NHL Playoff Report: First Round

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There is only one thing to talk about after the first round of the playoffs and that is the fact that it is one of the most surprising starts to the playoffs ever seen.

Two of the best teams in the season were taken out in the first round of the playoffs which taken apart are not that remarkable but in the same season with the way they both performed makes this unprecedented.

The Calgary Flames were the best team in the west rising to the top of the rankings on the backs of a young group.

It looked like a year that they could really make some noise in the playoffs after bringing in 107 points and 50 wins on the season.

That was an impressive season that had them in the top spot taking on a Colorado team that barely made it into the playoffs.

The Avalanche were a young group that struggled in the middle of the season but came through at the end to squeak through and make it into the final wild card spot.

Overall the Avalanche were a good team but were too young to be a factor in the playoffs against a slightly more experienced Flames team.

After a convincing win in the first game, the Flames were not as solid the rest of the way with the Avs taking four straight wins to eliminate the best team in five games.

The Flames were not the same team they had been throughout the season while Nathan MacKinnon took over the series and led the Avs to the win.

It was a surprising finish to the series but not one that was entirely surprising as the Avalanche were coming in as the hotter team at the end of the season.

Still, it was a bad way to get eliminated only taking one win after totalling 50 in the regular season and ending their hopes.

What was more surprising was on the other side of the bracket where one of the greatest regular season teams in the history of the NHL was completely outclassed.

The Tampa Bay Lightning ran through the regular season and were the clear favourites to take the Stanley Cup after years of getting close.

With 62 wins and 128 points, they had more points and wins than any other team in the history of the league so when they drew Columbus it was considered the first victim on their run to the Cup.

That was far from the case as the Blue Jackets came into the playoffs on a high and used their boring but effective style to shut down the deep attack of the Lightning.

It was never supposed to be this way but the Blue Jackets took four straight wins in the series eliminating the President’s Trophy winners before they even knew what was happening.

It was a shock to not only see that strong of a team eliminated in the first round but to be swept in the first round.hockey-sidebar

Add that to the fact that the best team in the west also took a loss and the playoffs was already off to one of the strangest starts ever.

As the league moves into the second round the two best teams in the league won’t be playing while playoff stalwarts Pittsburgh and Nashville will also watch from home.

It leaves a lot of interesting teams left to fight for the Cup including the two teams that everyone is now looking at the rest of the way.

Columbus just beat the best team in the league and their style is built for playoff hockey even if it is boring.

They play with a defence first mindset and that leads to few exciting games but it was good enough to shut down the best offence in hockey.

There are no other teams that could match the Lightning and their output so who can be better than them now and break through the Blue Jackets style.

The Avalanche are riding high and playing their best hockey right now with a young team that seems to be coming together at the right time.

They came into the playoffs with everyone wondering if they had more than one line and they proved that they did.

If they can continue to gel and players like MacKinnon and Miko Rantanen continue to play to the level they did in the first round they could become a dark horse.

Of course, the path is not easy as the Avs will take on the veteran-laden Sharks while the Blue Jackets take on another experienced and tough team in Boston.

There are plenty of teams with a good shot and without the top two teams this year the run to the Cup is almost entirely open.

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