Upsets rock Stanley Cup openers 

April, 15, 2010

Ho hum, the first night of the playoffs went as planned, eh? I think we all knew that Ottawa would skate into Pittsburgh and smack the defending champs. That was easy to figure. Well, OK, no one really saw that coming.

At least we knew that Brian Boucher was a lock to beat Marty Brodeur in the first game of the New Jersey Devils-Philadelphia Flyers series. Well ...

There's only one thing that we know for sure about the Stanley Cup playoffs: There are no sure things. I learn that lesson about this time every year.

Throughout the playoffs, I'll be holed up in front of a television or televisions (certainly the plural during the first round) if I'm not at a rink somewhere across North America. On Wednesday night, for example, I spent the evening at the ESPN worldwide headquarters in Bristol, Conn., watching the action with Barry Melrose and Matthew Barnaby. Good fellas, those two guys.

Each day, between now and when they finally hand out the Stanley Cup, I'll offer five thoughts/observations/key stats in this space. Let's get it going!

1. Talking to GMs, coaches and players, they've voiced a similar opinion about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. They'd all be super impressed if either could get back to the Cup final again because they've both played so much hockey over the past two years. Things certainly didn't start well for either club.

The Penguins will have no chance to get out of the first round if Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't take off the blindfold. He was terrible in the club's 5-4 home ice Game 1 loss to the Senators. For whatever reason, Fleury just hasn't been sharp for the past several weeks. If this "Flower" doesn't blossom soon, the Penguins will soon get a lot of that rest that many insiders think they need.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.