So…is the Presidents’ Trophy becoming a curse? Well, if you ask the Washington Capitals and last year’s San Jose Sharks, they just might be open to the possibility that it just might be so.
Last year, the Sharks finished the regular season with an NHL-high 117 points, one more than the Boston Bruins…but fell to the Anaheim Ducks who squeezed into the playoffs with 91 points. This year it was the Montreal Canadiens entering into the post season with a mere 88 points…just five more than the Thrashers’ 83…and they then proceeded to knock off the mighty Washington Capitals, who finished with 121 points.
In fact, of the five Presidents’ Trophy winners since the lockout, three have failed to advance to the second round. In 2006 the Edmonton Oilers knocked out the top-seeded Red Wings and rode that waive right into the Stanley Cup Finals. Going back to 2000, it was the St. Louis Blues that ended their fine season on a down note, losing to the San Jose Sharks in seven games.
Bucking the trend of late, however, were the Red Wings of 2008 who skated away with the Stanley Cup after finishing the regular season with a league-high 115 points. They also pulled off that trick in 2002.
Speaking of ’02…that spring the Canadiens performed a similar feat by bumping the top-seeded Boston Bruins in the first round.
Bruins and Flyers - Who wins?
Total Voters: 107
But back to Montreal’s latest stunner…this one was nothing short of amazing as they fell behind Washington 3 games to 1 and have been facing elimination since last Friday night. However since that time, have outscored the Capitals 8-3 over the course of games five through seven despite the fact that they were outshot…now get this…134-65.
The star on the Canadiens’ show was the man between the pipes, Jaroslav Halak who saved all but three of the 134 shots he faced over the last three games, (.978 SV%), including 41 of the 42 shots Washington took on him Wednesday night.
Another 41 shots were blocked in front of him.
Not to be overlooked here is the fact that Montreal’s penalty kill unit faced down the best power play in the NHL this year, holding them to just one, single, solitary goal on 31 power play opportunities. I guess it’s only fitting then that they closed out the deciding game seven while fending off a Caps’ man advantage.
Penguins and Canadiens - Who wins?
Total Voters: 113
With the 8-1 upset by the Habs, and the fact that all three division winners in the Eastern Conference went down in the opening round, this leaves #4 Pittsburgh as the highest remaining team in the east. Thus, they will take on the Canadiens while the #7 Flyers take on the #6 Bruins.
Of course, given that the Flyers have not seen action since disposing of the Devils in five games last week, the question that will be asked by some is “will they be rusty coming into the second round having spent so much time off?” Personally, I think that after playing 87 games with only the Olympic break in February to rest up, Philly probably looked forward to the time off. They should benefit from having been given time for some of the bumps and bruises to heal and it should make for a great matchup with Boston.
The Flyers got great goaltending from Brian Boucher, whose 1.59 GAA was tops in the first round, helping to keep the Flyers GA/G average down to just 1.80 per game. Philadelphia was led by Mike Richards’ 8 overall points as well as Claude Giroux’s 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points. Chris Pronger and Danny Brier each had 5 points.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask had a nifty 2.18 GAA and .927 SV% against Buffalo, even though the Sabres were able to get off an average of 32.3 shots per game. The Bruins offense saw four players tallying five overall points…Mark Recchi, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Miro Satan. Two others…Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick…had four points.
As for the team Montreal will face, Pittsburgh’s offense was on full display as they gave the boot to Ottawa in six games. Sidney Crosby’s 5 goals and 9 assists for 11 overall points led the Penguins’ charge. He was also a +7 in the series. Evgeni Malkin scored 4 goals, 4 assists and was a +2. Sergei Gonchar had 6 assists and was a +7.
As for predictions…well, I’m already on record as going with Detroit and Chicago out west. As for the east, well I’m gonna pick the Bruins in seven fun-packed, thrilling games. I’d like to jump on the Habs band wagon, but I think Pittsburgh will be playing just a little better team hockey than did the Caps in these past three games. Montreal makes it interesting though…but fall in six games to the Pens.
And as I said in the previous blog, take these picks to your local, friendly bookie at your own risk as I went 4-4 with my first-round picks. Meanwhile, “lola” accurately predicted 7 out of 8 based solely on whether or not she liked the team’s jersey or not.
But if I am correct, that would leave the Blackhawks and Red Wings battling it out for the Western Conference Finals and Boston dealing with Pittsburgh in the ECCS.
Either way, the Capitals are simply left to admire their President’s Trophy.