The first night of the 2012 NHL playoffs kicked off last evening; with Philly coming back from a 3-0 deficit to beat Pittsburgh, Nashville beat Detroit, and the LA Kings pulled off a stunning upset of the heavily favoured Vancouver Canucks. The story of the night was the refereeing. Only 4 penalties were called in the "bloodbath" in Pittsburgh, as the referees seemed determined to let them play and put the whistles away. Meanwhile 17 penalties were called in Nashville, with the Predators and Red Wings being two of the least penalized NHL teams during the regular season. 13 penalties were called in the game between LA and Van, though the referee in that game could have easily called 5-10 diving penalties on the Canucks.
Nashville beats Detroit 3-2
Darren Helm made a speedy return to the line-up, which was terrific news for the Wings, though he was rushed to hospital with a new injury part way through the game, so his playoffs are over. Nashville did not dominate this game, but they got good goaltending, good defense, timely scoring, and pulled out a victory. Pekka Rinne made some spectacular saves that proved to be the difference. Next games the refs need to put their whistles away, because of the 17 penalties, maybe 7 were penalty worthy infractions. Gabriel Bourque scored 2 goals, which is unlikely to happen again. Most of the Preds production came from the 3rd and 4th lines, and the Wings had plenty of opportunities and every chance to win. It was a solid effort on Detroit's part, but not enough to get the win.
Philadelphia beats Pittsburgh 4-3
When the Penguins went up 3-0 after the first period, not only did this game look to be over, it was on its way to becoming a massacre. Then the Flyers calmed down, Bryzgalov started stopping hockey pucks, and came back to tie the game and send it to overtime. Two of the biggest contributors were players that they got in return for Carter and Richards, with Brayden Schenn scoring 3 PTS and Jakub Voracek scoring the winning goal in overtime. One of my friends who is a Penguins fans was threatening the "chirping" fans of other teams with acts of physical violence, if you'd like a sample of how hardcore Pens fans reacted to the loss. This was a great game and promises to be a great series. The Penguins should have won game 1 and retain an advantage, but this was a series with a high upset probability before any pucks dropped. At least that's what TSN's "upset meter" said.
Los Angeles beats Vancouver 4-2
In years gone by I have cheered for the Canucks in the playoffs, but this season the circumstances of my hockey pool are such that I would benefit from a Vancouver loss. Plus after the riots last season, I'd like to see Vancouver knocked out early so that we don't have to endure several months of avoiding downtown like the plague. The Kings were outplayed for most of the game, but they kept it close and scored when it mattered. Luongo played a solid game, but after giving up 3 goals, let the great Schneider debate of 2012 continue. Carter and Richards had big nights for LA, which had to be followed up with big nights on Granville street. Vancouver still has the advantage in the series, but the probability of an upset just rose by 10-15%.