The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview (NHL)

Posted by Blake Murphy on April 8, 2008

This article has been submitted by Ian Cass.

The Playoffs are here. Ovechkin is here. What more could we ask for?

This is part one of a two-part preview of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I am starting with the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference will follow. Each preview starts with the teams listed along with their conference seeding and record in the last ten games of the regular season. “The Edge” is a preview of which team has the advantage in the season series and different aspects of the game. I have included a short series preview for each of the four match ups and then my prediction for the series. And bring on the comments!

1. Montreal Canadiens (8-1-1)
8. Boston Bruins (4-2-4)

The Edge:
Season Series: 8-0 Montreal
Up Front: Montreal
On the Blueline: Tie
Between the Pipes: Tie (but both playoff question marks)
PP: Montreal
PK: Boston

Even though Montreal will be missing their captain for an undetermined number of games in the playoffs, this one is the Habs’ to lose. They have been one of the hottest teams in the league since before the deadline, goaltender Carey Price is on top of the world (especially after being named NHL rookie of the month), and they have every reason to be confident that they are the team to beat in the East. The Bruins have had a strong comeback season and maybe they feel they have something to prove after being upset by Montreal back in 2004, but all signs point to smooth sailing for the Habs through to the second round.

Verdict: Montreal in 5

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (6-3-1)
7. Ottawa Senators (3-6-1)

The Edge:
Season Series: 3-1 Ottawa
Up Front: Pittsburgh (Ottawa injuries considered)
On the Blueline: Ottawa
Between the Pipes: Pittsburgh
PP: Pittsburg (Once again, no Alfredsson)
PK: Ottawa

This rematch of last year’s conference quarters is going to be a very different story. The Sens have been among the worst teams in the NHL since their blistering start to the season, they have serious goaltending issues, and the losses of Alfredsson and Fisher will put a serious damper of any chances of an ‘upset’ here. The Pens have been consistent all season, even without Crosby in the lineup, and made important short-term upgrades at the deadline. Their power play is completely absurd, goaltending has been solid from both tenders, and if Crosby can stay healthy this team will make a serious run at the finals. I have to admit I was really hoping for a Pens-Flyers match up in the first round but this rematch is going to produce some really high paced, exciting hockey. If Ottawa turns it on (which I think they will) this series could go either way.

Verdict: Pittsburgh in 7

3. Washington Capitals (9-1-0)
6. Philadelphia Flyers (7-2-1)

The Edge:
Season Series: 2-2
Up Front: Ovechkin
On the Blueline: Philadelphia
Between the Pipes: Washington
PP: Philadelphia
PK: Tie (equally bad)

There are many reasons to be pumped for this year’s NHL playoffs. And when I say ‘many reasons’ I mean Alexander Ovechkin. He locked up the Art Ross and the Richard Trophy today and in my opinion has a lock on the Hart and Pearson as well. No player in my lifetime has brought this much excitement to the game. For the past few weeks, the Caps have been my team. I have wanted nothing more than to see Ovechkin get the chance to play in the post-season and now it’s about to happen. I was hoping that Ovechkin would have the chance to beat up on the Senators but this will do. This match up is intriguing because these teams happen to be two of the hottest in the league. This might not say much for the Flyers, who are possible the streakiest team we’ve ever seen. They picked up points in 15 of 17 games mid-season and then immediately lost 10 in a row before closing out the season as one of the strongest teams in the league. The Capitals, who finished last in the Southeast each of the last three seasons and sat dead last in the Eastern Conference at Christmas, managed to climb all the way to the top of the division and claim home ice advantage in the playoffs. They won 15 of their 19 games after the deadline including 12 of the last 13 and 7 in a row to close out the charge. The addition of Sergei Fedorov to lead Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom into the playoffs was a genius move by George McPhee and right now, nothing seems to be getting in Ovechkin’s way. Other than San Jose, the Caps are the hottest team in hockey. I can’t wait to watch this series. Ovechkin in the playoffs is going to be a serious treat for all true fans of the game (Editor’s note: don’t forget casual fans like me).

Verdict: Washington in 6

4. New Jersey (4-5-1)
5. New York Rangers (5-1-4)

The Edge:
Season Series: 7-1 NY Rangers
Up Front: NY Rangers
On the Blueline: Tie
In Net: New Jersey
PP: NY Rangers
PK: NY Rangers

This series really started Sunday night when these two teams faced off for home ice advantage. The Devils won it in a shootout which seems to give them the edge but the concerning thing is that this was the first victory for the Devils in eight tries against the Rangers this season. If the Devils had won half of their games against the Rangers they would have won the Eastern Conference. Neither team is particularly hot at the moment and both teams have a goalie who can steal games. The teams were the only two in the East to allow fewer than 200 goals against and had equal trouble putting the puck in the net during the season. These teams seem to match up really well in almost all aspects of the game. This could lead to a very boring series (especially if one team starts to take control), but there is also potential for a really exciting game seven here, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this one unfolds.

Verdict: Rangers in 6

This article has been submitted by Ian Cass.

5 Responses to “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview (NHL)”

  1. Stu P S Says:

    “On the Blueline: Ottawa”

    You obviously forgot that the Penguins acquired Hal Gill at the deadline.

    I’m also really excited for the Philly-Caps series, but not just for OV. Philly is the most thuggish of all the teams in the East, it should be interesting how young (weak) guys like Semin and Backstrom handle that. I say Brashear kills a man by Game 3.

  2. Blake Murphy Says:

    Does the NHL re-seed after the first round? Is there any chance for a Crosby-Ovechkin 2nd round show down? That’s where the money’s at right there.

  3. Ian Says:

    Ya the NHL re-seeds. A Crosby-Ovechkin second round showdown is very likely. As long as Montreal wins (and both Washington and Pittsburgh win obviously) it’ll happen. That is definitely where the money’s at.

  4. snydes Says:

    Pens in 5, maybe 4. Ottawa is in absolute shambles and right now I would say the only advantage OTT has in it’s PK. Wash, Pitt would be an amazing 2nd round matchup too. GO PENS

  5. Principal Dondelinger Says:

    Solid predictions. Perhaps more upset potential in the west, but that is debateable. Go Wild - they will surprise a lot of people. Ottawa will not go down as quietly as everyone expects. McAmmond, Vermette, Neil and Volchenkov will keep them afloat till game 7. Fisher and Alfy being out will prevent them from pulling off the upset in the end. Boston will be hard pressed to steal even one from the Habs who will gain a stupid amount of momentum at home. Regardless, the cup is coming out of the west again - unless they are too battered and bruised from fighting amongst themselves.

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