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February 8, 2011

Playoffs Debut With Great Excitement

The first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs brought intense excitement and a few surprises. Of course, if you think about it, anything goes in the playoffs so lower seeds beating higher seeded teams is not necessarily a surprise, but for some it is. The San Jose Sharks were the hottest team in hockey in the last half of the season. They surged to the playoffs with an impressive record and strong momentum. Several key players that had not had a great first half of the season suddenly came alive. However, last night, when they needed all of that momentum to carry them to a win in the first game of their series with Calgary, Kiprusoff and the Flames were there to stop them.

The New York Rangers had a decent season but there were many questions about the lack of offense. The team was well stacked with high paid offensive players but they just weren’t scoring goals. Towards the end of the season they began to find their way and they used their building success to beat the New Jersey Devils last night. It would be nice, of course for the Rangers to beat their rivals from across the state line.

The best game on last night was the Minnesota Wild against the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild put up a great fight, tying the game in the third and forcing overtime. But the Joe Sakic, the man that has carried the Avalanche to eight overtime victories, did it again. After being injured for a huge chunk of the season, Sakic scores the game winning goal to give Colorado the win.

The Pittsburgh-Ottawa game was all Pittsburgh. The Senators were shut out with Gary Roberts, the seasoned veteran who missed half of the season with a broken leg, leading the way. Pittsburgh seems to have a very good mix of experience, youthful enthusiasm and skill. The former high flying Senators really had nothing going in their favor. It was kind of sad to see the level they have fallen to.

Strong leaders and great goaltending seem to be the two things that leads one team over the other. All of the teams that played and won last night had a few players that were willing to put forth that extra effort. With the exception of the Ottawa Pittsburgh game, the other games were battles and the team that was willing to take the intensity to the next level was the one that ended up with the win. I expect more of the same tonight and every night there are games until the Stanley Cup is hoisted.

Getting that 1-0 lead is just a good start. There is still a long, long way to go. However, the teams that won last night, all of which I think will win their series, have something to build on. These four teams need 3 wins to take the series and even though 3 is not much less than one, if they win the next game, they will have put a little bit of distance between themselves and their opponent. Stay tuned for more impressive playoff hockey.

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