NHL Playoffs 2011 Start Perfectly for Capitals, Canucks

The NHL playoffs have a lot of question marks. The early part of the schedule may not answer them all, yet the playoffs are already giving NHL contenders a chance to kill old demons. The two top seeds have the biggest demons of all as the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks have a huge psychological burden to get past in the first round. However, those problems haven’t posed much of a problem so far — to say nothing of the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.

So far, the playoff schedule has only two teams with a 2-0 series advantage. Normally, it wouldn’t be noteworthy that those two are the No. 1 seeds since that’s what they’re supposed to do. But since the Capitals and Canucks are those teams, it sends an early message to the rest of the league.

The Capitals’ postseason past has been rehashed over and over, topped by their loss to No. 8 Montreal last year. They could have gotten in another early hole against the Rangers, yet they rallied in overtime in Game 1. But they didn’t need extra minutes in Game 2, as they got a 2-0 lead with a 2-0 win.

Washington only has four goals so far in the playoffs, which would normally be a problem. But it has learned to win without Alex Ovechkin lighting up the nets as Jason Chimera and Jason Arnott got the only goals instead. Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth took care of the rest, to give the Capitals the big edge heading into New York.

Of course, Washington was up 3-1 over Montreal in 2010, so it cannot afford to step off the gas. Beating New York may not mean that it is finally set for a deep Stanley Cup run, but it would eliminate one mental block.

As for the best team in the NHL, the Canucks started with a major psychological test as well. They have been eliminated by the Blackhawks in the last two years, but this Chicago team is in worse shape. It was shut out in Game 1 and didn’t have enough in Game 2 on Friday night.

Unlike the last two years when they beat Chicago in Game 1, the Canucks followed up in Game 2 with a 4-3 victory. The Blackhawks got within one goal three separate times, yet the Canucks answered back, as Daniel Sedin got going with two goals.

The playoffs may not be like 2010 or 2009 or other past years. If they aren’t, then the NHL must take notice as the Capitals and Canucks try to finally settle years of unfinished business, and failed Stanley Cup runs. But with their history, they know not to get too confident, as they’ve only buried the Rangers and Blackhawks halfway so far.

Sources

NHL.com- “2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Quarterfinals”

New York Times- “Rangers Fall Flat as Capitals Cruise to Victory”

Associated Press- “Daniel Sedin scores twice, Canucks beat Blackhawks”