Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview: 1st Round

Musings of a Caps Fan's previews of the Eastern Conference playoffs, first round.

Washington Capitals (#1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (#8)
The Caps and Habs are two totally different teams. The Caps lead the NHL in 5-on-5 goals, while the Habs are one of the worst. Tha Caps have also allowed fewer 5-on-5 goals than the Habs. The only chance the Canadiens have is on the powerplay; the Habs have the 2nd-best PP (behind the Caps), while the Caps' PK is less than fantastic. Some notes;
  • Jose Theodore, the Caps' starter, will have to prove that he can succeed against his former team.
  • The Caps will need to shut down the Caps' top 2 lines to have a chance.
  • Jaroslav Halak, the Habs' goalie, will have to prove himself in the playoffs. Will he play well enough for the upset?

Season series: tied at 2-2.
Prediction: Caps in 5; nobody can withstand the Caps' offense in a best-of-7; Jaroslav Halak and the Habs are no exception.

New Jersey Devils (#2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (#7)
In a matchup of Atlantic Division rivals, the hard-hitting but goalie-challenged Flyers meet the struggling but still dangerous Devils. Some notes:
  • The Devils hopes for playoff success begin and end with aging goalie Martin Broduer; a future Hall-of-Famer, holder of numerous lifetime records; however, Broduer has started to lose his edge.
  • Even with strong play from Broduer, the Devils will need their offensive stars, ie Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, to get the puck into the net.
  • Philadelphia will have to rely on defenseman Chris Pronger to shut down the Devils, especially with the Flyers' shaky (at best) goaltending.

Season series: Flyers lead 5-1.
Prediction: Devils in 7; all that's required is an exceptional effort by Kovalchuk or Broduer, and the Flyers are sunk.

Buffalo Sabres (#3) vs. Boston Bruins (#6)
In this matchup of Northeast Division rivals, goaltending is everything. Sure, both teams can score (occasionally), and both have good defensemen (Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers), but their success in entirely reliant on the goalies. Some notes:
  • Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is Definitely a finalist for the Vezina trophy this year, and is hard to beat.
  • However, Buffalo has no backup plan.... Ryan Miller or bust.
  • Boston's goaltending consists of Finnish rookie Tuukka Rask & Team USA backup Tim Thomas, last year's Vezina winner.

Season series: Boston leads 4-2.
Prediction: Boston in 6; in a series that is all about goalies, Boston has more choices and more depth. Goodbye, Buffalo.

Pittsburgh Penguins (#4) vs. Ottawa Senators (#5)
The Sens and the Pens meet up in the playoffs for the 3rd time in four years. All three of the last meeting have been Penguins wins. This matchup depends primarily, again, on goalies. Some notes:
  • Ottawa needs the offense (namely Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza) to produce, but especially needs goalie Brian Elliott to be in his "hot" mode.
  • Though not as essential, Pittsburgh needs Marc-Andre Fleury to not give up any easy goals.
  • Some production from Evgeni Malkin would be nice as well.

Season series: tied at 2-2.
Prediction: Penguins in 7; the Senators will put up a fight, but Pittsburgh's depth and experience will prevail. Unfortunately.

I'll write the preview for the Western conference in a bit. The playoffs start tonight at 7 PM.
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