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2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: What We’ve Learned

Apr 22, 2012, 11:35 PM EDT

girouxpumpedupgetty Getty Images

Considering the endless stream of zany happenings, it’s hard to believe the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs only began on April 11. In that time we’ve seen upsets, the rise of easily dismissed goalies and a whole lot of controversy.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned.

The mighty have fallen

The Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks are already out of the playoffs. The Boston Bruins face a Game 7, the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves one loss away from an early vacation and the New York Rangers might fall to the biggest playoff surprise of them all in the Ottawa Senators.

There’s a legitimate possibility that the Florida Panthers could be the East’s top seed by the second round. (Yes, seriously.)

A summer of upsets/defense reigns

As I’ve mentioned before, the uncomfortable thing about rooting for most NHL “underdogs” is that you’re often also cheering for tight checking and stifling hockey — at least in some form. It’s easy to root for Nashville over Detroit and Phoenix against Chicago for the “David vs. Goliath” angle, but in those cases, David is slinging Ambien instead of rocks at his foe.

Everyone looks silly

Obstruction worries aside, it’s fascinating to watch all the “bracket busting” in 2012 after the 2011 postseason essentially followed the script. Almost every night, hockey writers and fans watch well-reasoned predictions shrivel up in dramatic fashion.

That said, it’s all good fun if…you don’t take yourself too seriously.

source: Getty ImagesReputation alone won’t stop pucks

Some of the biggest goaltending storylines from the last 11 days:

The Wheel of Justice turns

Aside from some wacky Phoenix Coyotes fans, most people probably believed Raffi Torres deserved a lengthy suspension for his hit on Marian Hossa. That said, you can’t blame players for not knowing what exactly is legal or not. Here’s a quick list of some of the most interesting suspension, fines and non-decisions:

That’s a dizzying array of decisions that has many players asking the question: “What, exactly, is illegal in the 2012 playoffs?”

Claude Giroux crowned?

There are plenty of solid candidates for the “breakout star” of the postseason, but Philadelphia Flyers wunderkind Claude Giroux took the most prominent step forward. He scored 14 points in a six-game series and was demonstratively better than Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Couple of resume-stuffers, those.

Lots of overtime

There’s been plenty of “free hockey” in the 2012 playoffs — 13 overtime contests in 42 games. That’s about 30 percent of the playoff games going to sudden death and more than one per night on average. In other words, if you committed to watching postseason contests during any given evening, you had a great chance of witnessing a game that would be tough on Joel Quenneville’s ticker.

No obvious favorite

Just about everyone’s rubber stamp choice for the Stanley Cup is either a) already out of the playoffs or b) fighting for their playoff lives. It all comes back to this, then: have we learned anything about who the real favorite is now?

  1. barkar942 - Apr 22, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    This is why they play the games!
    Entertaining they have all been, to say the least!

    • barkar942 - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:03 AM

      And, it is good for the NHL to get some fresh blood deeper into the playoffs. Teams like Nashville, St. Louis, LA and hopefully Florida go on. Nothing personal, but just like watching Jimmy Johnson win numerous successive titles, it is just as boring to see the same teams always in the finals here. (see Red Wings, Penguins as prime examples).

      • paperkid96 - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:32 AM

        I’m not sure I totally agree with it being good for the NHL. They are trying to grow revenue and having small market teams in the Finals will probably pull small TV ratings. While LA is a big market I don’t believe they watch a lot of hockey. Boston still has a chance, but right now the only major market is Philly.

        However; for the parity in the game, the NHL has succeeded in allowing every market to be on a level playing field.

      • Betsy Schmitt - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:51 PM

        Excuse me paperkid96, but last time I checked Chicago was a pretty major market, slightly bigger than, say, Philly.

  2. howardforvezina - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    The Red Wings had peaked early and the same will all the “mighty” teams. It is NHL all players are pros and any team can beat any team ex.s Islanders beating Penguins and Blue Jackets beating Red Wings. Do not be suprised.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:37 AM

      Some teams just want to get into the playoffs. Whether you’re 1st or 8th, playoffs are a different animal. When I brag about how well my favorite teams are doing during the regular season (both of whom didn’t make the playoffs, natch), I just have to remind myself, “Lostpuppysyndrome, who cares how great your teams are now? If they don’t get into the playoffs, it doesn’t matter.” To which I reply, “Touche, brain.”

      • jaybertx - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:41 AM

        But what’s the point of making the playoffs if you end up going “one and done” like LA or Ottawa… errrrrrrrrrrr…

  3. stakex - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    I think what we’ve learned the most is that the pundits and analyst made a huge mistake picking the 4th place team in the east to win the Cup. Its not even really a suprise the Pens lost to the Flyers, and that would have been clear had everyone not ignored how awful their defense and goaltending were over the last 20ish games of the season. I think the Panthers being the top seed after the 1st round would certainly be a bigger shock should that happen.

    • jimw81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:59 AM

      Pens got caught playing run and gun hockey just like capitals last year and it came back to bite them. Everyone under value the talent level of the flyers going into the series.

      • stakex - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:40 AM

        Very true, but I’m not sure it was the Flyers being under valued….. I think the Pens were over valued. They might have scored up a storm over the last quarter of the season, but they also gave up a ton of goals. Everyone always says “defense wins championships”… yet the Pens had one of the weakest defenses going into the playoffs, so why the hell would anyone think they were going to dominate anyone?

  4. jimw81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    dont buy into the regular season. The real season starts a month before the playoffs.

  5. steelymcbeam6 - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:51 AM

    Go bruins!

  6. buffalomafia - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:38 AM

    That’s why hockey playoffs are the best!

    Go Philly!

  7. mclovinhockey - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:30 AM

    Philly has a good shot of being the only team to win a cup left in round 2… Usually I would be happy but these teams are great and so underrated. The Blues will prob take the cup.

    • miketoasty - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:25 AM

      That’s actually a rather stupid statement. Any team that makes it to the second round has something going for them. With either a hot goalie, or just an entire team playing as a whole there is a reason they are there and they can just as easily upset any team they play as they did in the first round.

  8. daniel10017 - Apr 23, 2012 at 6:13 AM

    The Rangers will continue to go nowhere until they fire GM Glen Sather. 12 Years, 12 YEARS! and us Ranger fans are not even close to a sniff of the Stanley Cup. This years squad is WEAK.

    • ravenscaps48 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:02 AM

      36 Years for Us…. So… Yeah. Stop sounding SPOILED!

    • jkay1818 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      sorry, but the Rangers are one of the youngest teams in hockey and have some really good prospects in the minors. Dolan made sather spend when he first got on board and then he decided to do it his way and it’s been working. The gaborik signing was via a trade, he dumped gomez’ contract and was able to get mcdoangh in that deal. Got girardi undrafted, drafted staal, del zotto, callahan, dubinsky, hagelin, kreider, lundqvist in round 7, the prust trade was robbery, anismov was a good draft pick. Have krieder, thomas, jt miller etc waiting in the wings. Cant blame sather. Forgot stepan too.

      • daniel10017 - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

        You forgot to mention Brad Richards in which the Rangers went back to their old ways to acquire a player: Spending $$$ and where has he been in the playoffs? 1 Goal and a minus 2 on the rating along with his 25 goals (out of 82 games that he played) Yep a BUST!

  9. tommytd - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    Panthers vs. Yotes in the finals? Good luck making $ on that series NBC. Let me know how that works out for ya! Considering how the NHL runs their house, they’re probably getting what they deserve.

  10. bostonhasrealhockey - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    Greatest league in the world

    • ravenscaps48 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:03 AM

      Ageed 1,000%

  11. daveydawg - Apr 23, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Way too many marginal penalty calls this year though… Let them play.

  12. bigbadbruins1968 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Braden Holtby has played a great series. Not looking forward to a one game, winner takes all meeting on Wednesday night. Regardless of the outcome, my hat is off to Braden for some great goaltending.

  13. jkay1818 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Not by much, but lundqvist has a better save % and GAA than Anderson this series. Can’t blame Lundqvist for not scoring goals on O. The issues the rangers had all season are rearing it’s head again. Atrocious PP and lack of scoring.
    Also if you like at the quality of shots faced in the series, the senators have been putting better shots on goal. Odd man rushes, one timers etc. Rangers had 41 shots on goal in game 5 and aside from the dubinsky save, a pee wee goalie can turn them aside. Weak shots with no screens.

  14. dougr42 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Why did it take the Flyers knocking out the Penguins for Giroux to start getting praise? The kid was amazing all season.

    • 700levelvet - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      Giroux’s absolute clean destruction of Crosby and scoring a goal on the same shift is what the NHL playoffs are all about…..Granted I’m a Flyers fan, and i freakin loved it, but the NHL playoffs’s are the best….No matter who moves on, i will watch…….Even if it’s the damn Rangers….

    • comeonnowguys - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      Here’s the illusion of being heralded as underrated all season… the player in question winds up not being underrated for most of the season, because everybody’s talking about him!

      Possible persecution complex, perhaps?

      • dougr42 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:03 AM

        he wasn’t underrated, he just wasn’t talked about period. everyone was too busy talking about Malkin, Neal, Stamkos and all the amazing goalies this year.

      • somekat - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:08 AM

        I wouldn’t say he wasn’t talked about. He was talked about plenty early when he was looking like he was going to run away with he scoring race. But after his concussion, and the sluggish period that came with it, he was definitely forgot about later in the year (national wise)

  15. govtminion - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    You think Brian Burke is looking at all these high seeds getting knocked off and maybe is reconsidering his thing about not wanting a playoff spot unless he can go win a championship? If we’ve learned anything, it’s that all you have to do is get into the playoffs, and anything can happen.

    …nah, he’s too arrogant to admit to a mistake like that.

  16. billknowsitall - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Giroux’s first shift yesterday was one of hockeys greatest!

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