The first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs hasn’t even ended, but the race in the Eastern Conference has already been turned upside down.
The New York Rangers, the Stanley Cup favorite in the preseason, are fighting for survival. The second-seeded Montreal Canadiens are on the ropes, and the current East favorite according to the NHL oddsmakers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are in a dogfight with the inexperienced, eighth-seeded New York Islanders. So much for everything going according to plan.
Let’s take a mid-round look at the East and assess who’s looked good and who’s looked shaky:
Who’s Looked Good: The Ottawa Senators
Battered, bruised and beaten up, the Senators were supposed to be a playoff weakling. After all, they are still without star forward Jason Spezza and have been using a makeshift roster almost the entire season while battling injuries.
However, the Sens continue to be a scrappy bunch. There’s no “soft”’ in this team (see Game 3), and there’s no quit (see Game 4). Maybe they’ve been underestimated just a tad.
Who’s Hasn’t Looked Good: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins might have one of the most talented rosters ever assembled, but they appear to have one significant weak link: goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Although he’s led the team to the Cup before and has performed like an All-Star many times throughout his career, he is far from that form right now.
Fleury has been benched for Game 5, and that’s because he’s allowed 14 goals in the last three games. The Pens might be talented, but they won’t go far without a reliable man between the pipes. Tomas Vokoun, you’re up.
Who’s Played As Expected: James Reimer
James Reimer was perceived to be the weakest of the eight starting playoff goaltenders in the East, and he hasn’t disappointed. While the Toronto Maple Leafs have been feisty, Reimer’s performance has hampered the team. He’s given up 12 goals in the team’s three losses, and that simply isn’t good enough. The Leafs will likely have to find an upgrade in net during the offseason.
Who’s Flying Under the Radar: Boston Bruins
Not many people want to give credit, but the Bruins have taken care of business in their first-round series with Toronto. The series isn’t over yet, but the Bruins have played relatively well — at least better than how they ended the season — and they seem to be gaining confidence by the day.
The Bruins’ offense was their downfall in April, when they averaged just 2.43 goals per game, but they’ve scored 14 goals in four games against Toronto while flashing their depth up front.
It might be looking too far ahead, but with the Pens struggling, the Canadiens on the ropes, and the Rangers and Capitals duking it out, the Bruins could find themselves in great shape after Round 1.
This post is presented by Bovada.