One word comes to mind when attempting to describe the NHL post-season thus far: unbelievable.
Whether it is historic comebacks, Cinderella runs, or baffling decisions, the quest for hockey's Holy Grail has had no shortage of story lines in the early going. But which is the biggest?
On Friday night, the Philadelphia Flyers went where only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders have gone before, as they rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate the Boston Bruins in a seventh game. It is a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that Philly was forced to dig itself out of a three-goal hole on the road in the deciding game.
In case there was a need to increase the drama, the Flyers were able to accomplish the deed after losing top sniper Jeff Carter, heart and soul grinder Ian Laperriere and starting goaltender Brian Boucher in the process.
While the Flyers/Bruins series had enough twists and turns to satisfy a reader of an Agatha Christie novel, it might not even be the most fascinating tale of hockey's second season.
La Belle Province has seen no shortage of epic tales during the past century; however the story the current Montreal Canadiens team is writing is nothing short of a fairy tale.
The Habs snuck into the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference on the final day of the season thanks to a “loser point” gained in an overtime defeat at the hands of the team's arch rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Few gave Les Glorieux a chance in their opening round encounter with the powerhouse Washington Capitals. A team that finished 33 points ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. A team that featured the most potent offensive punch in the NHL. A team loaded with stars that had captured the first ever Presidents' trophy in franchise history.
The Canadiens were supposed to be a speed bump along the way for the Caps Stanley Cup run, but as with some of the best stories, this one had a surprise ending.
The underdog Habs were able to eliminate Alex Ovechkin and company in seven games and advance to the second round. While that story by itself would be noteworthy, what made it even more special is what the Canadiens did for a sequel.
Montreal was rewarded for their dispatching of the Caps with a second round date with the reigning Stanley Cup champions, a team captained by Canadian Olympic hero Sidney Crosby. Few would have held it against the Habs if they gracefully and quickly bowed out; however instead of lying down, Montreal rolled on. They knocked off the Pens in seven games, holding Crosby to a solitary goal in the process. Netminder Jaroslav Halak established himself as the latest in a line of goaltending heroes in Montreal, and the Canadiens advanced to their first Conference Final since winning the Cup in 1993.
While everyone loves an underdog gone good tale, the story of a contender finally making good on its potential is a page-turner as well.
Since the lockout, the San Jose Sharks have averaged a stunning 109 points per season, a mark only surpassed by the Detroit Red Wings during that span. In addition, the Sharks have captured one Presidents' Trophy and a pair of Pacific Division titles along the way. Despite all their regular season accolades, these Sharks have turned into guppies once the puck dropped on the post-season as they were eliminated in the first or second round every year. All that changed this spring as San Jose finally resembles the predators that adorn the crest on the front of their sweaters.
With a first round defeat of the Colorado Avalanche and a second round dispatching of the Wings, the Sharks appear to have shaken their long-standing reputation as playoff chokers. After a slow start to the playoffs, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau came alive during the Western Conference semifinals to power the team offensively and obliterate the notion that they were not able to perform when the stakes were at their highest.
Not all playoff storylines are necessarily positive. In fact some are down right baffling. One such case may well be the officiating thus far.
While individual fan bases love to claim biases against their favourite teams, these cries can generally be attributed to passionate yet misguided supporters feeling that their clubs are getting jobbed. What cannot be swept aside, however, is the seemingly ridiculous amount of ‘too many men on the ice' penalties that have been handed out in the post-season.
While the NHL on TSN panel have turned it into a running joke, you can bet Boston Bruins' head coach Claude Julien found nothing funny about his team's infraction late in the third period of their Game 7 loss to the Flyers. It was the 33rd time that such a call has been made since the playoffs began. To put that in perspective there were that many called in the past two post-seasons combined (16 in 2008 and 17 in 2009.)
With so many divergent tales being told thus far, it's hard to narrow it down to a solitary topic. That's where you the reader come in. Our question for you in the latest edition of Netcrashing is this: “What is the biggest story in the NHL playoffs so far?”
Let your opinion be known in our ‘Your Calls' feature below.