So this is the time of the year once again, the 2008 NHL playoffs are set to begin this week. What team should we follow more closely? Who will win the Holy Grail?
Let's go through the Eastern conference first round match-ups.
No. 1 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 8 Boston Bruins
The Montreal Canadiens have surprised every hockey analyst this season by finishing in first place in the Eastern conference with the ice advantage through the first three rounds.
The Boston Bruins also had a notable season. With the loss of their main offensive weapon Patrice Bergeron, very early in the season, nobody thought that Boston would be able to get into the playoffs.
The teams faced each other eight times during the regular season, and the Canadiens won every game. In fact, the Canadiens have won their last 11 match-ups with the Bruins. I do not expect a very close series.
Montreal wins in five games.
No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators
The Senators had an up-and-down season. The team led the conference for the majority of the season, but collapsed towards the end.
Ottawa was expected to be in first place, but a lack of consistency led to the fall to seventh. The Senators’ offensive power is undeniable, but will their defense and goaltending hold up?
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a very good season despite losing Sidney Crosby for a long period of time. Evgeni Malkin elevated his game during Crosby's absence and he carried the team on his shoulders. The team also acquired Marian Hossa at the trade deadline, another dangerous offensive weapon.
And the Penguins have more reason to be motivated, because Ottawa eliminated them last season.
Pittsburgh wins in six games.
No. 3 Washington Capitals v. No. 6 Philadelphia Flyers
The Washington Capitals qualified for the playoff round with a win in their very last game of the season. A push during the latter half of the season allowed the team to edge the Carolina Hurricanes and win the Southeast division.
Alexander Ovechkin was simply spectacular all season long. Ovechkin wrapped up the season with over 60 goals, an impressive statistic. And the acquisition of goaltender Christobal Huet at the trade deadline helped the goaltending department of the Capitals.
The Philadelphia Flyers had a bit of a deceiving season. After signing forward Daniel Briere and defensemen Kimmo Timonen during the off-season, the Flyers were expected to be among the best in the East. But the team underachieved and they now have to face the fantastic Alexander Ovechkin in the first round.
Washington wins in six games.
No. 4 New Jersey Devils v. No. 5 New York Rangers
The Hudson River battle should be a good one. Both teams hate each other, and this should produce a very interesting series.
The Rangers’ main strength is their veteran squad. The Rangers team is an experienced one, with veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury. And at goal, Henrik Lundqvist has shown consistency and he should be able to bring the Rangers into the second round.
The Devils’ only hope is that goalie Martin Brodeur will be hot. If Brodeur does not dominate in his net, the Devils have no chance. The offensive squad outside Zach Parise is not talented enough to bring enough goals to win.
New York wins in six games.