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(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) New York Islanders
This is a battle of youth versus experience as the Penguins begin their march toward another Stanley Cup title against a young Islanders team that is making its first playoff appearance since the 2006-07 season.
The Penguins finished the regular season as the league's highest-scoring team, and they have a favorable matchup against an Islanders squad that ranked 21st in goals against and penalty killing.
Pittsburgh won four of the five games between these two Atlantic Division rivals this year, and there's no reason to believe this dominance will end anytime soon. The Penguins are a better team in every area of the game.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins 4-0
(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
This is not going to be an easy matchup for Montreal because Ottawa played very well to close out the regular season (6-3 record in last nine games) and just got reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson back in the lineup after a lengthy recovery from an Achilles injury.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens struggled in April with just four wins in their last 10 games. Star goaltender Carey Price was a Vezina Trophy candidate just a few weeks ago, but he finished the regular season with a 2-6 record in his last eight starts.
Since both of these teams have great goaltending (despite Price's recent performance), Montreal has the slight advantage in this series because it has a more talented and deeper offense. The Canadiens were the fourth-highest scoring team in the league, while the Senators are the lowest-scoring team in the playoffs (27th in goals scored during regular season).
Prediction: Montreal wins 4-3
(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) New York Rangers
These two teams will meet in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons and the third year in a row. The Rangers defeated the Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinal in seven games last year, and they will once again send the Southeast Division club home for the summer.
As a strong defensive team that blocks shots, plays physical and has one of the best goaltenders in the world, New York will cool off the sizzling Capitals offense and advance to the second round.
The recent Capitals and Rangers series have been tight-checking, defensive battles, and New York has a roster better suited for this style of hockey.
Prediction: New York wins 4-2
(4) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs
This is an awesome matchup between two fierce rivals and Original Six franchises.
Leafs fans have watched their team struggle against the Bruins for the last few years, with Boston winning nine of the last 10 games these teams have played. Toronto has also lost 12 of its last 13 playoff games against Boston, although these rivals last met in the postseason back in 1974.
The Bruins' biggest advantage in this series is between the pipes, where No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask has been phenomenal this season and will likely be a Vezina Trophy finalist. Leafs starting goaltender James Reimer has no playoff experience and just one win in his last five starts versus the Bruins.
Prediction: Boston wins 4-1