The first round of the playoffs was one of the most entertaining in years, complete with big upsets, and these four teams should be most disappointed about going home early.
I didn’t have the Calgary Flames advancing past the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1…but a sweep? Ouch. I figured the Flames would give the Ducks a serious run. Calgary had strong possession numbers in the regular season and a mobile defense corps to keep pace with Anaheim’s. The Flames had two legitimately dangerous scoring lines. They had a potential series X-factor in Matthew Tkachuk. But their backs got broken in Game 3. Their bizarre struggles in Anaheim are well documented, and that put extra pressure on the Flames to play perfect hockey at home, especially when they fell behind 2-0 in the series. But a 4-1 lead in Game 3 evaporated and the Ducks stormed back to win in overtime. Goalie Brian Elliott had a horrible night, then wound up pulled in Calgary’s Game 4 defeat. Goaltending turned out to be the main difference in this series. That and Calgary had no answer for Ryan Getzlaf, who has been playing some of the best hockey of his career over the past few months. The Flames got schooled by the veteran team in the end. (Matt Larkin)
If you’re a Canadiens fan looking back at the team’s six-game loss to the New York Rangers, how many skaters are you happy with? Maybe two, three tops? Alexander Radulov showed up, that’s for sure. Artturi Lehkonen was a solid contributor up front and Shea Weber played a ton on the back end. But once again, the guns fell silent and Carey Price is going home early because the team in front of him couldn’t score enough.
Perhaps it’s particularly disappointing because the Habs had such a clear line for a long run this season. Even if you don’t think they were particularly talented, they drew a Rangers team that came into the playoffs cold (having lost seven of their final 10 games) and would have drawn a flawed, but game Ottawa squad in the second round. In the end, Price wasn’t even the best netminder in the series – Henrik Lundqvist was. So what does that say for the future? (Ryan Kennedy)
Things were supposed to be different for the Minnesota Wild this time around. Bruce Boudreau had coached the team to its best season in franchise history, Devan Dubnyk was providing stellar goaltending (even if it came with some struggles down the stretch) and there hasn’t been another Wild squad that has scored with as much consistency or with as balanced an attack as this season’s group. Yet, five games into the post-season, Minnesota was heading home.
The loss was shocking because it’s not as if the Wild played poorly and, even trailing 3-0 in the series, it felt as if they could claw back. Minnesota dominated nearly every game against the Blues only to be stymied by St. Louis netminder Jake Allen. The Wild averaged 3.21 goals per game during the regular season and scored at literally half that rate in the playoffs despite generating 36.4 shots per game. Allen turned aside everything and the Wild couldn’t find an answer.
But the biggest disappointment comes from the fact the West is as wide open as it has been in recent memory — possibly even more so given the Blackhawks suffered a shocking sweep at the hands of the Predators — and the Wild were ousted in five games, leaving Minnesota without the chance to take advantage. Who knows if things are going to go as well offensively, or if Dubnyk can find that first half form again, next season. This may have been the best chance Minnesota has ever had, and, unfortunately, they’re hitting the links instead. (Jared Clinton)
It wasn’t so much that the Chicago Blackhawks lost to the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. There were some people, and a stick tap to the analytics community on this one, who actually saw this one coming. It was more how the Blackhawks lost. They scored three goals. They looked listless and miserable and old. And what was most shocking, at least to these ears, was Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville saying that he couldn’t, “find the all-out button.” Now that’s shocking and disappointing. I’ve always maintained that there’s not a better bench coach in the NHL than Joel Quenneville, not a coach in the league who has a better feel for who’s going and who’s not and adjusting his lineup accordingly. Quenneville tried everything he could against Nashville and they all failed miserably. What would even be more shocking would be if this loss was an indication that the Blackhawks championship window is closing even more quickly than any of us thought possible. There are people who think that. I’m not one of them, but it’s certainly fathomable. Late in the regular season, I went to Ottawa to write about the visiting Hawks, specifically about Patrick Kane being the best clutch player of his generation. When I left, I told Duncan Keith I’d see him in June. At that point, the Hawks looked like and the feel of a team that was primed for a long playoff run. And without going all Captain Obvious here, boy, were we wrong. (Ken Campbell)