The best time of our sporting year is upon us hockey fans.
The NHL playoffs are just days away.
That's right, fans—an 82-game regular season will soon come to a close.
All the work, all the suffering, all the struggles, all the passion, and all the glory comes down to the moment approaching.
Which team in the Eastern Conference will seize control and make a run to the finals?
The Boston Bruins will be the No. 1 seed. This team has had a phenomenal season, 50 wins and 110 points to date.
The Bruins have done it with the best balance of offense, defense, and special teams in the Eastern Conference. Players like Zdeno Chara, Phil Kessel, Marc Savard, and a host of other contributors.
The Bruins are poised to do some damage. Home ice will be a big factor for them in the first round. The Bruins are 27-6-6 at home and 23-11-4 on the road—so it's safe to say this team will get out of the first round.
The Washington Capitals currently hold the No. 2 spot, touting arguably the best player in the league, Alexander Ovechkin. With 54 goals and 47 assists, it's hard to argue against him.
The Caps have size and strength at every position. They also have defensemen that can score—such as Mike Green, who has 30 goals and 40 assists.
Washington will be a factor in this season's playoffs, and I predict they will get past the first round also.
The New Jersey Devils are currently the third seed, and this season Martin Broduer got his 552nd win, making him the winningest net minder of all time. Since then, the Devils have exorcised themselves to a dismal 3-6-1 run in their last ten, most of them with Marty in net.
New Jersey is known for stifling defense, solid play along the boards, solid netminding, and self-discipline on and off the puck. They literally wait for you to make a mistake and capitalize on it.
But this is not what's happening lately. New Jersey could be one of the early exit teams if they don't turn things around.
The Carolina Hurricanes currently reside in the fourth spot, and before things are done they may be able to make a run at Washington for the division title. In my opinion this is one of the hottest teams right now, posting a stellar 7-1-2 in their last ten.
This team is a recent Stanley Cup winner and they know what it takes to get there and win it. Veterans like Rod Brind'Amoure, Patrick Eaves, Joe Corvo, and Cam Ward make this team a threat come playoff time. They should get out of the first round.
The Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy the fifth spot. After holding on to the fourth spot for a month the Flyers are sliding backwards, unable to beat the teams they should down the stretch.
The recipe to beat the Flyers is quite simple—you just have to outwork them.
The Flyers are loaded with talented center-men and one of the best defensemen in the league, Kimmo Timonen. Marty Biron has been stellar at times but as of late has shown some shakiness. Nitty has been shaky at times and shown some moxy, so who do you start?
The Flyers need to get back to Flyer Hockey, or an early exit is imminent.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the sixth spot. Usually the team that loses the Stanley Cup the year before disappears into obscurity to regroup, but the Pens are denying that tradition. Having posted a 7-1-2 in their last ten, they are one of the hottest teams in the east right now.
With Malkin, Crosby, Staal, and Fleury this team has stepped it up a notch. One month ago, they were out of the playoff race. Now, this team has battled back into the hunt and will be a threat come playoff time.
They may have to start out on the road, but that shouldn't be a problem if they play their game—the Pens want revenge!
The Habs occupy the seventth spot, and are 4-3-3 in their last 10, having won four of their last five, and are now 5-3-3 under Bob Gainey's control.
The Habs have stepped up their special-teams play. With Mathieu Schneider anchoring the power play, Montreal is firing at a 26 percent conversion rate. Before Schneider, it was 16 percent.
With the resurgence of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, and Andre Markov, The Habs are poised to get back on track for a playoff run. The netminding has solidified whether they play Price or Halak. This team could be the sleeper.
The eighth and final playoff spot features the New York Rangers. Under John Tortarella's reign, this team has found new life. Sean Avery has added a spark to their game, and Henrik Lundqvist has been solid.
This team needs veterans like Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund, and Wade Redden to take leadership roles with their play to get through to the postseason. The Rangers dropped a game to the Hurricanes last night, so they will need to win out to secure their playoff hopes.
So who do I pick to represent the East in the Cup? Here is my breakdown if the playoffs ended today:
Boston vs. NY: Boston wins in six.
Washington vs. Montreal: Washington wins in seven.
New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh: Pens win in six.
Carolina vs. Philly: Carolina wins in seven.
Boston vs. Pittsburgh: Boston wins in seven.
Carolina vs. Washington: Washington wins in six.
Boston vs Washington: Washington wins in six.
There it is! The Caps!