Second Night Drama
In some ways, its like the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs have simply bled over into the 2012 tournament.
Boston's unbeatable, Vancouver can't win for whining and NHL supplementary discipline leaves almost everyone searching for the logic behind it all.
But not to worry. The '12 second season will, in time, define itself, and four overtime games in the first seven matches played is certainly one way of doing that.
The Bruins, Sharks and Coyotes used extra time to get the jump on their first round opponents on Thursday night, making early playoff heroes out of Chris Kelly, Martin Havlat and Martin Hanzal, respectively. Philadelphia, of course, had roared back to beat Pittsburgh in OT 24 hours earlier.
Thursday was a day chock-full of news, most of it before the games even started:
--Calgary parted ways with head coach Brent Sutter during the day, with Sutter's unsuccessful years in New Jersey now looking like a veritable dynasty compared to the nothing he accomplished in Cowtown.
Remember when Sutter was the hottest coaching candidate not in the NHL? Now, you wonder whether he or Ron Wilson will next get work as an NHL head coach. Meanwhile, nobody has any idea what direction the Flames are headed in.
--A pair of disciplinary decisions by NHL executive Brendan Shanahan left pretty much everyone mystified as to the criteria used to differentiate between incidents.
Shea Weber essentially got a free pass for his mugging of Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, while fringe Canucks winger Byron Bitz got two games for a hit-from-behind on Kyle Clifford of Los Angeles. Bitz also got booted partway through Game 1 to make this essentially a three-game ban, while Weber's ugly assault from behind on Zetterberg came at the expiry of the third period, which means he basically wasn't penalized at all for his actions.
The complaint about NHL justice have always been that it appears like they're making it up as they go along. Not much has changed.
--Detroit's Darren Helm is out for the season because of a serious lacetion received from a skate during Game 1 of the Wings series against Nashville. That's a significant blow for a speedy player who has been a big part of everything Detroit has done in recent seasons.
--Chicago got captain Jonathan Toews back for the first time since Feb. 19 (concussion) for their opener against Phoenix Thursday night, while the Coyotes lost winger Radim Vrbata during the first period with an apparent shoulder injury.
It was that Coyotes-Hawks game that might have been the most entertaining and physical game of the opening seven, with Hanzal deflecting a point shot past Corey Crawford in the Chicago goal to win it. Given that we are clearly edging close to a final decision on whether the Desert Dogs will stay in Arizona, this was an early indication that the Coyotes, unlike last year, won't use the uncertainty that has been swirling around their team as an excuse for losing quickly. It was certainly a night when, watching the passionate "white out" support there for the club in Glendale, you wondered why it is this franchise has struggled so badly.
Mike Smith, the amazing human goalie story, was the difference for Phoenix, which won 3-2 despite blowing a 2-1 lead in the final moments of regulation.
Compared to Wednesday, there were no controversies emanating from the four games played.
The champion Bruins did get their title defence off on the right foot, with Kelly's slapshot the only goal in a 1-0 victory. The B's, as expected, controlled Alex Ovechkin, including a collasal collision between Ovechkin and Boston blueliner Dennis Seidenberg.
St. Louis, meanwhile, beat San Jose four times during the regular season, but this time allowed a late goal on home ice to create overtime, then were burned by Havlat to lose to the Sharks.