Last night the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Minnesota Wild 4 to 1, winning the first round series 4 games to 1. The Ottawa Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3 to 0 winning their series 4 games to 1. The Ducks and the Senators join the New York Rangers who swept the Atlanta Thrashers 4 games to 0 advancing to the second round of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs.
For New York it was their first playoff series win since 1997 when they defeated the New Jersey Devils advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers relied on experience to get past the Thrashers who were making their first playoff appearance in franchise history. Both teams had to battle tough battles to even get to the playoffs, but New York just out played Atlanta. The games were pretty evenly matched, except for game 3 (which New York won 7 to 0) but at the end it was the experience of the Rangers that was just too much for Atlanta.
The Ducks, who lost in last year's Western Conference Finals to the Edmonton Oilers, did not have the easy time you would imagine a 4 games to 1 win would be. In the first three games, Minnesota played equal to Anaheim, however it seemed luck was on the Duck's side with a few fortunate bounces and great defense from Chris Pronger and Scot Neidemayer. In game four, the Wild finally put together a complete game defeating the Ducks 4 to 1, but the Ducks responded with a 4 to 1 victory to end the hard fought series and advance to the next round.
The Senators, who have made the playoffs for the last ten years, but have failed to really produce, knocked off the young Penguins to move on to the next round. There was a lot of hype around the Penguins and their young star Sidney Crosby who is the youngest player to lead the league in points (at age 19). But the Penguins' first taste of the playoffs came against a team that was hungry for a win. The lessons learned by Pittsburgh are the most valuable here and look for them to have a very strong team in the years to come. As for the Ottawa Senators, they proved they are a more dominate team than many people gave them credit for and could go deep into the playoffs because of it.
Tonight, two more teams can add their name to the second round. The Buffalo Sabres, the team everyone expected would sweep past the New York Islanders lead their series 3 games to 1, but with the game in Buffalo, and not wanted to let the series last any longer, look for Buffalo to finish off the Islanders tonight. In the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks lead the Nashville Predators 3 games to 1, but do not count Nashville out quite yet. The series returns to Nashville, who are in a must win situation, and with the talent they posses, look for the Predators to stay alive tonight and force a game six.