The Rangers had a pretty tough job on their hands. Go into the Verizon Center in Washington and finally stomp out the surging Capitals, which they failed to do in two match-ups previous. Well, they had it going for them for quite a while, taking an early 1-0 lead and keeping it for 10 minutes. It was still a back-and-forth game through the second period and a fair bit of the third, until the Capitals took it right over.
With just under five minutes to go, Sergei Fedorov did the deed for the Capitals, putting the Rangers one goal down, not to be recovered. The Capitals put the clamp down and ended the Rangers' early run. Final score, Capitals 2, Rangers 1. A very good Game 7.
With the loss, the Rangers, who were not favoured in the pool or in many brackets, only lost 24 selections through the pool. The two most popular Rangers to leave the pool were Wade Redden and Derek Morris, who were each picked five times. That being said, any picks that were Rangers were not going to be relied upon to go very much further than the second round. There were two selections for Henrik Lundqvist, but that is likely a just-in-case kind of pick.
Lundqvist was the top point-getter for the Rangers, topping out at 8 points, thanks to 3 wins, 1 by shutout. Bonus points were earned by Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky as well.
It was a little bit of a different scenario in New Jersey for their Game 7 finish between the Devils and Hurricanes. It was already a back-and-forth series, teams winning at home and on the road to send the series to the deciding Game 7. It really had the feel of being anyone's game. The Devils were sure that they could have this game for themselves, not only at the beginning, but at several points through Game 7.
The Hurricanes kept on coming though. It really was an excellent Game 7, which came right down to the wire as well. With the Devils up by one late in the game, the 'Canes made the charge that changed the complexion, scoring with only a 1:20 left in the third and then they carried their momentum right until the bitter end, as Eric Staal won it with 32 seconds remaining in the game. In a matter of 48 seconds, the Devils were up a goal and ready to go through to down a goal and fighting for their playoff lives, only to fall short in the final seconds.
With the Devils going down, this eliminated only our second favourite from the pool, San Jose being the first, as the Devils lost 104 selections through the pool, which was 56.8% of their possible amount of selections. Those who picked the Hurricanes to go through are in far better shape as of this morning. The most popular Devils player on the sheet was Brian Gionta, a Box 17 forward, who was likely picked more for depth than to make it very far in the pool. He was picked 19 times. Martin Brodeur was picked 10 times, meaning that 10 teams in the pool are now without their East goalie.
Like the Rangers team above, Brodeur was also their top point-getter on the team with 8 points, 3 wins and a shutout. The Devils players also collected two of a possible three winners... Zach Parise and Tomas Zajac scored those for the pool.
Having the top night among pool players on the night of Game 7s was Eric Staal of the Hurricanes. He scored the winning goal and added an assist for a 3-point night, bettering a few of players by just a single point.
Brendan Shanahan had one last gasp in these playoffs with 2 assists in Game 7 and Sergei Fedorov scored the winner for a pair of points in the other game in Washington. Cam Ward registered the only pool win, as Simeon Varlamov continues to surprise us all with his great play in this post-season.
Of course, I have reiterated already who scored the winning goals once in this post, but let's do it one more time and elaborate what that meant to the pool. Yes, it was Sergei Fedorov who scored for the Capitals. He was taken 14 times in the pool, which made him a fairly popular pick. 14 teams taking the extra point on and keeping him for at least one more round as well. Eric Staal scored the winner for the Hurricanes and he was taken only 3 times in the pool. There was very little faith in the Hurricanes to do a lot, let alone make it past the first round, so Staal, depending on how far he goes, can be a pretty huge pick.
Through the first round of the playoffs, it was Patrick Marleau of the Sharks that scored his team's only GWGs and that is enough to have him lead the pool on an individual player basis in the category. In the pool team category, Mike Emery leads all teams with 10 GWGs, thanks in part to Marleau and 8 other players that scored the bonus point for him. Mike sits now in 16th place in the pool with 99 points and 17 players remaining.
So, that pretty much sums up the first round of the playoffs for now. No team survived the first round with a full compliment of 24 players. Almost everyone put their faith in the San Jose Sharks to make it through, which cost almost every team at least a couple players, if not the full three. Those who didn't take the Sharks and went with the Ducks, seemed to have lost players from another series, if not two.
There are three teams in the pool with the most players left, as Clayton, Blair and Paul each finished the first round with 21 players. Clayton lost three Sharks, Blair lost a Shark and two Devils and Paul also lost three Sharks.
Four teams finished the first round with 19 players, 15 teams finished with 18 players, 4 teams finished with 17 players and 11 teams finished with 16 players. Depending on the combination of teams, quality of players and how the rounds play out, this pool shouldn't necessarily be considered finished just yet. There is still plenty of hockey yet to be played!
Look for a second round match-up either later on today or tomorrow morning!