Eastern Conference 1st Round
Washington Capitals (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)
I’m definitely pumped for this match-up because of the speed that is sure to be show-cased here. I expect to see tons of odd man rushes from both sides and a lot of flashy saves.
Will it be rough and grinding? No, it will be fun, fast and a lot of scoring.
I can count on watching Jaroslav Halak take the first game, but if things don’t go in the Habs favor I can also count on seeing Carey Price start at some point as well.
Washington is almost one-hundred percent healthy, minus Milan Jurcina, I think they will survive without him.
With that said there’s a whole lot of fire power, obviously from Alex Ovechkin but with the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, count on seeing a lot of power-play action from this pack.
However, Montreal’s power-play might struggle with the absence of Glen Metropolit, who led the team in PP goals.
Unless Mike Cammallerie can resurrect his scoring touch and Scott Gomez and Brain Gionta can continue their recent scoring success, they will have their hands ridiculously full.
The Captials goaltending is also interesting and I am not certain who their starter will be, but if I were a betting man I’d probably put my money towards Jose Theodore, who should also expect a chorus of boo’s in the Canadiens home show.
Goals will come mainly from broken plays and power-plays no doubt. The team with the fewest turn-overs may take the series victory.
Washington and Montreal split the season series, each taking five of eight points.
Prediction: Caps in 6 (Halak will steal 2 games almost single handedly.)
New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (7)
As a Flyers fan, it’s extremely hard not to be bias on this one but I can at least be realistic. It’s going to be an all out war.
Throw in their storied rivalry with skill and speed and you have one heck of a must-see play-off series.
Lets get the big elephant in the room out of the way right now. Brian Boucher will make or break this series.
Fun Fact: This is a goalie rematch between Boucher and Martin Brodeur from the 2000 Eastern Conference final. Since then Boucher has played in several different teams all as a back-up. On the other side, there is possibly the best goalie ever to play the position. Brodeur has set a ridiculous amount of records, owns a pair of championship rings and has won two Olympic gold medals.
The Devils made the biggest splash signing Ilya Kovalchuk but he hasn’t quite given them all they have hoped for.
If he evolves into a play-off warrior then chances are the Devils will get the strong upper-hand in the series.
Zach Parise, anyone? Bueller?
This man is shockingly talented and still has room for improvement. He’s a beast and will be the Devils game-breaker. Parise loves spring hockey and you can bet he’ll try to set some personal bests.
But let’s not completely count the Flyers out. They do own one of the leagues most potent top six forwards of any team, but that’s only when they are rolling.
Several times through-out the season the Flyers had too many games with-out the finishing touches.
Even still, which goalie honestly wants to face Jeff Carter and Mike Richards on either the Power-Play or the Penalty-Kill?
They both explode and crave one-on-one opportunities and both know how to finish.
Chris Pronger was brought to the Flyers for this reason alone. He shuts down and controls tempo in the play-offs.
Expect this to be bloody, hard nosed hockey with a splash of dazzling plays.
The Flyers finished 5-1-0 against the Devils.
Prediction: Flyers in 7. (I told you it would be biased)
Buffalo Sabres (3) vs. Boston Bruins (6)
Intriguing to say the least.
Both teams have felt the injury bug and both teams have solid goaltending. Both teams can stick around in games they shouldn’t, and both teams are frustrating to play against.
The edge in goaltending goes to Buffalo no doubt. Ryan Miller has been solid for years now and even took Team USA to a thrilling Olympic silver medal finish against Team Canada.
Miller has carried this team night in and night out for much of the season.
Tuuka Rask has been incredible in his rookie year but that is where it comes down to. Experience.
Although Tim Thomas could take over easily if Rask comes up short but even Thomas has struggled this year coming off his Vezina trophy winning season a year ago.
Thomas Vanek has scored the quietest 28 goals I’ve ever seen this year and he will be a major factor in this series along with Derek Roy and Tim Connolly.
The Sabres have been thrilled in the response of rookie defenceman Tyler Myers, leading all rookies in the bid for the Calder Trophy.
Boston has deeply missed Phil Kessel’s 40-plus goal performance last year as he now plays golf for Toronto.
Their biggest scoring threat came from Marco Sturm, 22 goals, nothing to shake a stick at. Bergeron came close behind with 19.
The biggest reason that the Bruins may falter in the opening round is the absence of Marc Savard.
Arguably the most under-rated forward in the league, he took a gut-less cheap shot from Matt Cooke and had his season ended short, possibly even his career.
Their game breaker will be Zdeno Chara, but even Chara isn’t Chara these days. Broken nose and pinky finger apart, he isn’t playing one-hundred percent at all.
Boston went 4-2-0 against the Sabres.
Prediction: Sabres in 5. (Miller will frustrate them Sens-less.)
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Ottawa Senetors (5)
Well let’s see. The Penguins are the defending champs. Sidney Crosby tied with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the season scoring title (51) and Evengi Malkin and Jordan Staal have continued with their successful ways.
Who loves play-off pressure? Bill Guerin. He’s a game-changer and scores big goals when his team needs them most.
Not to mention Marc-Andre Fleury can shut down a game or two.
Monies in the bag, right?
Well, hold on a minute.
The Sens have overcome a lot of diversity already this season.
Right off the bat, losing Danny Heatly who demanded to get out of Ottawa, things looked bleak. But as time proved to differ, the Sens won a franchise best, eleven straight games.
Brian Elliott stepped up when goaltender, Pascal Leclair did not and Jason Spezza over came a terrible injury to return in a fresh and positive manner.
Daniel Alfredsson continues to prove why he captains this team and will be a force to control.
All things considered, the Sens are still facing the reigning champs and will have more then they can handle from the Penguins offensive juggernauts to their grind-it-out key pieces to the Penguin puzzle to the consistent play-off net-minding.