In a week dominated by the NHL playoffs, we'll take this week's edition of TWIS to focus on what's going on around the NHL.
It's been the biggest surprise of the entire first round of the NHL playoffs: the two teams everyone expected to be meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Vancouver Canucks, are both down 3-0 in their respective series. The Pens have been man-handled by the Philadelphia Flyers, virtually a shell of the team they were coming into the playoffs. The Flyers have pumped 20 goals past the Pens' netminders, 17 of them going past a befuddled Marc-Andre Fleury, who many consider one of the league's top 3 netminders and a lock for Canada's 2014 Olympic team. The Canucks, meanwhile, are desperately missing leading scorer Daniel Sedin, and can't seem to find a way to beat Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick. Barring a miracle for both squads, it looks like these two once-contenders will be heading into an earlier offseason than anyone expected.
Hockey or Back-Alley Brawls?
Another unexpected aspect of these playoffs have been the amount of all-out brawls in virtually every series. Every hit, scrum, or shove seems to escalate into complete chaos as teams try to gain a psychological edge over their opposition. We've seen Matt Carkner of the Ottawa Senators sucker punch Brian Boyle of the New York Rangers in the face, resulting in a one game suspension. We've seen Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin take out Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson with an elbow to the head, resulting in a three game ban. We've seen full out melees in almost every series, most notably the one at the end of Game 2 between the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks, and perhaps the craziest of them all in Game 3 of the Pens-Flyers series that featured a bout between superstars Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux. The NHL has been unable to tame the violence, and doesn't seem too concerned about it either; perhaps the league feels the violence brings up the excitement factor of a game, but if someone gets seriously injured, this ordeal will turn into a very serious issue for the league and it's image
Despite the craziness of this first round, there has still been some exciting, "normal" hockey going on. The Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers evened their series against the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, respectively, with exciting and hard-fought Game 2 victories. The Nashville Predators took Game 3 of their series against the Detroit Red Wings, showing that Detroit can in fact be beaten on home ice. Phoenix and Chicago is tied at one, and its clear Jonathan Toews has been a huge boost to the Hawks lineup. He may be the X-factor Chicago needs to get past the feisty Coyotes.
All in all, the one thing that hasn't been lacking from the playoffs is excitement and entertainment, and if history is any indication, this is nothing but a teaser for what's about to come for hockey fans around the world.