Many teams have looked good in the NHL playoffs so far, but here are the three that I think have been the most impressive based on our expectations of them.
New York Rangers
Back-to-back 5-1 wins on the road? The Rangers may be the more experienced team in this series against New Jersey, but the way they’ve gone about their business so far has still been extremely impressive. Adam Fox is leading the way with six assists, while newcomer Patrick Kane had arguably his best game as a Ranger in Game 2 and picked up three points. Chris Kreider has also been a factor through two games, scoring four powerplay goals.
If the Devils cannot stay more disciplined and figure out the Rangers’ dynamic man advantage, this series may not go back to New Jersey. With the forwards clicking the way they are right now and the defensive core totally stalling New Jersey’s talented forwards, New York is looking like a serious early contender.
The NHL’s newest franchise is holding their own against the defending Cup Champs and is heading back to Seattle with the series tied at 1. They may not have the list of superstars that Colorado does, but the Kraken are a deep team with a chip on their shoulder. After winning the first game, Seattle got out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 2. Although they weren’t able to hold on for the win, it showed Colorado and the world that they cannot be taken lightly.
Now, they’ll head back to the Pacific Northwest to play in what should be a fantastic playoff atmosphere. The fans in Seattle have been very impressive so far, so one can only imagine that they’ll be bringing it for the playoffs. I still think that the Avalanche will come away with a win in this series, but if Seattle takes Game 3, there will be some very nervous Avs fans watching Game 4 in Denver on Monday night.
Finally, the Florida Panthers. For a team that barely made it into the NHL playoffs, they sure look ready for the big stage now. In two games against the historically good Boston Bruins, the Panthers have scored more goals and let in less than their opponents. With the series going back to Florida and Patrice Bergeron still out for Boston, the Panthers have a very real opportunity to at least take this series back to Boston still tied.
Again, like the Kraken, I don’t expect Florida to pull off the upset here. They are playing well, but the Bruins haven’t quite found their game either. It’s hard to know if Florida’s impressive play is more of a factor than Boston’s bad play, but the fact remains that this series is knotted up. No one really gave the Panthers much of a chance, but following a 6-3 win in game 2, heads are just starting to turn a little bit.
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