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Tuesday, April 15

Updated: April 15, 1:28 PM ET

Each series yields its own surprise

By EJ Hradek
ESPN The Magazine

The first six days of the Stanley Cup playoffs have been a little unpredictable. So far, we know three things: home ice means almost nothing, Jean-Sebastien Giguere doesn't give up very many goals, and the Bruins aren't going to win the Stanley Cup.

Here are some other things we think we know about each of the first-round series:

Eastern Conference
  • Islanders vs. Senators (Senators lead, 2-1): If oversized linesmen Brian Murphy and Derek Amell stay out of the way, the Isles win Game 3. The New Yorkers outplayed their foes from Canada's capital during the first 60 minutes, but the Sens scored their two regulation goals after getting some lucky bounces off the linesmen. During overtime, the more skilled Senators woke up from their slumber. They would've won the game in the first overtime, but Garth Snow was utterly brilliant. Finally, in the second OT, center Todd White deflected a Magnus Arvedson pass underneath Snow. Games 4 and 5 will be played on back-to-back nights (Wednesday and Thursday) in different cities.

  • Bruins vs. Devils (Devils lead, 3-0): Here's some bad news for the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Devils seem to be on a mission. They want to erase last spring's first-round loss from their collective memories. Not surprisingly, Martin Brodeur has been razor sharp in the crease, allowing just three goals in three games. The Devs' top line of center Joe Nieuwendyk, right winger Jamie Langenbrunner and left winger Jeff Friesen have been strong on the puck. Plus, checking center John Madden has done a near-perfect job on B's stud Joe Thornton.

  • Capitals vs. Lightning (Caps lead, 2-0): The Capitals had little trouble sweeping the first two games of the series on the road. Now, they come home to finish off their Southeast Division rivals. Goalie Olaf Kolzig has been good when he's had to be. Caps scorers Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Peter Bondra and Michael Nylander each have a pair of goals in the first two games. Meanwhile, Lightning coach John Tortorella didn't appreciate the undisciplined play of tough guy forward Andre Roy in Game 2 and didn't bring him to D.C.

  • Leafs vs. Flyers (Leafs lead, 2-1): Let me get this straight, the Flyers outplay the Leafs for most of their first three games, yet trail in the series? Philly coach Ken Hitchcock says his team has suffered a few lulls during the series. He wants less lulls. Hitchcock really could use some better goaltending from Roman Cechmanek, who has an .875 save percentage in the series. At the other end, Hitchcock's old pal from Dallas, Ed Belfour, has made enough key saves to get two wins. To ruffle Belfour, the Flyers deep group of forwards must continue to drive right to his doorstep. The Leafs shaky D-men have to do a better job of keeping them at bay. Somehow, this series seems destined to go the distance. If it does, I'll take Alexander Mogilny to finish it.

    Western Conference
  • Oilers vs. Stars (Oilers lead, 2-1): It's starting to look a lot like 1997, when another underdog Oilers team eliminated a heavily favored Stars club. That year, the Stars outplayed the Oilers in six of the seven games, but lost the series when Todd Marchant buried a breakaway in overtime of Game 7. Big D defenseman Derian Hatcher returns for Tuesday's Game 4 after serving a one-game suspension. No doubt, Hatcher will make life a little more painful for the Oilers' forwards. So far, Marty Turco's first go-round in the playoffs has been mediocre. In Game 3, Turco had a chance to shut the door on the Oilers in the third period. Instead, he gave up a stinker of a goal from the right wing boards to Fernando Pisani.

  • Ducks vs. Wings (Ducks lead, 3-0): Giguere is the zone. If the remains there for one more game, the Wings will looking for tee times on Thursday. In Game 3, Giguere got a big break when the Wings were whistled for a too-many-men on the ice penalty an instant before Mathieu Dandenault blistered a shot over his shoulder and into the net. In three games, Giguere has turned back 133 of 137 shots. At the other end, Curtis Joseph hasn't been able to keep pace with Giguere. But is it fair to blame him? Giguere's .971 save percentage is unprecedented. Joseph's .925 save percentage would usually be good enough to win. In this case, it isn't.

  • Wild vs. Avalanche (Avs lead, 2-1): Minnesota was thrilled to have playoff hockey back within the state's borders. Unfortunately, that meant an appearance by Patrick Roy, who made a game-saving stop on Wes Walz during a second-period flurry in Game 3. Roy dove across the net and batted Walz' shot out of harm's way with his stick. Walz, who'd raised his hands, had a look of disbelief when he realized he'd been robbed. Don't feel bad, Wes, you aren't his first victim. Roy extended his career playoff shutout record to 23, with a 3-0 win in Game 3. If the higher-seeded Stars and Wings fall, the conference title will go through Denver.

  • Blues vs. Canucks (Blues lead, 2-1): Without injured defenseman Al MacInnis, the Blues still managed to grab the series lead with a win in Game 3. They've done a good job of shutting down the Canucks' top line of center Brendan Morrison, left winger Markus Naslund and right winger Todd Bertuzzi. Because of that success, the Canucks have been unable to register a number of good scoring chances against goalie Chris Osgood. If the Canucks can't create more chances, they'll be going home early.

    E.J. Hradek writes hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.





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