Five for Fighting: Biggest surprises of second round so far

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks haven't had many answers for Detroit offensively. (USATSI)
Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks haven't had many answers for Detroit offensively (USATSI)

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Every weekday, we'll have a top-five list that is pretty self-explanatory, all in this man's opinion. Today: The five biggest surprises of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.

No. 5: Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings goalie had a good season, but he's elevated his game to a completely different level in the second round. Howard owns a .961 save percentage and 1.26 goals-against average in four starts, all while facing one of the regular-season's highest-scoring teams this round. He has made just about every big save his team has needed him to make over the last three games and simply took over Game 4. Though his D has played very well in front of him, they haven't been mistake free. Howard has been there to bail his team out almost every time. Coming into this round, few would have picked Howard to be one of the top goalies with two Vezina finalists, three Stanley Cup Champions and a Conn Smythe winner among those remaining. Along with Jonathan Quick, he's been that.

No. 4: The Sharks' pushback. After the Kings went up 2-0 in their series with San Jose, it looked as though the defending champs were ready to roll to another Western Conference final. The Sharks took two big games at home to even the series. Now they trail the series once again with their backs against the wall at home. Having had success in Games 3 and 4, however, should give San Jose the confidence needed to even things up with the Kings.

No. 3: The Rangers scored on the power play. It took four games to do it, but they finally broke through on the power play against the Bruins on Thursday night. Brian Boyle's power-play tally was New York's first in the series after looking like it had no answers on the man advantage throughout the round. It was a terrific goal, too, with the Rangers finally showing they could spread out Boston's penalty killers just enough to generate a Grade A chance with Boyle providing the finish. The Rangers are now a still-horrid 3 for 42 on the power play in the postseason, but hey, miracles do happen.

No. 2: Torey Krug. He played just one NHL game with the Bruins during the regular season and, as of two weeks ago, he was playing a key role for the AHL's Providence Bruins. When injuries severely weakened Boston's defense, Krug was one of the guys called up to start the second round. Since stepping into the lineup in Game 1 against the Rangers, Krug has scored three goals and added an assist. Not bad for a guy the Bruins signed as an undrafted college free agent out of Michigan State last season.

No. 1: The Blackhawks' offensive collapse. One of the most dynamic teams during the regular season with a Western Conference-leading 155 goals, Chicago looked like a well-oiled offensive machine. The Blackhawks have been anything but in the second round. A lot of that is due to the terrific game plan by Mike Babcock and excellent execution from his team. That said, with all of Chicago's star power at forward, this offensive outage is perplexing. Game 4 provided a few glimmers of hope for the Blackhawks, which generated more chances, but the finish hasn't been there and Jimmy Howard has been outstanding. If they don't figure it out soon, the President's Trophy curse will claim another victim.

 
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