The playoffs are around the corner and I am gonna key in on every single matchup in the Eastern Conference and facts about each team that can help you better understand every team and every teams flaws and positives. Or at least attempt to. Here we go!
First Matchup: No.1 Seed Washington Capitals vs No.8 Seed Montreal Canadiens.
Season Series: Washington 2-1-1 (5 points)
Playoff History: First Matchup
In all four of the games this year, Carey Price was in net for the Canadiens. That is key because it is interesting in who Montreal shall allow in goal for the series. In the four games Carey Price had allowed fourteen goals in four games (a G.AA of roughly 3.50) and a not so stellar save percentage.
This is the first ever playoff meeting between these two hockey clubs. One thing they have similar is an effective powerplay. Both these teams are one two in powerplay with the slight advantage going towards the Capitals.
Montreal's powerplay is let by their pointman. Marc-Andre Bergeron is one of them who has a cannon from defense. Look for him to be effective on the powerplay in the series.
Jose Theodore playing the Canadiens. Hmmm ironic anybody?
No. 1 Seed: Washington Capitals (54-15-13, 121 points)
Alex Ovechkin 50 goals, 59 assists 109 points
Nicklas Backstrom 33 goals, 68 assists 101 points
Alexander Semin 39 goals, 44 assists 83 points
Jose Theodore 47 games played 30-7-9 2.81 G.AA, .911 Save Percentage
Semyon Varlamov 25 games played 15-4-8 2.54 G.AA .909 Save Percentage
Goals per Game: 3.82 (1st)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.77 (16th)
Powerplay: 25.2% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 78.8% (25th)
Washington has last season in the back of their heads but are looking forward with a franchise record in wins this season, and their first Presidents Trophy hanging in their trophy room in the Capital.
Obviously, the pressure is once again on the captain of the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin to step up his game in the playoffs. Last season, Ovechkin recorded eleven goals and ten assists in his 14 playoff games.
Washington also has obvious pressure as the top dog in the Eastern Conference. The last time a top seed from the Eastern Conference made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and won the Stanley Cup was in 2004 when the Tampa Bay Lightning accomplished it.
Key to Winning:
The player who stepped it up last season in the playoffs for the Capitals was goalie Semyon Varlamov, but this season i think they need to take an alternate route.
Jose Theodore has played excellent hockey the second half of the season and really played like his former MVP self. I really think the key to the playoffs is Theodore's play in net. Thats why I am making Jose Theodore the key for the Capitals in the playoffs.
Jose Theodore has been hot in goal for the Capitals. Theodore has won 20 of his last 23 games in goal. Those three losses, two in overtime and once in shootout. 20-3 his last 23 games is definitly more than a hot stretch. I expect Jose Theodore to lead this Capitals team deep into this years playoffs.
No. 8 Seed: Montreal Canadiens (39-33-10, 88 points)
Thomas Plekanec 25 goals 45 assists 70 points
Scott Gomez 12 goals 45 assists 57 points
Mike Cammalleri 26 goals 24 assists 50 points
Jaroslav Halak 44 games played 26-13-6 2.36 G.AA .926 Save Percentage
Carey Price 41 games played 13-20-8 2.77 G.AA .912 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 2.56 (26th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.66 (13th)
Powerplay: 21.8 (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 83.0 (12th)
The Montreal Canadiens. What is there to say about this team. Except teh fact they are making their third straight playoff appearance. With that being said. They have not made it past the Eastern Conference Semifinals since they won the Stanley Cup in 1992-1993.
Thomas Plekanec is having a career year in Montreal, a free agent next year has stepped it up on a contract year. He ends the season with 25 goals and a career high 70 points.
Jaroslav Halak has also stepped it up winning 26 games and maintaining a solid 2.36 Goals Against Average.
What has changed the past season. The fact they got a more consistant offensive effort. Last season the team leaders in points were Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Markov and Saku Koivu.
They have gotten extremely younger by acquiring Gomez, Gionta, and Cammalleri in the offseason. All three of those players have combined for 148 points. Not to mention Plekanec has finally gotten the scoring touch as well.
Keys to Winning:
A few keys for Montreal to win as a bottom seed: 1.) Everyone should do this but Montreal needs to step up on the road! They are 19-17-5 this year on the road.
They had three chances to clinch in the playoffs. Two times on the road. Both times they lost, against Carolina and the New York Islanders.
The only reason Montreal clinched was because they fought hard enough to get overtime against Toronto, in which they lost. Montreal needs to step up big.
Jaroslav Halak had two shutouts last weekend, but struggled this week with three loses. Jaroslav Halak played great in the Winter Olympics recording a shutout, and he has played in three career games in the playoffs. He has an 0-1 record though, but has a G.AA of 1.85 and a .916 Save Percentage.
Second Matchup: No.2 Seed New Jersey Devils vs No.7 Seed Philadelphia Flyers
Season Series: Philadelphia (5-1-0, 10 points)
Playoff History: Last Meeting 2003-04 Conference Quarterfinals. Philadelphia won series 4-1.
Playoff Series: Tied 2-2.
This is a truly interesting 2v7 seed matchup. Mostly because even at a seventh seed, Philadelphia owned the Devils this season. One of the reasons why is Martin Brodeur.
Martin Brodeur's stats against the Flyers this season: 1-5 3.33 G.AA.
Martin Brodeur on the road against the Flyers: 0-3 3.66 G.AA.
Now obviously this isnt all Martin Brodeurs fault. The Devils allow the least amount of goals per game in the league. They do got to get some offense going in this series. Expect it to happen.
No.2 Seed: New Jersey Devils (48-27-7, 103 points)
Ilya Kovalchuk 41 goals 43 assists 84 points
Zach Parise 38 goals 43 assists 81 points
Travis Zajac 24 goals 42 assists 66 points
Martin Brodeur 76 games played 44-25-10 2.26 G.AA .916 Save Percentage
Yann Danis 12 games played 3-2-2 2.06 G.AA .923 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 2.63 (19th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.27 (1st)
Powerplay: 18.7% (11th)
Penalty Kill: 82.8% (13th)
This season took a big step forward when the New Jersey Devils announced they had acquired all-star winger Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers.
Since that time, Kovalchuk has slowed down, but now is the time for him to step up his game. This is the second time in young Kovalchuk's career that he will be in the NHL Playoffs
They always say that defense wins championships, and that may be key for the New Jersey Devils. They allow less goals per game then any other team in the league, part of that reason is the play of their defenseman.
They allow the second least amount of shots per game than any other team. The only team who allows less shots, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Key to Winning:
The key for the New Jersey Devils to win is to get some offense going. Their offense has been weak lately and they have a hall of fame goaltender in net. They know what they are gonna get from Martin Brodeur.
Kovalchuk leads the Devils in goals and he is in his 2nd playoffs, he has got to get support from the rest of the team.
Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner and the rest of the Devils have got to get on the score sheet for this team to go anywhere in the NHL playoffs this year.
No. 7 Seed: Philadelphia Flyers (41-35-6, 88 points)
Mike Richards 31 goals 31 assists 62 points
Jeff Carter 33 goals 27 assists 60 points
Chris Pronger 10 goals 45 assists 55 points
Michael Leighton 34 games played 17-9-2 2.83 G.AA .905 Save Percentage
Brian Boucher 32 games played 8-18-5 2.83 G.AA .898 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 2.83 (8th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.71 (15th)
Powerplay: 21.4 (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 83.0 (11th)
Injuries, injuries, injuries. They signed Ray Emery thinking he would be the answer to the season. Halfway through Emery bows out for the year due to an injury. They acquire backup Michael Leighton off waivers. He was having a decent year with the Flyers. Currently on the IR due to an injury.
It is up to original backup, now starter, Brian Boucher to lead this Flyers team to a victory in the playoffs. The good news is, he has got a decent offense (of variety) in front of him.
The bad news is the Flyers are facing the best goaltender in the league.
Keys to Winning:
To keep it generic and simple I could say, the Flyers need to score. Which is the truth. But the truth is, if they learned anything from last year I would say don't lose hope.
They proven Sunday in a pressure situation in a close game, in a shootout they could get the job done, and sneak into the playoffs.
The Devils opponents last year in the playoffs Carolina Hurricanes played the Devils and snuck by them two out of three games to beat them. Thats all it takes to win. Little pressure goals.
Other then that, three players that need to be keys for the Flyers include Chris Pronger, Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere.
Chris Pronger was acquired in the offseason for THIS EXACT REASON. This is his reason for playing on the Flyers, to be a team leader, and lead the teams defense. I 100% expect Pronger to lead this team and give a great effort throughout these playoffs.
Danny Briere, Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter. They need to score. Period. With all the young talent on this team these two need to step up and score key goals for this team. That is the only way they are gonna beat Brodeur.
Third Matchup: No. 3 Seed Buffalo Sabres vs No. 6 Seed Boston Bruins
Season Series: Boston (4-2-0, 8 points)
Playoff History: Last Time Played 1998-1999 Conference Semifinals. Buffalo won series 4-2.
Playoff Series: Boston leads series 5-2.
Easily. I repeat easily could be the lowest scoring series out of them all. Ryan Miller vs Tuukka Rask. Tuukka is having a breakout season for the Bruins. Which is every bit what they believed they were gonna get when acquiring him.
Ryan Miller has arguably been the best, and most consistant goaltender in the NHL this season. With that being said. Boston owned the season series, and the playoff series. Buffalo has won the last two. Including in 1999, which still rings bells in Sabres fans.
No.3 Seed: Buffalo Sabres (45-27-10, 100 points)
Derek Roy 26 goals 42 assists 68 points
Tim Connolly 17 goals 48 assists 65 points
Jason Pominville 24 goals 38 assists 62 points
Ryan Miller 69 games played 41-18-12 2.22 G.AA .929 Save Percentage
Patrick Lalime 15 games played 4-7-4 2.87 G.AA .905 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 2.82 (10th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.45 (4th)
Powerplay: 17.6% (17th)
Penalty Kill: 86.6% (2nd)
This is possibly the most complete Buffalo Sabres team since their 1999 Stanley Cup team. They have a strong offense, with a great defense, great penalty kill, and possibly the greatest goalie in the league.
The Sabres have had many pleasant surprises this season including the play of young defenseman Tyler Myers and the acquisition of Raffi Torres.
One of the low points. The play of Austrian Thomas Vanek. Last season Vanek had a breakout season which included 40 goals, and his first career All-Star appearance. This year he has 27. If anybody needs to step up his game and soon, its Vanek.
Key to Winning:
In order for the Sabres to win the Stanley Cup they need goals to protect Ryan Miller. As of now Miller has played in 74 games including his 6 Olympic Games.
While Miller's play has been excellent, the question is, how long can he keep up his phenomenal play?
And adding in there, the play of Thomas Vanek is a key factor. The powerplay is ranked 17th in the league currently. Last season Vanek led the league in powerplay goals with 20.
It was a nice start Saturday when Vanek scored four goals in one game. Lets see if he can keep that going.
No.6 Seed: Boston Bruins (39-30-13, 91 points)
Patrice Bergeron 19 goals 33 assists 52 points
David Krejci 17 goals 34 assists 51 points
Zdeno Chara 7 goals 37 assists 44 points
Tuukka Rask 45 games played 22-12-9 1.97 G.AA .931 Save Percentage
Tim Thomas 42 games played 16-18-13 2.55 G.AA .915 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 2.39 (30th-last)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.33 (2nd)
Powerplay: 16.6% (23rd)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (3rd)
This is a very misleading Boston Bruins team in my opinion. Some nights they show up and play excellent hockey. Other nights they just seem to not show up.
There has been one main constant in the Bruins lineup, the excellent, and i mean EXCELLENT play from goalie Tuukka Rask. Lately the defensive presence seems to have been sliding due to injuries to Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Stewart, and Andrew Ference, however they still do have a great defense.
Tuukka Rask has been playing unbelievable hockey. With a G.AA of under two, and save percentage at 93, his record is just 20-12-9. 20-21, with stats like that is extremely poor and thats where we go to Bostons keys to winning.
Keys to Winnings:
A few players who need to read some tape and get their game up are the 12-men playing forward. This team is last in offense. I can say Marc Savard would improve this number, but this team will not make a run into the playoffs unless that start scoring goals. From anybody.
Whether it comes by Powerplay, Overtime, or five-on-five. This team needs to take a look at their offense and just let loose and help compliment Tuukka Rask.
They have the playoff experience with players like Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi its just a matter of letting it happen. Most of the players remember last years playoffs. Lets see what happens in this years.
Fourth Matchup: No. 4 Seed Pittsburgh Penguins vs No. 5 Seed Ottawa Senators
Season Series: Tied 2-2
Playoff History: Last time Teams Met: 2007-2008 Conference Quarterfinals. Pittsburgh won series 4-0.
Playoff Series: 1-1
Even though the series is tied, its been a scoring fest. These two teams have combined for 28 goals in the four games that they have played. Not the best goaltending from the bunch, but the series does gain some major interest.
Interest number one: Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup last season and is not interested in getting bounced in the first round like the Senators... who ironically won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and were bounced in the first round by the Penguins.
No. 4 Seed: Pittsburgh Penguins (47-28-7, 101 points)
Sidney Crosby 51 goals 58 assists 109 points
Evgeni Malkin 28 goals 49 assists 77 points
Alexei Ponikarovsky 21 goals 29 assists 50 points
Marc-Andre Fleury 67 games played 37-21-8 2.65 G.AA .905 Save Percentage
Brent Johnson 22 games played 9-6-1 2.64 G.AA .909 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 3.04 (5th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.87 (20th)
Powerplay: 17.2% (19th)
Penalty Kill: 84.1% (9th)
This is practically the same Pittsburgh team who has made the Stanley Cup the past two seasons. There is a few differences though. The acquisitions of Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jordan Leopold.
The Penalty Kill has taken a great leap forward with Leopold however the Powerplay is down from usual.
Sidney Crosby is currently in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored in a season. Sidney Crosby has a career high in goals this season currently with 48, which is nine more then what he had in his previous high in his rookie season.
Key to Winning:
In my opinion, I think Marc-Andre Fleury is a super overrated goalie. However one thing he did last year was step up big in the playoffs. This season he has put up below-average numbers in Goals against and in save percentage. However his offense has bailed him out of trouble.
He has only one shutout this season in 67 games. Which is well, not great, but the main factor is, he has a winning record.
Fleury has stepped it up in the playoffs the past two seasons. Helping not only his team win, but keep his team in close games. Not to mention win a few major game sevens, including against Detroit and Washington.
The key is play defense well, and help Fleury keep the games close!
No.5 Seed: Ottawa Senators (44-32-6, 94 points)
Daniel Alfredsson 20 goals 51 assists 71 points
Jason Spezza 23 goals 34 assists 57 points
Mike Fisher 25 goals 28 assists 53 points
Brian Elliot 55 games played 29-18-8 2.57 G.AA .909 Save Percentage
Pascal Leclaire 33 games played 12-13-3 3.13 G.AA .889 Save Percentage
Goals Per Game: 2.68 (15th)
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.84 (18th)
Powerplay: 16.9% (21st)
Penalty Kill: 84.3% (8th)
Dany who? How many Ottawa fans thought trading Dany Heatley at the beginning of the season would help lead them to a playoff run?
While Dany has been having a good season, Milan Michalek, the main asset in the trade has been having an okay season recording 22 goals.
The best surprise for the Sens, would have to be the play of young rookie Peter Regin who has recorded 13 goals and 28 points so far this season.
While Pascal Leclaire seemed he might be the starting goalie set in stone, Brian Elliot's excellent play has deemed him the starting goalie in charge of this Senators team heading into the playoffs.
Keys to Winning:
A few names that pop to mind for Ottawa include Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. Those names being people on their team with experience in the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup.
Alexei Kovalev has had a hot 2010, currently with 22 points in 25 games. He has won the Stanley Cup before but not since 1994. Unfortunately, word is getting out his season is over due to a knee injury, its a shame.
Brian Elliot has been a key player this season for this Senators team, and now is his time to be the goalie for the Senators in the playoffs. The 24 year old goaltender will be in his first playoffs. It should be interesting to see how he will play.
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