(1) Ottawa Senators vs. (8) Tampa Bay Lightning
Senators win best of seven series 4-1
The defending Stanley Cup Champions had something to prove this post-season. They had to prove that they were a legitimate Stanley Cup Contender, even though the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their number one goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin. The Lightning finished eight in the standings, and were playing against a powerhouse of a team, in the Ottawa Senators. The poor playing of the Lightning and the dominance of the Ottawa Senators were evident in Game 1, and Ottawa took that game. Game 2 was a different story. The Lightning battled and fought off, and a stole the game from the Ottawa Senators. After that, the Senators took off and showed why they were one of the best teams in the NHL, winning three straight games, and taking the series. Ray Emery was not a huge factor, but was solid enough in net, for the Senators to win the series.
Player(s) of the Series: C Jason Spezza
(2) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (7) Montreal Canadiens
Hurricanes win best of seven series 4-2
From the get go, the Carolina Hurricanes were not getting any respect from any analyst or anyone outside of North Carolina. Not sure of what to expect from the Hurricanes, a lot of people picked the Montreal Canadiens to win this series, quickly. With the play of Cristobel Huet coming into the post-season and the way Saku Koivu was carrying the team, with his grit and leadership, the Canadiens were the heavy favourites to win, even though they finished in the seventh spot. However, no one thought that Koivu would go down with an eye injury, and Eric Staal and Rod Brind A’Mour would take that team to the next level. The Hurricanes goaltender, Martin Gerber came down with a case of the flu, and in the first two games, Gerber was criticized and eventually benched by Coach Peter Laviolette, and Cam Ward, the rookie goalie, was placed in the net, and did a fine job in Game 2. After that, the Hurricanes down 2-0 in the series came back and won four straight games. The Hurricanes Cam Ward was easily the player of that series, stealing games for Carolina. Montreal didn’t roll over and die, but Carolina outworked and out chanced and obviously, outscored Montreal to advance to the next round.
Player(s) of the Series: G Cam Ward
(3) New Jersey Devils vs. (6) New York Rangers
Devils win best of seven series 4-0
The New Jersey Devils were riding an 11 game winning streak and jumping ahead of the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Atlantic Division Title. The hottest teams in the playoffs came in to play a struggling New York Rangers club. The Devils were just too strong for the Rangers. A run and gun club like the Rangers could not stand the fore-checking and defensive strategy Lou Lamariello placed within the Devils club. Early on in the series, Jaromir Jagr decided to take a shot at Scott Gomez, but Jagr ended up hurting himself. With the “upper-body” injury, Jagr had to sit out for a game, and the Devils took full advantage and took the series. Even though Jagr came back for Game 4, he was not effective. The New Jersey Devils had all the momentum going into the second round. 15 straight wins and counting.
Player(s) of the Series: G Martin Brodeur and LW Patrick Elias
(4) Buffalo Sabres vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Sabres win best of seven series 4-2
Considered the best playoff series in the Eastern Conference so far, this series did not disappoint. In the very first game in overtime, Brian Campbell absolutely decked R.J. Umberger into another city. It took Umberger a while to get up and shake off the wooziness and pain, and he didn’t return after that (Umberger was fine and returned for Game 2). The Buffalo Sabres took that hit and fed off it, with a lot of energy, winning Game 1 in double overtime. In Game 2, things got really rough, with three misconducts, the Flyers took 59 minutes in penalties, and the Sabres took 12 minutes in penalties. The Sabres took full advantage and just blew the game out with an 8-2 victory. The series did end up relaxing more, and the Flyers came back and won two games by showing responsibility and resiliency. Robert Esche proved he wasn’t a second string goalie with this convincing 4-2 win. However the young and inexperience Sabres showed how mature they are and just took the series at Game 5, and walked away with it. Winning 3-0 and then a 7-1 blowout, the Sabres were a team to struggle with in the second round.
Player(s) of the Series: C Derek Roy
(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Edmonton Oilers
Oilers win best of seven series 4-2
The President’s Trophy winners were expected to go the distance into the Stanley Cup Finals with other heavy favourite, the Ottawa Senators. However this wasn’t the case. Although a poor showing by Edmonton Oiler goalie, Dwayne Roloson (who was acquired at the trade deadline), the Red Wings never thought they would run into a very soon hot goalie. Dwayne Roloson would be the key to this match up, as he made numerous gave saving stops, and his puck control was amazing. Giving up a few rebounds, the Detroit Red Wings could solve the physicality of the Oilers, nor keep up with the fore-checking of the Edmonton Oilers. The series went back and forth, but the Oilers proved they wanted the series more, and they took it, with a commanding 3-2 series lead, the Oilers finished it off in Game 6 in convincing fashion. This was the Red Wings series to lose, and they let it slide. Chris Pronger dominated anyone near the crease, especially players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Without them doing what they are supposed to do, the Wings had no chance of winning 2 games in a row, after being down 3 games to 2.
Player(s) of the Series: D Chris Pronger
(2) Dallas Stars vs. (7) Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche win best of seven series 4-1
Regarded as the “dullest” series in the quarterfinals, the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, disproved that theory and showed that the last 4 games were exciting to watch. With three overtime games, and the final 4 games, the Colorado Avalanche pulled off a great upset at the hands of the Dallas Stars. The Stars with Marty Turco were expected to just walk way with this series with a sweep, but the Avalanche did not want to have an early vacation and they didn’t. Marty Turco showed again that he is not playoff ready, and the rest of the field just gave out, except in Game 5, with a 4-1 win. Jason Arnott, Bill Guern, and Mike Modano were not scoring, while rookie Wojtek Wolski had a good two games, and then Sakic, Tanguay and Hejduk took over from there. Jose Theodore got his taste of playoff hockey, and faired well against the Stars potent offence. The Avalanche was just too strong for the weak Stars.
Player(s) of the Series: Joe Sakic
(3) Calgary Flames vs. (6) Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Mighty Ducks win best of seven series 4-3
The Calgary Flames were so deep, and so gritty, that everyone thought they could steam roll the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Mighty Ducks came into this post-season with a second-half turn around, and they played to their highest level. Players like Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonalds, Chris Kunitz, Joffrey Lupul, and rookies, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf excelled in the games they played against Calgary. Coach Randy Caryle placed a system in the Ducks club, and made it stick, and it helped the guys mentioned to play their game, and to feed off each other. However, the Flames did have the possible Vezina Trophy winner in, Mikka Kiprusoff, and the playoff force of Jarome Iginla. However Iginla was shut down, and did not have much factor in this series. The Mighty Ducks studied the tapes, and knew where to shoot on Kiprusoff, a lot of goals were scored high glove side, and that is what led them to a second round seed.
Player(s) of the Series: RW Teemu Selanne
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) San Jose Sharks
Sharks win best of seven series 4-1
Tomas Vokoun was a huge reason why the Nashville Predators made the playoffs this year, but due to bad luck and horrible news, Vokoun had blood clots and had to sit out the remainder of the season. Chris Mason was the backup who got the call as the new starter for the Predators. Mason had a good streak going into the playoffs, and played above standards. Although the Predators faced a huge problem, they were playing Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, who were on an incredible hot streak. The second hottest team to enter the playoffs, played like amateurs the first game, and Nashville stole Game 1 away from them. However the Sharks got it together, and poured it on, with the Thornton/Cheechoo combination, and the Michalek/Marleau/Bernier line, the Sharks would be unstoppable. Vesa Toskala played so well for them, and their defence was as good as any other team in the post-season. San Jose just steam rolled the Predators to win four straight games.
Player(s) of the Series: C Patrick Marleau and G Vesa Toskala
(1) Ottawa Senators vs. (4) Buffalo Sabres
Sabres win best of seven series 4-1
This series came down what it always comes down in the playoffs for the Ottawa Senators, the players get shut down or lose it in the playoffs. Everyone was lost on the ice after Game 1. There was no offence, there was no defence and there was no commitment or urgency of play from the Senators. The Buffalo Sabres did what they have been doing the whole regular and post-season and that is outworking their counterparts. The Sabres forwards skated right past the defence, they skated right into the crease. Ray Emery was good, but not good enough to steal four games. The Ottawa Senators fail again and are looking like the Buffalo Bills of the NHL. Ottawa had scored 3 goals in the last 4 games. All coming from two man advantages. This is not the way of winning games. Buffalo shut down the best team in the NHL at this time, and the Sabres move on, with a highlight reel short-handed goal, from Jason Pominville.
Player(s) of the Series: C Daniel Briere
(2) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (3) New Jersey Devils
Carolina wins best of seven series 4-1
Cam Ward admired Martin Brodeur growing up, and wanted to be just like him when he got to the NHL, little did he know he would be playing his childhood hero in the second round of the 2006 playoffs. Cam Ward outplayed Martin Brodeur this series. The Devils never really got set in the series, losing in five games, and just letting go of all their offensive weapons. The Hurricanes, not given respect again in this series by a lot of people, they shut down the best defensive team, and a trio of talented players. Patrick Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta did not play any kind of factor in this series. Cam Ward shined in this series, and so did the Carolina defence, shutting down those three, and then taking their game and blowing right past the New Jersey defence to take down three time Stanley Cup winner, Martin Brodeur. The Hurricanes prove everyone wrong and move to the next round.
Player(s) of the Series: C Eric Staal and G Cam Ward
(5) San Jose Sharks vs. (8) Edmonton Oilers
Oilers win best of seven series 4-2
If the Edmonton Oilers wanted to get to the next round, they would have to beat the hottest team coming into the second round, as well as the hottest goal scorer in Patrick Marleau. Marleau was having a career post-season, something Joe Thornton could not say. Although with the strong play of Patrick Marleau and an early 2-0 series lead, the San Jose Sharks lost a triple overtime thriller in Game 3, and all the momentum went to the Edmonton Oilers. After that the Oilers took control of the series and won 3 straight games after Game 3 to take the series. Penalty killing was their best attribute, and a goalie named Dwayne Roloson was there to save the games, time and time again. Easily the best player in the series, Dwayne Roloson continues to get better the deeper the Oilers advance.
Player(s) of the Series: G Dwayne Roloson
(6) Anaheim Mighty Ducks vs. (7) Colorado Avalanche
Mighty Ducks win best of seven series 4-0
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks had nothing to worry about against a team like the Colorado Avalanche. Whatever the Avalanche had, the Mighty Ducks had something better. Jose Theodore was fairly good against Dallas, but the duo of Jean-Sebastian Giguere and Ilya Bryzagalov was much better against Calgary. The Avalanche had Sakic, Tanguay, Hejduk, Turgeon and Konowalchuk, but the Mighty Ducks had Perry, Getzlaf, Selanne, McDonald, Lupul, and so on. The defence of the Mighty Ducks was much more stable and reliable than the Avalanche. The Mighty Ducks were expected to win the series, but a sweep wasn’t expected. A long rest was given to the Ducks after this. An easy job, came with a long break though.
Player(s) of the Series: RW Teemu Selanne
(2) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Buffalo Sabres
Win best of seven series 4-3
Advancing to the third round of the playoffs, and playing a very strong team that just beat the Ottawa Senators, the Carolina Hurricanes still did not get any respect whatsoever from many people. Eric Staal, Ray Whitney, Rod Brind A’Mour took their game to a new level in this series. After seeing Cam Ward be a brick wall in the past two series, Buffalo found out that Cam Ward is really human. He can give up goals, weak goals at that. The Buffalo Sabres played their game, and went right after Ward, and eventually end up chasing him out of the net. But that was not the last they saw of him. Martin Gerber came in and he was eventually chased out by Buffalo, and in came Cam Ward. With Cam Ward in net, the Hurricanes came back and won the series. A strong performance by veteran Rod Bring A’Mour showed that they are Cup contenders.
Player(s) of the Series: C Rod Brind A’Mour
(7) Anaheim Mighty Ducks vs. (8) Edmonton Oilers
Oilers win best of seven series 4-1
After the Anaheim Mighty Ducks swept the Colorado Avalanche, they had play the Edmonton Oilers, straight off winning 4 games in a row, in a war of six games. The long rest might have gave some rust to the Ducks and they could not recover from it. The Oilers just poured it on from the beginning. The great defence of Edmonton shut down the top forwards of the Mighty Ducks. Chris Pronger, Steve Staios, Jason Smith, Jaroslav Spacek all kept the Ducks offence limited to a few goals. Dwayne Roloson again was the best player of the series, as he had a couple of brilliant saves, and was a wall in front of the net. An easy time for the Oilers, and now their long break had started.
Player(s) of the Series: G Dwayne Roloson and D Chris Pronger
Stanley Cup Finals:
(3) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (8) Edmonton Oilers
Carolina Hurricanes: 52-22-8 (112 points)
G – Rod Brind’Amour 9
A – Eric Staal 13
PTS – Eric Staal 20
PIM – Justin Williams 30
SOG – Eric Staal 71
+/- – Justin Williams & Cory Stillman 9
TOI – Rod Brind’Amour 433:46
Playoffs: (11-5, 2.07 GAA, 919% 1 SO)
Reg Season: (14-8, 3.68 GAA, 882%, 0 SO)
Power Play (%) 25.9
Penalty Killing (%) 83.7
Goals For Avg. 3.00
Goals Against Avg. 2.44
Edmonton Oilers: 41-28-13 (95 points)
G – Fernando Pisani 9
A – Chris Pronger 13
PTS – Chris Pronger 17
PIM – Georges Laraque 27
SOG – Ryan Smyth 42
+/- – Chris Pronger 9
TOI – Chris Pronger 506:44
Playoffs: (11-5, 2.29 GAA, .929%, 1 SO)
Reg Season: (14-24, 2.73 GAA, .908%, 2 SO)
Power Play (%) 19.8
Penalty Killing (%) 88.6
Goals For Avg. 3.18
Goals Against Avg. 2.47