The Stanley Cup playoff tournament is only five days done and there have already been some noteworthy surprises.
Surprise Number One: The Penguins have played a loose defensive brand of hockey that has them tied 1-1 with the Columbus Blue Jackets after two games in Pittsburgh, but no one is pointing the finger at goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, which is not just a surprise, but a pleasant surprise. Fleury has allowed seven goals through two games, but the blame has been placed on the team defence in front of him, rightfully so.
Surprise Number Two: Nathan MacKinnon was drafted first overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft less than a year ago. The kid from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia — the same hometown as Sidney Crosby — is only 18-years-old, but he’s dominating the Stanley Cup playoffs after two games. MacKinnon has recorded 1 goal and 6 assists in two home games to give the Colorado Avalanche a 2-0 series lead over the Minnesota Wild. He is tied with teammate Paul Stastny for the playoff point lead with 7.
Surprise Number Three: The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are two of the best clubs in the NHL, and strong team defence is one of the biggest reasons why. The Kings allowed the least amount of goals through the 82-game regular season, a minuscule 174. The Sharks were fifth best in goals against, allowing 200 on the nose this past season.
One year ago, the Sharks and Kings collided in the second-round of the postseason in a low-scoring, tight-checking battle that went seven games. The Sharks scored ten times through seven games against the Kings one year ago. After two games of the first-round matchup from hell, the Sharks have already tallied thirteen.
Surprise Number Four: The vintage four-game-sweep has become a rare occurrence in the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in recent years, however, there could be several in 2014.
In the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs there was one first-round sweep: the San Jose Sharks quickly disposed of the Vancouver Canucks.
In the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs there were zero sweeps in the first-round — every team in every series won at least once.
And in 2011, only one sweep occurred in Round 1: the Red Wings over the at-the-time ownerless Coyotes.
Yet, the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs features five series’ that could be sweep-bound.
In the Western Conference, all four teams with home ice advantage — the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues — have cashed in on home ice advantage to lead their respective series’ 2-0 in games. And over in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens have a 3-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and an opportunity to finish the Bolts off at the Bell Centre in Montreal tomorrow night.
Surprise Number Five: The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs has been goals galore through five days of action. Typically, the postseason is known for tight defence and low-scoring chess matches, but not this year.
Seventeen first-round games have been played, and in those games, the winning team has scored 4 or more goals fourteen times. There has been a total of 109 goals scored in fourteen contests, which equates to 7.8 goals per game. To put that number in perspective, by the end of the 2013 first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the goals per game was 5.25.