It was nearly picture perfect: the New Jersey Devils have a 4-3 lead heading into the final one hundred seconds of play last night, much to the delight of their screaming, finger-crossing hometown fans. They are about to knock off March and April’s hottest team, the Carolina Hurricanes even if it did take them 7 games. And then the unthinkable: Jussi Jokinen fires a cross-ice feed past Martin Brodeur to tie things up with 1:20 to go. At this point, overtime seems like a likely scenario, and the grumbling East Rutherford fans shift around in their seats, pondering another trip back to the snack bar. But with just over 30 seconds left, Eric Staal has other plans. Streaking down the right wing, Staal slings a laser wrist shot under the outstretched blocker of Brodeur, sealing the fate of the shell-shocked Devils and their fans.
What a jaw-drop-inducing ending to the first round! Let’s take a gander at our pool standings. eazoulay has a 3 point edge on jkourie at the end of round one, thanks largely to bonus points accumulated by picking the correct number of games for the ‘Canes and Pens’ victories. The 5 point loss that may have felt like a minor sting for the majority of you that took the Sharks in the first round, will probably worsen as the playoffs wear on, as 82% have the Sharks winning round 2, and the notorious choker, Joe Thornton, was picked by 51% of contestants. And finally, let’s give some props to the only person who picked all 8 series’ winners correctly – me! Now if only if only my crystal ball could tell me the correct number of games every once and a while… Enjoy a potentially lengthy round two hockey fans!
(1) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Carolina Hurricanes [Season Series: 4-0 Bruins]
The Bruins, on significant rest after sweeping the Habs will resume play against the comeback kid ‘Canes. Will Eric Staal and company once again find a way to get to one of the game’s best goaltenders?
(2) Washington Capitals vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins [Season Series: 3-1 Capitals]
We’ll see how this Simeon Varlamov character handles legitimate offensive threats courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as opposed to facing Sean Avery and Nik Antropov, who, by comparison, I would consider minor inconveniences. In Gary Bettman’s dream matchup of marketable young superstars, who’s star will shine brightest?
(2) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Anaheim Ducks [Season Series: 3-1 Red Wings]
The 2008-09 Anaheim Ducks have the most difficult road to the Cup that I can recall. After having ousted the regular season leading San Jose Sharks in 6 games, they now get to play the defending champs. The Detroit Red Wings showed the Blue Jackets that they have every intention of repeating. But is there a better line out there than Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan?
(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (4) Chicago Blackhawks [Season Series: 2-2 tie]
When the Blackhawks head to Vancouver for tomorrow night’s first second round game, they will face a Canucks’ squad who hasn’t played a game in nine days. Will the Canucks come out flat, relying on Roberto Luongo to try to steal game one?