Well everybody, its that time of year again. The matches are set, and all teams and fans are anxious to get the playoffs underway. Lets have a look at the first round match-ups for the Eastern Conference.
Montreal (1) vs. Boston (8)
The Montreal Canadiens have been riding a hot goalie in Carey Price all the way up to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens are the best offensive team in the league, and do not rely on one player to contribute the bulk of the points. The talent is spread out quite well amongst all lines. The team is also very fast and can catch defenders off guard. The Canadiens defensive core may be the weakest point in the Habs game.
The Boston Bruins will need Tim Thomas to be very sharp if they want a chance at beating the Habs in the first round. Savard and Sturm will likely have carry the majority of the offensive load as well if the Bruins are going to win. Chara needs to be on his "A" game as well as he will likely be blanketing Habs forward Alexei Kovalev for the large part in the series.
The rivalry between the two teams will likely reach a boiling point by the time this series is over. The Bruins have their work cut out for them, but I do not see them winning this series. I see the Habs taking this series 4 games to 1.
Pittsburgh (2) vs. Ottawa (7)
What can you say about the Penguins. Fronted by a potential Hart candidate in Evgeni Malkin, and also having picked up Marian Hossa, and of course Sidney Crosby they should be deadly on the offense. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a tower in net, and Conklin may be the best back-up in the NHL right now. The Pens defence is also very steady in their own end. The only question mark is the health of forwards: Marian Hossa, and Sidney Crosby. Both have been plagued with injuries and may not be playing at 100%.
Ottawa has been one of the worst teams in the league since the trade deadline. A large goaltender controversy looks as if it has been resolved and Gerber appears to be the Sens go to guy, but Gerber does not have a good track record come post season play. The offence goes in spurts and has good games and bad. Key injuries to players such as: Alfredsson and Fisher may cost the Sens. Antoine Vermette and Cory Stillman have been bright spots for the Sens since the deadline, and may carry a good portion of Ottawas offensive output. The Sens will struggle this series and will have to be back to their early season form if they want a chance at winning this series.
A rematch of last years Eastern quarter-finals will likely be heated, but will also likely be slightly aone sided. The Sens are not going to win this series. The Pens will likely take this series 4 games to 2.
Washington (3) vs. Philadelphia (6)
If at the beginning of the year you told me Washington would make the playoffs I probably would have laughed, but here we are and they took the Southeast. Led by a player that is likely the best in the game today Washington will be a force in the playoffs. They have been an amazing club since Bruce Boudreu stepped behind the bench, and goaltender Cristobal h=Huet has been outstanding. Mike Green has been a pleasant surprise on defence, but the defence may be the teams problem come playoff time.
Philadelphia beat the Pens today and now find themselves with the tough task of facing the Caps in the first round. Briere and Richards have been very good for the Flyers this season, and with the addition Vinny Prospal the outlook might not be so bleak. Coburn has been very good on defence, and Biron is a solid starting goalie to take you into the playoffs.
The series should be hard fought, and it should be interesting to see Ovechkin and Backstroms first kick at the can in the playoffs. I think the Caps will edge it out in a 4-3 series win.
New Jersey (4) vs. New York R. (5)
New Jersey snuck out a win in overtime today against the Rangers to gain home ice in the series which may make all the difference. With arguably the best goaltender in the history of the NHL in net New Jersey may be a contender for the title this year. Defence has always been the high lite of the New Jersey Devils. Not many teams are as effective in their own end as the Devils. The only problem for New Jersey is offence. Parise has been sharp but the Devils lack that offensive flair that other teams have.
New York led by Jagr has been a consistent team this year and will put up a good fight against the Devils. Shutout leading goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar in net once again and will be relied upon to make those crucial saves for the Rangers this time around. Like the Devils New York is solid defensively, and lacking offensively. Jagr has not been in his hart candidate form like he usually is.
This will likely be the best series of the playoffs. Very evenly matched, and it should come down to the wire. I am going to say the Rangers will squeak out a 4-3 series win.
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