western Conference Playoffs First Round Update
The first round of this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs comes to a close this week as the few remaining series that have not already been closed-out play their final games. We have already witnessed a number of shocking upsets as the odds for teams to win both their conference and this year’s Cup will have to be completely reshuffled once all the first-round series become final.
The following is a brief re-cap of each of the four opening-round matchups in the Western Conference which have all been closed out.
No.8 Los Angeles Kings vs. No.1 Vancouver Canucks
This series was the biggest shocker of them all considering that Los Angeles barely made it into the postseason while Vancouver compiled an overall record of 51-22-9 to garner the most points in the NHL in the regular season with 111.
The Kings jumped on Vancouver early with two 4-2 victories on the road as 142 underdogs. From that point on, defense took over as LA held the high-powered Canucks to just four goals in the final three games to win the series 4-1. Jonathan Quick was stellar in goal for LA with a goals-against-average of 1.59 and a .953 save percentage.
No.7 San Jose Sharks vs. No.2 St. Louis Blues
San Jose stunned the Blues with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 as a 145 road underdog, but it was all St. Louis for the rest of this series. The Blues went onto to win four straight games by the combined score of 12-5.
Blues’ goalie Jaroslav Halak was injured in Game 2, but Brian Elliott was outstanding in relief with a 1.37 GAA and a save percentage of .949. Andy McDonald led St. Louis in scoring in this series with four goals and four assists.
No.6 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No.3 Phoenix Coyotes
Chicago held off the Coyotes in Game 5 with a thrilling 2-1 win in overtime as a 117 road underdog to keep this series alive. In the end, the Blackhawks just ran out of steam with a listless 4-0 loss in Game 6 as 135 home favorites to drop this series four games to two.
Give credit to a relentless Phoenix attack that had to win three of its games in overtime. Antoine Vermette came up huge for the Coyotes with four goals and one assists to lead his team in points. On the defensive end, Mike Smith was basically unbeatable in goal with a GAA of 1.81 and a .950 save percentage.
No.5 Detroit Red Wings vs. No.4 Nashville Predators
These two teams split the first two games in Nashville with Detroit grinding-out a 3-2 victory in Game 2 as a 101 underdog to steal away the home-ice advantage. Unfortunately for Red Wings fans, the change in venue actually worked against their team. The Predators took both games on the road as healthy underdogs and closed things out with a 2-1 win in Game 5 as 114 home favorites.
Nashville will now look to ride the hot glove hand and stick of goalie Pekka Rinne into the conference semifinals. He finished this series with a .944 save percentage and a GAA of 1.81. The Predators will also look to Gabriel Bourque (4 goals, 1 assist) and Alexander Radulov (1 goal, 4 assists) for even more offensive firepower in the next round.
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