WASHINGTON - MARCH 30: Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Verizon Center on March 30, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
What did we learn from the first night of the NHL playoffs? We learned that the No. 1 seed and home-ice advantage don't mean much. And we learned that the Penguins have a long way to go if they want to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
The opening games Wednesday night were a warning to the Washington Capitals. Not only did the Cup champs lose on home ice to Ottawa, but the Western Conference's No. 1 seed, San Jose, was stunned by the Avalanche, 2-1.
As a matter of fact, one could say each game Wednesday night produced a stunning result.
The Pens looked very vulnerable (and Marc-Andre Fleury looked very beatable) in a home-ice, 5-4 loss to Ottawa. Granted, one of the goals was a fluke bounce off the boards at ancient Mellon Arena, but the Pens didn't play well enough in general to win the game.
In the other Eastern Conference game, the Flyers surprised everyone by winning 2-1 over New Jersey, the No. 2 seed. Eight-string goalie Brian Boucher outplayed future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur. But was this really a surprise, or does Philly have the Devils' number? No, we're not talking about a 666 here. We're talking about how the Flyers won five of six games against the Devils in the regular season. Now with another win in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, the Devils got worry.
Out west, the Sharks did nothing to shake their reputation as a one-and-done playoff team, losing Game 1 to Colorado. And it happened in heartbreaking fashion, as a Chris Stewart centering pass deflected off Sharks d-man Rob Blake's skate and past Evgeni Nabokov with just 50 seconds left in regulation to give the Avs the win.
And while a No. 4 seed beating a No. 5 seed doesn't really qualify as a shocker, few dreamt that the Coyotes would open their series with the playoff-tested Red Wings with a win. But that's exactly what they did, thanks to a power play that awoke at the right time. The Dogs went 3 for 4 with the man advantage after going 0-fer in the final five games of the regular season. And Ilya Bryzgalov stood on his head in order to shut down Detroit's offense and secure the win.
All of this should be a lesson learned for the Caps. The regular season means absolutely nothing once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. If the Caps thought they could sleepwalk through the first round, Wednesday night's action should have been a wake-up call. Nothing is a given. Everything is earned.
The Caps can start earning their playoff cred tonight at 7 p.m. against Montreal. Caps fans just hope the team is ready.