The first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs was perhaps the best single playoff round we've ever seen, and maybe it's because of the comparison, but the second round has left a whole lot to be desired.
Think about how we looked at this second round before it began. We had two Southeast rivals in the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning, facing off in what should've been a high-flying, fast-paced offensive battle. One team was able to score -- on the heels of Sean Bergenheim, of all people -- but the other fell flat on their face. It didn't live up to the hype.
And then there was the other Eastern semifinal, a rematch between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. After their epic series in 2010, the hype was even thicker for this one, and instead, the Bruins walked all over the Flyers, who didn't even appear to show up in three of the four games.
Two sweeps in the East, and a relatively easy series win for the No. 1 seeded Vancouver Canucks in the West. Close games across the board for the most part, but really, this second round hasn't even come close to the drama and excitement of its predecessor.
It started off tame enough, right? Three close wins by the Sharks, and talks of what could be another sweep, or at best, an easy second round win for San Jose, just like when they beat the Wings a year ago.
But then everything changed, and as we prepare for what will certainly be a helluva Game 7 on Thursday night between the clubs after three back-to-back-to-back, heart-pounding wins by Detroit, this second round could be completely saved by two teams.
Or, well, just one team, really, since we all know the Sharks would rather be preparing for the Canucks at this point than dealing with the stress of an unlikely elimination game. No matter who wins Game 7, though, this second round has become just as memorable as the first, and that's thanks to zero help from the other six teams that played games in it.
It's even more incredible, perhaps, that this Game 7 feat -- history-making at just about any other point on the NHL timeline -- seems kind of routine now. The Philadelphia Flyers forced a Game 7 (and won that game) after falling down 0-3 to the Boston Bruins a year ago, and in the incredible first round this year, the Chicago Blackhawks pulled off the feat before losing in overtime of Game 7.
Now, it's happened a third time. Absolutely unprecedented.
Back in 1975, the New York Islanders completed the feat twice in one year. They became just the second team in NHL history to come back from 3-0 down in a series when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarterfinals, and in the semifinals, they found themselves down 3-0 to the Flyers. The Isles forced Game 7 again, but this time they lose to Philadelphia, the eventual Cup champion.
Outside of that, though, it's a bizarre phenomenon that we've been lucky enough to witness three times in just one and a half playoff years. And if Detroit wins, they'll be just the fourth NHL team all time to actually win the thing after being down 3-0.
Will they be able to complete history?
Well, that much is yet to be seen -- and thank God for that, too, because this second round has sucked otherwise.