Last night marked the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and last night’s games brought a ton of excitement. Pittsburgh jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead at home against its in-state rival, Philadelphia. However, the Flyers came roaring back to tie the game up by scoring two goals in the third period to force overtime. In the extra period Jakub Voracek buried the game-winner for the Flyers completing the comeback and giving the team a 1-0 series lead.
The second game of the night saw an intriguing matchup between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings. Nashville scored one goal in each period, including two from Gabriel Bourque, to skate to a 3-2 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots in the win for the Predators.
The final game of the evening featured the top-seed in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings clearly showed up to play. It didn’t matter that they are the No. 8 seed in the West playing the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Los Angeles came out and played hard from the time the puck dropped and kept up the aggressiveness while maintaining its composure. The game was tied at two apiece entering the third period. With 3:14 left on the clock Dustin Penner scored on assists from Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Dustin Brown then added an empty-netter to seal a 4-2 victory for the Kings.
Brendan Shanahan will definitely be busy after several issues arose in last night’s games. As time expired in the game between the Predators and Red Wings, Nashville’s All-Star defenseman Shea Weber reacted in a way that might get him suspended. Weber grabbed the head of Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg and slammed it into the boards in frustration. Allegedly Zetterberg checked Weber from behind, causing Weber to react. In the late game between Vancouver and Los Angeles, Vancouver’s Byron Bitz committed a major penalty when he checked Kyle Clifford face-first into the glass. Bitz was clearly aiming for the head when making the hit. As a result, Bitz was given a boarding major and a game misconduct. Clifford remained on the bench for a short period of time following the hit, but then left the game and did not return. Don’t be surprised if Shanahan hands out a suspensions to both Weber and Bitz.
Tonight’s action will include four games. The first game will start at 7:00 p.m. EST and feature the Ottawa Senators on the road against the New York Rangers. Four teams will see the puck drop to begin their playoff series’ tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins will open the first round of the playoffs at home against the Washington Capitals. The second game will see the San Jose Sharks on the road against the St. Louis Blues. The Chicago Blackhawks travel to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes at 10:00 p.m. EST. The final series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will kick off tomorrow between the Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils.
Here are my predictions for the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
(8) Ottawa Senators vs. (1) New York Rangers – Rangers in 6
(7) Washington Capitals vs. (2) Boston Bruins – Bruins in 5
(6) New Jersey Devils vs. (3) Florida Panthers – Devils in 6
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins – Flyers in 7
(8) Los Angeles Kings vs. (1) Vancouver Canucks – Kings in 6
(7) San Jose Sharks vs. (2) St. Louis Blues – Blues in 5
(6) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (3) Phoenix Coyotes – Blackhawks in 6
(5) Detroit Red Wings vs. (4) Nashville Predators – Predators in 6