Playoff hockey is the most exciting time of the year, especially during the first round when there are doubleheaders every night on TV.
As we hit the midpoint, let's look at some interesting playoff tidbits from a couple of the first-round series. The number in the brackets is the number of games won in their current playoff series at press time.
WASHINGTON (3) versus MONTREAL (2): Nicklas Backstrom is using this series as a coming out party because, apparently a 33-goal and 101-point season was not good enough for him to be recognized as a superstar. Backstrom is still very underrated in most pools, but that is all changing, as it is Backstrom who is providing the bulk of the offence. Backstrom, who scored at a 1.23 points per game pace during the regular season, is scoring at a pace of 2.25 points per game during the playoffs. Carey Price started Game 4 for the Canadiens, which means that this series has seen four different goalies start games. Despite losing 6-3 (two empty-net goals) I don't think Price was the reason the Canadiens lost Game 4, as he stopped 32 shots. But it was Semyon Varlamov who was the Capitals' best player making so many huge saves. Varlamov kept the Capitals in the game with 20 saves alone in the second period when the score was 2-1 for Montreal.
PHILADELPHIA (4-1 over NEW JERSEY): Brian Boucher has been spectacular in net for the Flyers, posting a very low 1.98 goals against average and save percentage of 92.5 per cent. Don't expect this to last. The second round meeting with the high scoring Caps will see Boucher's numbers come crashing down.
PITTSBURGH (3) versus OTTAWA (2): Sidney Crosby was averaging 1.35 points per game during the regular season, however during the playoffs he has more than doubled that number with an outstanding 2.75 points per game. Crosby has been able to do what so many other superstars have not been able to do (see San Jose and Vancouver) and that is to take his game to a higher level during the playoffs. Imagine how many more points Crosby would score if he actually had better players to play with.
SAN JOSE (3) versus COLORADO (2): If it wasn't for the Sharks second line of Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi the Avalanche might have swept the series instead of being behind 3-2. Craig Anderson is making all the big saves and there are a lot of them as he has seen 30 more shots then any other goalie. This series is just too close to call as three of the five games have gone to overtime and the first four games were decided by just one goal. The biggest question surrounding this series is will Joe Thornton or Dany Heatley ever show up? Heatley missed one game already and has just three assists in four games while Thornton has only two assists in the five games; these guys need to take a lesson from Crosby.
VANCOUVER (3) versus LOS ANGELES (2): The biggest concern in Vancouver should not be goaltending; it should where are the twins? Last season it looked like the Sedin twins were finally able to translate regular season success into playoff success and in a season when Henrik won the first ever Art Ross by a Vancouver Canuck you would expect that level of play to continue through the playoffs. It seems the twins have come back down to earth, after scoring at a combined 1.36 points per game during the regular season the twins are back down to their usual 1.00 point per game pace, after three games. In Game 4 the twins finally showed up and led the Canucks to a come from behind victory; if the Canucks are going to have any shot at winning this series they need more production from the twins. Two players who have stepped up for the Kings are Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson; both have six points each. These two young stars are a big reason why the Kings' powerplay is operating at a whopping 56.3 per cent.