Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dropping off


Did everyone enjoy that thrilling first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs? I hope so.

Because the second round is about as anticlimactic as the opening round was exciting.

Granted, there's only one series in the second round that is officially over. Although two other teams are not just on the brink of elimination but might as well play with golf clubs instead of hockey sticks.

The first round saw three Game 7s just in the East, a fourth in the West, and a slew of wild comeback games, particularly in the Los Angeles-San Jose series. The remaining drama in the second round mainly stems from the question, "Will they screw up again?"

Of course, one team has already answered that question in the positive (negative?), and in resounding fashion. Once again, Washington crapped out of the playoffs in spectacular fashion, becoming the first No. 1 seed to be swept in one of the first two rounds of the playoffs since the NHL switched to this format for the 1993-94 season. I forget the stat I saw, but only two or three No. 1 seeds have been swept period since the switch.

Will the Capitals have company? Will Boston blow another 3-0 series lead to Philadelphia? It's very difficult to believe such a collapse would happen in consecutive years involving the same teams. Could San Jose, also with an extensive history of underachieving (OK, let's be honest, choking) in the playoffs, let its 3-0 lead slip away?

I doubt it in either case, but I also wouldn't bet against the Flyers or Red Wings erasing that kind of deficit. Even with Philadelphia's comical goaltending situation. (How many times does a guy have to be pulled before you stop playing him? The problem is, Brian Boucher might be the best the Flyers have.)

Our last hope for an exciting second-round series is Nashville winning Game 4. It's primarily because of Pekka Rinne that the Canucks aren't the fourth team to have won a series' first three games this round.

We've had plenty of overtime games - 15 of the last 16 nights of hockey have gone to extra time - but we have just one last chance at a back-and-forth series. Then the hope that someone pulls a Chicago and forces at least a Game 6.

Of course, if your team either didn't qualify for the postseason or has already been eliminated, all you have left is schadenfreude. That is, taking pleasure in the misfortune of others.

And if you're a Penguins fan, this second round - with one more win by San Jose and Boston - will be the best. Second round. Ever.

(Well, almost. It'd be at least top five.)

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