Sportsroids.com’s NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Preview
April 13, 2009 by Big Tony
The playoff match-ups are all set and read to launch Wednesday evening. To start the first of two playoff previews I will take a look at the Eastern Conference match-ups, give you some notes about them and make a pick. This is the BEST part of the year by far so let’s get right to the previews.
1. Boston Bruins VS 8. Montreal Canadiens
Well it’s a year later and the seedings have been swapped but the first round match-up is the same as the Canadiens and Bruins throw more gasoline on the burning rivalry between the two. The teams are slightly different but the key pieces have gone unchanged. Carey Price and Tim Thomas are both back and bring with them playoff experience which neither of them had last year. Each netminder had stretches of brilliance and ineptitude in the series last year and with that experience under their respective belts they should each be relatively solid in net. Zdano Chara had a fantastic year on defense while Marc Savard, David Krejci, and others showed that you can score a lot of goals in a Claude Julien system. Montreal lost Mark Streit and last year’s version of Alexi Kovalev but they gained some size and toughness in Ryan O’byrne and Georges Laraque (something they desperately needed against Philadelphia last season). There are plenty of other things to consider and we can talk all day and night about this series… so who has the advantage? The Bruins had a great season but really sputtered toward the end including a 6-1 loss to a Sabres team spending another April on the golf course. Montreal did not have the best end of the season either but despite falling so far so quickly they are in and that’s what separates them from the Bruins, despite all odds the Canadiens end up where they want to be. Series outcome: Montreal in six.
2. Washington Capitals VS 7. NY Rangers
This is a battle of goaltenders, plain and simple. Despite the Caps star power when it comes down to a shooting contest I’ll take Henrik Lundqvist over Jose Theodore any day. Washington can score so they’ll steal a game or two but in the end the Rangers will advance in five or six.
3. New Jersey Devils VS 6. Carolina Hurricanes
How far can Martin Brodeur take the Devils? New Jersey did so well without him and once he returned it’s like the team reverted back to the old days of play defense and rely on Brodeur to win 1-0. Those days are over, and if they play that against one of the league’s hottest teams and a Conn Smythe winning goaltender they will lose. Ward has been unbelievable and with Eric Staal and Erik Cole in front of him the Devils are in serious trouble. All-in-all it’s an even match-up on paper, but once you reach the playoffs if Pittsburgh taught us anything last year you go with the hot team. The hot team is Carolina, therefore the Canes take it in five.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins VS 5. Philadelphia Flyers.
It’s the battle of Pennsylvania, division rivals, and the home of the “Crosby is a diver!” Tie that in with revenge on the minds of the Flyers after last year’s playoff thrashing at the hands of the Penguins what else could you want in a series? Crosby and Malkin more than likely have to play well for the Penguins to advance but it’s possible to see Pittsburgh in round two without top-notch play from their two stars. What the Penguins can’t afford to have is inconsistent play from netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. When Fleury is on he’s one of the best goaltenders in the league and shows flashes of what made him such a highly touted amateur player. But when Fleury is off the rest of the team is usually not good enough to bail him out. The same goes for Marty Biron on the other side of the ice. Even if Richards, Carter, Knuble, etc. are amazing if Biron is off the Flyers are done. So the key to this match-up is the goaltending; whoever wins the battle of the goalies will lead their team to round two. So who wins? Marc-Andre Fleury won last year and will win again this year. Both teams will have their moments but the Penguins will win in seven…(the Flyers will be kicking themselves for having lost home-ice on the last day of the season).