#1 New York Rangers vs. #7 Washington Capitals

It was a major surprise that the Caps were able to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round, especially with a 22-year-old rookie goaltender between the pipes. Braden Holtby spent most of the 2011-12 season with the Capital’s AHL affiliate Hershey Bears but he came up big in his first NHL playoff series. Even though he played in only 21 NHL games prior to the first round, Holtby had a 2.00 goals against average and .940 save percentage in seven games against the Bruins.

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings

This looks to be a battle of great goaltenders regardless of who’s in net for St. Louis. Brian Elliott, Jonathan Quick and Jaroslav Halak rank two through fourth in best goals against average. Quick ranks second and Elliott isn’t far behind him in fourth.

Obviously whichever team will be able to crack the other team’s goalie will be the one to win this series. Neither team put up huge offensive numbers in the first round. The Kings scored 12 goals in 5 games and the Blues had 14 in their 5 first round games. Dustin Brown was the Kings biggest offensive threat in the first round with 5 points in 5 games. For the Blues it was Andy McDonald who had 4 goals and 4 assists in 5 games in the first round against San Jose. 

Even though there are five playoff games scheduled today, the biggest NHL news of the day is Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres’ 25-game suspension for his hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. Brendan Shanahan finally stepped up and sent a message to players that this behavior in the postseason will not be tolerated. You can see his full explanation in the video below.

For anyone who’s missed it last night, there’s another suspension in the NHL playoffs. The NHL announced today on its website that Phoenix forward Raffi Torres is suspended indefinitely for his shoulder check to the head of Chicago forward Marian Hossa. Torres will have an in-person hearing on Friday with the league’s Department of Player Safety. In case you haven’t already seen it here you go:

Brendan Shanahan certainly has been busy this postseason. So far there’s been one fine, four suspensions, and three hearings today alone through 22 playoff games. As usual, some of the suspensions have been a little surprising.

Today it was announced that Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended for three games for his charge on Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

I think the suspension is a little harsh and expected Shaw to get two games for it but it is comparable to the elbow delivered by New York Ranger forward Carl Hagelin to Daniel Alfredson’s head in Game 2 of their series. Hagelin was also given a three game suspension.

As I said, I’m fine with these suspensions but I do think it was a little on the harsh side. The suspension I have a major issue with is the one game suspension of Ottawa Senators forward Matt Carkner.

Last night I started to write a post about yesterday’s Penguins-Flyers game but struggled to get my many thoughts into an articulate piece. Instead it was just a bunch of rambling so I decided to sleep on it and come back to it today with a (hopefully) fresh perspective.

First, I’m disappointed in this series so far. The Penguins-Flyers series was expected to be great because it involves two highly-skilled teams that have a deep rivalry. Instead I’m left talking about superstars fighting instead of scoring. I’m for fighting in hockey but outsiders to the sport think its reckless and a gimmick. When fighting becomes the storyline in the playoffs the league suffers and its reputation is diminished. It should also be noted that Penguins forwards James Neal and Arron Asham have hearings tomorrow with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Next, the goaltending needs to step up. Ilya Bryzgalov is the highest paid goaltender in the league and Marc-Andre Fleury is 9th according to CapGeek.com but they have allowed a combined 29 goals through three games. To put that into perspective, the Los Angeles-Vancouver series and the Detroit-Nashville series (which have both completed three games each) have scored a combined 26 goals. Fleury has certainly fared worse with a .768 save percentage and a 6.34 goals against average so far in this postseason. He ranks last in both categories out of the 17 goaltenders that have started a game in the playoffs. Bryzgalov’s .868 save percentage and 3.96 goals against average rank second to last out of all goaltenders in the playoffs. Both have let in soft goals at bad times for their teams this series. Below are examples of both from yesterday’s game.

Welcome to my blog! With the NHL playoffs underway, expect frequent entries the next few weeks.

I will mostly be blogging about the NHL and hockey but will cover some other sports as well.