Just like life, the postseason always brings unpredictability. I mean, we all try to pick the winners from the losers, but rare is the occasion where all the pieces fall into place. And if it was all that predictable it wouldn't be all that much fun, would it? This entire season has presented some off the wall ideas that no one thought possible or conceivable. Take for example Philadelphia's goaltending situation, the long running joke since the days of Ronny Hextall...
Boucher, Cechmanek, Esche, Burke, Hackett, Niittymaki, Biron, with a trifecta of Emery, to Leighton, back to Boucher, only now to come back to Leighton. Not to mention a couple of dashes of the Beezer, Dom Roussell, and Garth Snow thrown in the pot as well. Philly was predicted to do it all this year before the season started by the experts, and that was with Emery between the pipes on a one-year "tryout" back from the KHL. Emery went down with a muscle injury in the abdomen that had to be surgically repaired, only to learn about an avascular necrosis condition in his hips that's literally put his career in jeopardy. Leighton was picked up on a waivers to backup Boucher, who was Emery's backup at the time. About two weeks later, Boucher was shelfed with a hand injury that put Leighton in the #1 spot. Leighton played admirably in that stretch, starting in the Winter Classic, and more importantly keeping the Flyers in the hunt. Towards the end of the season, Leighton went down with a high ankle sprain, and Boucher returned to the nets in a critcal time to assure a postseason berth, earning a shootout win in the last game of the season. Boucher was a crucial factor in smacking the #2 seed Devils out of the first round in five games, and was playing well in the second round series against Boston until he suffered this shitty injury to his knees. Leighton took over early in the second of that game, preserving the shutout win and keeping the Flyers in it. It'll be quite the story for the Flyers if they were to win four straight and move on to the Conference Finals despite all the goaltending injuries, coaching changes and dysfunctional locker room.
The race for those final playoff spots in the East came down to the wire with Boston, Philly, and Montreal taking the last three seats, and all three pulling off first round upsets to advance. The Boston/Buffalo matchup was evenly matched and could have gone either way, but it was the Montreal Canadiens over the powerhouse Washington Capitals that really shocked the hockey-watching world. The Habs took it to the Caps and defeated them in seven games with a dogged effort, and speedy couterpunching that is also working in the second round matchup against the defending Cup champs. Grinding it out with a never-say-die attitude, not to mention an incredible effort from Jaroslav Halak in net has been the reason for the Montreal success as they force the Pens into a Game 7 on Wednesday night. For a team that wasn't a sure bet to make it to the dance at season's end, becoming the team that knocks off the #1 seed Capitals, and defending Champs to advance to the Conference Finals would be more than quite an achievement.
The San Jose Sharks are advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history. Did anyone believe that statement to be true at any point during the regular season and even the first round? It took six, very close games to defeat the young Avalanche who returned to the playoffs after an abyssmal season last year, and only five to defeat the defending Conference Champs and perennial contending Red Wings. Exercising the demons that have previously plagued this lineup of playoff failure, they'll still need to win eight more to really prove the doubters wrong, but the fact that they've gotten over the big red hump that is Detroit has to say something.
Vancouver has put their best team together since the early '90s and it still may not be enough considering the Canadian pressure to win and the inconsistencies from game to game. In Game 1 they jumped out and shocked the Hawks at the United Center, taking the wind out of their sails. In Game 2, they employed the same tactic, getting two quick ones before giving another back by taking their foot off the gas, and allowing the Hawks to get three unanswered goals in the third. In Games 3 and 4, they allowed the Blackhawks to get to them, and completely lost their composure and any type of hold in the series going down 3 games to 1. But a collected team showed up on Mother's Day, with Luongo finally looking comfortable making saves, and yeoman effort from the rest of the Canucks. And now the series shifts back to Vancouver, where the away team has been more successful than the home team. The question is, which team will show up? The Blackhawks have been the same team every night, Toews and Kane provide the offense, Byfuglien plants his ass in the crease, Keith and Seabrook fire at will, and the rest of the agitators do what they do. The Canucks have ranged from skilled contender to whining bitches, and they've put themselves in a win-or-die position. Maybe that's the situation they do best in, coming from behind.