Eastern Conference NHL Playoff Predictions.
(1) Boston Bruins vs (8) Montreal Canadiens – Boston in 5. Boston is going to want to make this a physical contest, and the Habs are not a physical team. The Habs are over matched in this series. If they want to stay competitive in this series, Carey Price will have to regain his 2008 playoff form, which is something that he was unable to find this entire season. Losing one of the best defenseman in Andrei Markov late in the season is going to hurt the Canadiens drastically. They already have trouble scoring as it is, and Zdeno Chara will monitor the Habs only decent line (Tanguay – Koivu – Kovalev), which will hamper them further. On the other hand, the Bruins are as close to the best all around team you are going to find. They have unreal goaltending, can score, have depth, and they are physical. Should be a breeze for the B’s.
Essential info: Boston won season series 5-1 with Montreal’s only win coming in early October… Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas have won this season’s William Jennings Trophy, which is awarded to the goaltenders of the team that allowed the fewest goals… Phil Kessel put up 4 points in the last game of the season (3G, 1A).
(2) Washington Capitals vs (7) New York Rangers – Rangers in 6. This prediction is mostly based on 3 players: Henrik Lundqvist, Chris Drury and Sean Avery. These are 3 of the most important peices of any playoff team. Any team with Lundqvist between the pipes has more than a good enough chance to win. Drury is one of those clutch playoff performers. And Avery is the pest that every team wished they had (except for Dallas) for these type of playoff situations. The Capitals’ goaltending situaiton is really questionable, which is such an important factor in playoff hockey. The only thing in the Capitals’ favor, which is a huge factor, is that they can score, and the Rangers can’t. The Rangers are so bad offensively that the Capitals probably only need to score 3 goals a game to win this series, and Alex Ovechkin can probably do that himself. Heck, Mike Green probably can too. To the Rangers’ defense, playoff hockey is about winning low scoring games. One question remains: will Alex Semin challenge Marc Staal to another slap fight?
Essential info: Capitals won season series 3-1… Alexander Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard trophy for the second consecutive year with 56 goals… The Capitals scored 268 goals, comapred to 200 by the Rangers… The Rangers are the only team in the playoffs to give up more goals than they score (200 scored vs 212 against)… Capitals gave up 240 goals this season… Markus Naslund led the Rangers with 24 goals, who would have been a distant 4th on the Capitals… Brooks Laich had 23 goals and Nicklas Backstrom had 22… all of this does not matter come Wednesday…
(3) New Jersey Devils vs (6) Carolina Hurrianes – Hurricanes in 6. This is a case of who is playing better going into the playoffs. New Jersey has lost 8 of its last 13 games, including 2 to the Canes (however, they did win their last meeting on the last game of the season – take it for what it is). This series is going to be a goaltender duel. First team to score 10 goals will win the series. Paul Maurice has his boys playing extremely well, and more importantly, he has done it once before with this same team. They know what it takes to get to the Stanley Cup, and know how to do it.
Essential Info: Carolina won season series 3-1.. After a slow start, Erik Staal finished with 40 goals… Zach Parise broke out of the Devils this year with 45 goals and 94 points.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Philadelphia Flyers – Pens in 7. Should be the best series of the 1st round. The Flyers are kicking themselves after giving up a lead to the Rangers in the last game of the season, which gave the Pens home ice advantage. The Flyers have much more depth, but the Pens have better top end talent. The difference between these teams is in goal. Marc Andre Fleury is having a great second half, while Martin Biron has gotten better as the season has progressed, but is still not on the same level as Fleury. As last year’s finalists, the Pens know what it takes to get back and how to do it. If the Flyers want to win this series, they will have to take advantage of their depth. Their 3rd line (Giroux – Briere – Asham/Carcillo) will need to produce because the top two lines from each team may cancel each other out.
Essential info: Pittsburgh won season series 4-2… Evgeni Malkin won the 2009 Art Ross trophy with 113 points… Jeff Carter finished second in the league with 46 goals…