Eighth seed Nashville sweeps highly favored Chicago in four games to close the first of eight series played in round one of the National Hockey League postseason.
The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially in the record books and we’re one step closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup being raised. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Predators in round two and the Ducks will face Connor McDavid and the Oilers in the Western Conference. In the east, the Rangers will move on to face the Senators after defeating Montreal in six games and the Washington Capitals will tilt with bitter rival Pittsburgh.
The 2017 NHL playoffs had some surprises and disappointments from round one and are sure to have more as we get closer to the finals. But regardless of how the Playoffs end, the result won’t be nearly as surprising as the result from the Predators – Blackhawks series.
As the biggest surprise from the Western Conference, Chicago looked poised to have another deep postseason run. After losing in the second round to the hated St. Louis Blues in game seven, many favored the ‘Hawks to make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Little did everyone know then, the eighth seed Nashville club on the other side would show they were going to be anything but an ‘easy matchup.’
Thanks to an impressive performance between the pipes of Pekka Rinne and the terrific goalscoring from forwards Ryan Johansen, Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons, and Filip Forsberg, the Predators were able to overwhelm a Blackhawks team that didn’t seem to know how to respond to what Nashville was doing to them.
The Preds swept the Hawks, outscoring them a combined 13-3 in four games, the biggest surprise thus far from the Western Conference and the NHL tournament.
The conference in the east had its own surprises from round one, though not as huge as the news from the west. To see five Canadian teams take part in this year’s tournament is worth appreciating after the entire country failed to make an appearance last year. The pleasant surprise to take away from this is that the Toronto Maple Leafs were one of five clubs to make the tournament.
The Leafs were one of the worst teams in hockey for the past few years, but with the much too-early emergence from the 16-17 first overall pick Auston Matthews and the improved goaltending from newly signed goaltender John Gibson, Toronto was able to drastically improve from their 29-42-11 record from a year ago to finish this season this 40 wins and a trip to the postseason.
Toronto didn’t win their series against the defending champs, losing to Pittsburgh in 5 games, but their postseason stumble was hardly a disappointment. The Leafs have plenty to build on for next year and it’ll be interesting to see how they improve in the offseason.
Sixteen has become eight as we are another round closer to seeing one lucky captain raise Lord Stanley’s Cup in all its glory. Round two of the NHL postseason begins April 26 with game one between the Predators and the St. Louis Blues starting at 8 p.m. and shortly after, the Edmonton Oilers take on the Anaheim Ducks at 10:30 p.m. Both games will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network.