A day like today almost kinda made having to suffer through a very quiet, hockey-less night on Saturday almost worth it. Of course we won't have hockey tomorrow night either, but that's ok because Tuesday we have hockey pretty much all night.
Some would complain about the NHL bowing to NBC's pressure to conform the schedule to their whims, but in a case like this, it's probably worked out for the best. for at least two of the four nights.
Chicago: 2 - San Jose: 1 (Blackhawks Lead Series 1-0)
Of course, it's not Anderson, it's Antti Niemi and he has carried over the solid play that he had in the Vancouver series into the conference final, but you could excuse San Jose if they don't check the back of that jersey just to make sure.
The Sharks outshot the Hawks 45-40. They also had five powerplays in this game compared to Chicago's zero. The Sharks also won more faceoffs than the Hawks, so you'd think that San Jose should have had a better result than they did. But the difference here was the fact that the Hawks matched the Sharks physically in the hits department - in fact statistically they were a bit better than San Jose - and that physical play, something that isn't really a part of the Sharks game plan caused many a turnover to be given away.
Overall, game one wasn't really dominated by one team over the other. San Jose came out playing well, Chicago made adjustments and got better as the game went on and won with outstanding goaltending and taking advatage of Sharks mistakes. If this game was any indication, the rest of this series is going to be outstanding and closely fought the whole way.
Montreal: 0 - Philadelphia: 6 (Flyers Lead Series 1-0)
Did anyone tell the Canadiens when their next playoff series was starting because they really didn't show up tonight. The Flyers on the other hand did and the result on the scoreboard isn't any kind of mirage. Philly was really that good, Montreal was really that bad.
And now after that game I have to imagine the message in the Habs dressing room is: "We didn't come this far and knock off the two best teams in the east to pull a no-show in the conference final." So I would expect a much better effort from them in game two.
Those that would be quick to suggest that this is series is simply the consolation series and that the Stanley Cup final is somehow being played out between Chicago and San Jose, I would think twice about making that assumption based on how the Flyers are playing. Michael Leighton is playing quite confidently and may be in the process of locking up a starter's role with the Flyers for next season. The Flyers defense is doing a great job of forcing the Habs to take shots from distance and limiting any second chances on their goalie. The Flyers offense is clicking away with a nice combination of physical play, finishing their checks and taking advantage of turnovers they forced with that physical play.
Take note western teams... If you don't show up to play against these guys from Philly, they'll do to you exactly what they did to Montreal tonight.
Not that I am going to dare call this series already over. To dismiss Montreal at this point would be silly and if you do, you haven't been paying attention over the last few weeks. Lest we forget the Penguins also smoked the Canadiens in their game one a couple of weeks ago. The Canadiens now need to somehow overcome the physical play of the Flyers - something that they didn't really see as much of in the Washington or Pittsburgh series - then this won't be a long series at all.