What We Learned: NHL conference finals will blow your mind

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

A lot of people say that the first round of these playoffs was perhaps the best ever. And with good reason.

But at the same time, I don't know if I've looked forward to a set of matchups like the two in the conference finals in years. That's because it's not just four teams trying to win a Stanley Cup, but also four teams with something to prove.

Vancouver/San Jose was just about the best we could have asked for out West, because these are two teams that complement each other very nicely. They're both fast, skilled and mean (though you'd obviously cede the size advantage to the Sharks), and the latter was evident even before the puck dropped for Game 1 Sunday night.

It's not often you see a starting center get so riled up for a series that he's kicked out of the circle for the opening draw of Game 1. But both did Sunday night. Ryan Kesler and Joe Thornton were jawing at each other as the ref held the puck above the center dot. That's ornery hockey. But it eventually devolved into actual head-butting, and that's just plain dislike.

You have to love how these teams seem to have gotten themselves up for this series, because they have something to prove to just about everyone. Some way or another, one of the two teams in the league that are most derided for not being able to get it done led by guys who can't shake the label of being chokers will be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, and you can already see how badly both of them want it after just one game.

Meanwhile, things are a little bit harder to figure out back East.

(Coming Up: Jagr and the NHL; Joel Ward's gonna get paid; Ominous signs for the Thrashers; Mike Modano wants a job; Flames ink Glencross; the truth about Troy Brouwer; no more Budaj in Colorado; Seguin's awesome tally; the Panthers have a minor problem; news on the Islanders' rink; saving your Semin; Brett Clark gets all Bourquey; in praise of Roloson; dissing Lucic and Horton; and why doesn't the City of Glendale just buy the Coyotes?)

The nastiness that was apparent even before the Sharks/Canucks series began was nowhere to be found between Boston and Tampa Bay. No war of words. No preexisting enmity or even vaguely unpleasant incidents between them on which either team could draw for inspiration.

But the Bruins are trying just about anything to shed the "Sharks East" label they've been developing over the last few years. Beating back Montreal in dramatic fashion after blowing the first two games at home, then sweeping the Flyers somehow doesn't feel like enough.

The response to the horrific first period proved that. As the game went on, and Tampa's lead first solidified then widened, they became more visibly frustrated and began to lash out.

This, given the way the first two games of the Montreal series shook out, seems to be the way Boston handles things: Get behind early? Give yourselves an emotional investment.

It's cheap and it's risky — you don't want to get the opponents' dander up at the same time — but it's apparently the style of hockey they're comfortable with when a game becomes unwinnable. They'll live and die with it going forward.

As for the Lightning, the only thing they have to prove is that they're legitimate. A lot of people, myself included, have noted that statistically they shouldn't be winning these close games, and shouldn't be getting the kind of stunning playoff performances that they have. And yet it continued again on Saturday, with goals not from Stamkos and St. Louis, but Bergenheim, Clark and Purcell.

There probably aren't too many people outside the greater Tampa area who thought the Bolts had a chance in this series, and they blew the Bruins out of their own building with ease. Maybe Guy Boucher's systems are just that brilliant after all.

Teams with this much at stake, even beyond a chance to play for the Stanley Cup, don't give up easily. Whatever happens over the next two weeks or so, both these series figure to be long and unpleasant for all involved parties.

Except the fans. We're going to enjoy the hell out of them.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Ducks draft pick Devante Smith-Pelly is tearing up the OHL playoffs, with 15 goals in 19 games as an 18-year-old. He's already signed to an entry-level deal, which I guess makes sense when you look at those stats.

Atlanta Thrashers: Hey, remember the last time Atlanta had an NHL team and it moved to a prairie province? No? OK cool, keep it up then, Thrashers.

Boston Bruins: Tyler Seguin gets his first NHL playoff game, scores a goal, assists on the other. Maybe Julien should bench the rest of the team and see if that lights a fire under their asses, because they looked like garbage on Saturday.

And what a goal too.

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Buffalo Sabres: The price for Sabres season tickets just got 5 percent higher, and with all the success they've had, who can blame 'em?

Calgary Flames: Curtis Glencross signed a multi-year deal with the Calgary Flames. No terms were announced. A guess: "Too much for too many."

Carolina Hurricanes: Jim Rutherford will have his annual meeting with local media Tuesday to discuss the state of the team. Gonna be lots of hard questions there.

Chicago Blackhawks: Troy Brouwer went the last 22 games of the season without a goal and was pointless in the playoffs, and now we know why. He had a right shoulder labral tear, which sounds unpleasant, and not exactly conducive to shooting the puck.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche are going to part ways with Peter Budaj, which is too bad because now they might be somewhat more difficult to beat.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash did not face supplemental discipline from the IIHF for this hit on Mikael Backlund. Cutest part is the Swedes halfheartedly trying to look like they were trying to fight him over it.

Dallas Stars: This just in: When really old athletes move to a different team, it's really hard to find a role. Now, if Mike Modano retires, he'd like a job with the Stars.

Detroit Red Wings: Chris Osgood hasn't really thought too hard about retiring yet, but I have no idea why.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are looking to bring aboard 23-year-old Finnish D-man Ville Lajunen, which is interesting because like everyone else in the organization, he is not a viable NHL goaltender.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are currently without an AHL affiliate because they allowed their unhappy marriage with the Rochester Americans to end. Now Buffalo might swoop in and pick the Western New York club up. Or something. I don't know.

Los Angeles Kings: Here's a really in-depth analysis of the Kings' forwards this season. "Offensively, Kopitar must take his game to the next level in 2011-12." Because apparently 73 points in 75 games just ain't good enough.

Minnesota Wild: Fans held a memorial for Derek Boogaard outside the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, with family members in attendance. Really nice thing for Wild supporters to do.

Montreal Canadiens: Jaromir Jagr says he would consider playing for Montreal if he came back to the NHL. He's also weighing whether he would return to Pittsburgh or the Rangers. I hope he chooses New York, as he's one of the four greatest players to ever lace 'em up for that franchise.

Nashville Predators: Joel Ward is about to get paid.

New Jersey Devils: The Devs have a lot of cap space in 2012. Maybe. If they're smart, they get to spend almost all of it on Zach Parise.

New York Islanders: Hey, remember that whole Islanders new rink thing? Yeah, don't put the cart before the horse on that one, gang.

New York Rangers: Derek Boogaard's family donated his brain to the Boston University study for athletes who have suffered concussions. The scientists there will look into whether the brain injury might have led to his death.

Ottawa Senators: Matt Carkner has teamed up with the Ottawa Police Department to help raise money for the city's Big Brother, Big Sister organization. He can teach kids all sorts of things, like how much money you can make getting beat up by Colton Orr all the time.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers are considering a swap of Jeff Carter for Ilya Bryzgalov. OK, good luck with that. I bet it'd go great.

Phoenix Coyotes: Here's a fairly interesting point: Why doesn't the city of Glendale just buy the Coyotes? Ohhhh, it's because the city doesn't want to hemorrhage money. Right, right, right.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens will enter into contract talks with Pascal Dupuis and Mike Rupp soon. Might wanna save some of that cap space for Jagr!!!!

San Jose Sharks: Ahead of Game 1, Kyle Wellwood said he's heard worse insults than what Kevin Bieksa had to say about his time in Vancouver. Looks like someone's been reading every Puck Daddy headline about him ever.

St. Louis Blues: Patrik Berglund scored about a million goals for Sweden at the World Championships, but it didn't help in the final, as Finland flattened its biggest rival 6-1.

Tampa Bay Lightning: There's this saying I heard once. Something about eggs and counting them and when they hatch. I don't really remember. Neither does Gary Shelton.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Carl Gunnarsson — actually not a terrible young defenseman. He might cost the Leafs some cash this offseason.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks' D corps is maybe the best in the history — and future — of the franchise. This is a thing I think we can all agree on.

Washington Capitals: Want to make Alex Semin more effective? Change his position to center. What's the worst that could happen?

Gold Star Award

Dwayne Roloson was once again outstanding on Saturday. The stat I read said that he faced two shots in a span of 12 seconds just once in the whole game, showing he gobbled up every shot he faced.

Minus of the Weekend

Really gross stuff at the end of the game by Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Sore loserism at its worst.

Play of the Weekend

Three goals in 85 seconds. That'll win you most hockey games. And I see where they said Brett Clark scored that second one, but it looked more like Ray Bourque so I can't be too sure.

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Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "johnnybullit4390" is lookin' to fix everyone's problems.

Duchene + 2 overall + 11 overall + Elliot
Quick + doughty

Lock it in.


Jeremy's iron.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can email him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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