Plenty of drama, passion and intrigue

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

How anybody could say this year's NHL playoffs haven't been exciting is beyond me.

What's been missing?

There have been monumental upsets, great goaltending performances, outstanding offensive attacks, bad blood, comebacks and intrigue.

In this space, we've done our share of ripping the NHL for its follies, but this is one chance to sit back and appreciate the good we saw in the eight series to start the Stanley Cup chase.

The fact road teams won 27 of 49 games is amazing.

Even more incredible is seven of the series were clinched on the road, including both Game 7 meetings.

The lone exception was Boston over Buffalo.

Want more stats about the excitement? The winning team in 24 games trailed at some point. Five games were won by teams trailing by two or more goals, and nine victors were behind in the third period.

That's a far cry from the 2004 final, when the team which scored first won every game.

There may be fans who pine of the days of the dominant team such as the Canadiens of the 1970s or Oilers of the 80s, but there was far too little intrigue those years come playoff time.

Let's just hope the rest of the way is just as thrilling. The NHL needs it and fans deserve it.

As for second-round predictions, here goes:

Pittsburgh over Montreal in 6.

Philadelphia over Boston in 7.

Detroit over San Jose in 6.

Chicago over Vancouver in 7.

Flaming C-notes

Michael Cammalleri of the Montreal Canadiens had his detractors after last year's playoff performance while with Calgary, but he sure came through in his second chance to skate in Stanley Cup action. Just another example of how the Flames sure could use a do-over in choosing Olli Jokinen over Cammalleri ... Some Flames fans may not want to believe it's a possibility Jarome Iginla could be traded, but on more than one occasion, a player from another team has asked yours truly whether the Calgary captain will be traded. The response from players is it would be foolish -- since it would send a bad message to skaters around the league -- and the club should find more talent to support Iginla. Hard to disagree ...

Hockey talky

Oh wait, here's an NHL playoffs thumbs-down: The league dropped the ball by not suspending Chicago's Marian Hossa for his hit on Nashville's Dan Hamhuis. It was just like Alex Ovechkin's hit -- co-incidentally -- on Brian Campbell, which earned the Washington star a two-game banishment. The fact Hossa scored the winner that same game after five minutes in the sin bin was bad optics ... Did anybody actually believe the undoing of the Washington Capitals would be their offence and not their defence? The Caps were supposed to have enough of an attack to make up for their defensive misgivings but went a brutal 1-for-33 on the powerplay against Montreal, and that's a major reason they're now booking tee times ... Anybody who dealt with Philadelphia goalie Brian Boucher has to enjoy his feel-good story. Boucher, whose time in Calgary a few years ago hardly went to plan, has a good chance to remain a league-leader when his Flyers take on the Boston Bruins in the second round ... Then again, speaking of the Bruins, it would be great to see Marc Savard bounce back with a flurry from that horrible concussion courtesy Matt Cooke. Flames fans may have soured on Savard for his act while in Calgary all those years ago, but he was always entertaining ... By the way, do you think the league was relieved to see the Penguins wouldn't face the Bruins -- for this round, at least?

You don't say

"I believe our hockey IQ seemed low this series and we didn't adjust well on the ice to the new schemes coming our way."

-- Washington owner Ted Leonsis on his blog after the Capitals lost to Montreal

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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