The NHL Western Conference playoffs began last night. Eight teams are competing to represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals. The first game of the night was between two Central Division rivals, the number five seed Detroit Red Wings and the number four seed Nashville Predators. The second game was between two Pacific Time zone teams, the number one seed Vancouver Canucks and the number eight seed Los Angeles Kings.
Nashville Predators 3 vs. Detroit Red Wings 2
A lot can change over the course of a playoff series, but the Predators took a commanding lead both physically and in the series. For an older team in Detroit, playing catch-up and having a long series is not the Red Wings game plan. Detroit’s only goals were by Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, both on the power play.
Pekka Rinne led the way for the Predators with 35 saves, some of them truly brilliant. The Predators received goals from first time playoff scorers; Gabriel Bourque scored two and the other was scored by Paul Gaustad.
The game ended with blood boiling on both sides. Nashville captain Shea Weber pounded Zetterberg from behind after the final whistle. Weber said it was revenge for a cheap shot Zetterberg planted on him, but Weber could face a suspension. Todd Bertuzzi also hit a Nashville player from behind. Game two is this Friday in Nashville.
Los Angeles Kings 4 vs. Vancouver Canucks 2
The worst seed in the western conference playoffs according to points is the Los Angeles Kings, but they had no trouble with the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday night. As many as six games remain in the series, but Canucks fans may be on the edge of their seats. As we learned from last year’s riots, it’s not a city that deals well with disappointment.
Mike Richards led the way for the Kings. He had the goal that tied the game at one and two assists as the game went on. The game remained close through the third period, and then a lucky bounce gave the Kings the lead and ultimately the victory. A bounce off of Jeff Carter’s skate found Dustin Penner’s skate and then the goal. This broke the 2-2 tie with 3:14 remaining in the game. Dustin Brown added an empty netter and Willie Mitchell also scored.
For Vancouver, Alex Burrows and Alexander Edler scored in the first and second periods respectively. Roberto Luongo made 35 saves, but it was not enough for the Canucks to prevail. It’s not that Vancouver played a bad game, but they are expected to walk through this first round series. The next game is Friday night.