Official NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

Mark Pare@NEPats17Correspondent IIApril 14, 2009

The seedings are set and the final 16 are ready for the journey to immortality.  That only means one thing: it's playoff time!

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal

(1) Boston vs. Montreal (8)

Boston has proved to be this year's juggernaut in the Eastern Conference, so it is only fitting that their first test is a team that has been a thorn in the Bruins side: the Montreal Canadiens.  These two "Original Six" teams have crossed paths a record 31 times in the NHL Playoffs, with Montreal winning 24 of those series.

Boston has not defeated Montreal in the postseason since the 1993-94 season.

Montreal has won the last three playoff meetings (2001-02, 2003-04, 2007-08).

These two teams are unique in a way.  One year ago, the roles were completely reversed.  Montreal swept the season series and won the East to face No. 8 Boston.  This year, Boston went 5-0-1 in the season series, won the East, and is set to meet No. 8 Montreal.

The two goaltenders, Carey Price and Tim Thomas, are set to meet for the second consecutive year.  There is not much of an experience advantage as Price and Thomas' only playoff games were last year, with Price seeing a little more ice-time when he played in the semi's against the Flyers.

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Both teams have the ability to score and have a potent power-play.  Boston was tops in the league this season with seven 20-goal scorers; Montreal had three.

Expect both to come out strong and fighting to be aplenty for these two rivals, and if you think any less, this season, both teams came out of the gate as favourites to win the East (Boston started 5-2-3; Montreal went 8-1-1 to begin).

Game One goes Thursday, April 16 at 7pm on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, live from TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.

(2) Washington vs. NY Rangers (7)

The Caps have a distinct offense that shows both finesse and power and is evident with names like Ovechkin, Semin, Green, Backstrom, and the list goes on.  Lost in all of this is Jose Theodore, who won 30 games for the first time since the 2003-04 season, when he was with the Habs.

The Rangers, unlike the Capitals, went on a rampage during the trade deadline, picking up Antropov from Toronto, Morris from Phoenix, and the always controversial Sean Avery off waivers.

Antropov leads the Rangers in scoring (28 goals; 59 points).

The Rangers bolstered up the front office as well, bringing in John Tortorella, and have seen an improvement, going 11-6-1 since March 1.

Ovechkin needs no introduction: Rocket Richard Trophy winner (56 goals), 110 points, and nine points in his last five games.  The superstar has been on a usual roll and will come into the playoffs looking to redeem himself after falling in the opening round last year against the Flyers in his playoff debut.

The Rangers have won two straight quarterfinal series (only to fall in the semi's) and to make it three straight, they must defeat the Capitals, a team which they only defeated once this season (in OT).

Game One goes Wednesday, April 15 at 7pm on TSN, live from Verizon Center in Washington.

(3) New Jersey vs. Carolina (6)

Martin Brodeur has had a short, yet prolific season.  Brodeur was sidelined with a torn biceps tendon, suffering the injury on Nov. 1.  He didn't come back until Feb. 26 and has been on a tear since.  He surpassed Patrick Roy's record for most career wins on March 17 (a win 4-3 over the Blackhawks).

This will be the first playoff series for the Hurricanes since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.

The Devils fell to the Rangers in the opening round last season.

Carolina brought back Erik Cole and coach Paul Maurice.

Eric Staal led the 'Canes with 40 goals and Ray Whitney led with 74 points (24G; 53A).  Zach Parise led the Devils with 45 goals and 94 points.

The Devils' only win over Carolina came during the season finale, a 3-2 victory.

Game One goes Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30pm on TSN's Alternate feed, live from Prudential Center from Newark, New Jersey.

(4) Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia (5)

The “Battle of Pennsylvania” has always been a battle of two completely different teams. Philadelphia, the “Broad Street Bullies,” and Pittsburgh, a team loaded up with speedy youngsters.

These two teams met in last year’s conference final as Pittsburgh took the series in five, advancing to the final, only to fall to the Red Wings in six.

Sidney Crosby finished the season with 103 points, second only to Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin, who racked up 113 points.

Jeff Carter led the team with 46 goals and 84 points.

The Pens went 14-2-3 since March 1. The Flyers went 11-10-1 in the same span.

Pittsburgh won the season series 4-2-0.

Game One goes Wednesday, April 15 at 7pm on CBC and Versus, live from Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.

Predictions: (1)Boston, (7)NY Rangers, (3)New Jersey, (4)Pittsburgh

Western Conference Quarterfinal

(1) San Jose vs. Anaheim (8)

Another inter-state series, as the President's Trophy winning Sharks play host to the Ducks.

The Sharks have seen major success during the regular season, finishing with at least 99 points in five of their last six campaigns. They lost to the Dallas Stars in the semifinals last season.

The Ducks have enjoyed playoff success, advancing to the conference final in three of the last five seasons, including two berths in the Cup final and, of course, the 2007 Stanley Cup Championship. The Ducks were also eliminated by the Stars last season, this being in the first round.

Ryan Getzlaf led the way this season for the Ducks, recording 17 goals, 37 assists and 54 points.

The Sharks were led by Patrick Marleau and his 38 goals, as well as Joe Thornton, who led the team with 86 points, thanks in part to 61 assists (316 since the lockout, most in the league).

The Ducks were 11-5-2 since March 1. The Sharks went 11-8-2 during that time. San Jose won the season series 4-2-0.

Game One goes Thursday, April 16 at 10:30pm on CBC and Versus, live from the HP Pavilion Arena in San Jose.

(2) Detroit vs. Columbus (7)

The defending Stanley Cup champs have a new playoff foe to deal with as Columbus makes their NHL postseason debut.

Detroit qualifies for the playoffs for the 18th consecutive year. Since the 2002 Red Wing team won the Cup, every time the Wings have been eliminated, it has been to the team representing the West in the final. The only exception being the lockout and last year, when it was Detroit who went all the way.

Detroit's Marian Hossa had a stellar opening season for the Wings, scoring 40 goals this season while Pavel Datsyuk led the team in points with 97.

Columbus was led by another 40-goal scorer, superstar Rick Nash. Nash also led the team in points with 79.

The two teams split the season series, with the Jackets taking three of the last four.

Since March 1, the Blue Jackets went 10-6-4 while the Red Wings went 10-5-2.

Game One goes Thursday, April 16 at 7pm on Versus, live from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

(3) Vancouver vs. St. Louis (6)

The St. Louis Blues enter the postseason for the first time since the lockout, while the Vancouver Canucks are enjoying the Northwest Division crown after finishing at the bottom of the division one year ago.

The Canucks were last in the playoffs in 2007 when they lost to the eventual champion Anaheim Ducks.

The Blues' last taste of the playoffs came in the first round of the 2004 playoffs when they fell to the San Jose Sharks in five games.

The Sedin twins tied for team lead in points with 82. Daniel Sedin led in goals with 31 and Henrik Sedin led in assists with 60 and could prove to be factors in a long playoff run.

The Blues were led by Brad Boyes, who had 33 goals, 39 assists for 72 points, tops on the team. Boyes has proved to be an effective goal scorer in his time with St. Louis and will look to be a key player in this series if he wants his team to be successful.

The teams split the season series 2-2.

Since March 1, the Canucks are 14-5-2 while the Blues are 13-5-2.

Game One goes Wednesday, April 15 at 10pm on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and Versus, live from GM Place in Vancouver.

(4) Chicago vs. Calgary (5)

The Blackhawks are entering unfamiliar territory. Besides the first round defeat handed by the St. Louis Blues in 2002, the Hawks haven't made the postseason in over a decade. The Flames have qualified for the fifth straight year after missing the previous seven years. However, since losing the Cup final in 2004 to Tampa, the Flames haven't made it past the first round.

The Flames lost in seven games to the Sharks in the first round last season.

Jonathan Toews proved to be a great leader in his first season as captain for Chicago. He led the team in goals with 34 and was third in points. Martin Havlat led the team in assists (48) and points (77).

Jarome Iginla played in all 82 games this season for the Flames, leading the team in assists (54) and points (89). Mike Cammalleri, in his first season with Calgary, led the team in goals (39), a stat usually led by captain and former Rocket Richard Trophy winner, Iginla.

Since March 1, Calgary is 9-12-0 and Chicago is 12-6-3.

Chicago swept the season series 4-0-0, with only one win coming after regulation time.

Game One goes Thursday, April 16 at 8:30pm on Versus and TSN's Alternate Feed, live from the United Center in Chicago.

Predictions: (1)San Jose, (7)Columbus, (6)St. Louis, (5)Calgary

Check your local listings for more stations carrying NHL Postseason action.