With the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs just one day away from starting, I figured we could have a little fun and look at each first round series for the two conferences. So here are my simple predictions and thoughts on the Eastern Conference
Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers: The 1st vs 8th matchup in the East could be interesting. If the Rangers show up every game, get great goaltending, and always keep someone on Ovechkin. But course the questions are more on the Caps then the Rangers. The Capitals have been great in the regular season the last couple of seasons but each year have a less then stellar playoff run. Alex Ovechkin might be one of the elite players in the league and he constantly gets compared to Crosby, but the one difference still is that Sid has playoff success and has held the cup. The Rangers can fight and play smart, but with injuries and barely climbing into the playoffs we all know they are the underdogs. The Caps may still fall short of the Cup again, but I think they got this round in the bag. Capitals in 5.
Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres: This series is already getting a lot of attention as one that should be very interesting and is being picked by many for a possible upset. While the Flyers have been contenders all season and picked by many to be the team to come out of the East, they have struggled down the stretch. Philly ended the season 7-7-6 and looking like less then an elite team. While the Flyers boast probably the best forwards in the East and have great depth, their are still questions in the net and they are rolling the dice again. Plus the uncertainty around Chris Pronger leaves some questions around that crease, but he claims to be 100% ready to go. The Sabres are going to lean heavily on the top scorers that they do have and Ryan Miller. Buffalo comes in on fire to make the playoffs and they are going to try to keep it going. In the end I see the Sabres making it a lot of fun to watch and they last until the next round, just not any further. Sabres in 7.
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens: This series highlights an old rivalry that has been set ablaze again. These two teams hate each other. Bruins blow out this season, the fighting, and then the Pacioretty-Chara hit. So don’t be surprised to see emotions really get going in this series. In the end the Bruins are just bigger, stronger, and they have more ability to score. The matchup in net between young Price and the veteran Thomas will be amazing to watch, but unless Price stands on his head and the Canadiens special teams plays like they have at times this season, I just can’t see Montreal getting to the 2nd round. Boston in 6.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning: If this season had played out differently at all, the Penguins might be the favorite in this series. But right now I’d call it even. The Lightning have the offense and speed, combined with a mix of young players and veterans. But their issues have been with keeping the other team from scoring at times. We all know on the other hand that the Pens are missing Crosby and Malkin, and they have since been having an understandable issue with scoring. But they have a young goalie in Fleury who has already won the Cup and they have great team defense. So the Pens will have to rely on countering and defending against the Bolts top lines. The difference maker will come down to Dwayne Roloson and if he can continue to give them better netminding. In the end I’m going against the trend and I will take the Bolts. Tampa Bay in 6.
Later today you should be able to check in and I will follow up by looking at the Western Conference match-ups for everyone. Thanks!