Here’s a look at each Eastern Conference series and how the teams match up.
#1 Montreal Canadiens vs. #8 Boston Bruins
Season series: Montreal (8-0-0); Boston (0-7-1)
Synopsis: This matchup couldn’t have worked out better for Montreal. The Canadiens handed the Bruins their rear ends all season long. The Habs will also pit their power play, the best in the league, against a team that was only less putrid at penalty killing than the Kings and the lowly Leafs. The goaltender is the key to a Stanley Cup win for Montreal; if last year’s AHL playoff MVP netminder Carey Price proves he’s ready for the big dance the Habs could go all the way.
Prediction: Canadiens annihilate the Bruins in five, and your Hab-loving co-worker will remind you of it.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Ottawa Senators
Season series: Pittsburgh (1-2-1); Ottawa (3-1-0)
Synopsis: The Sens had the advantage of a solid, playoff-weathered lineup when they eliminated the Penguins this time last year, but now the shoe is on the other foot. Pens’ wunderkinds Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are one year wiser, and have wingmen Peter Sykora and Marian Hossa backing them up. If they get the goaltending, the Pens will be the team to beat in the East. Compare that to an Ottawa lineup that is now missing Danny Alfredsson and Mike Fisher and was troubled all season by the PR disaster that was The Ray Emery Show.
Prediction: It’s a total breakdown for Ottawa as the Pens get their revenge in four.
#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers
Season series: Washington (2-2-0); Philadelphia (2-1-1)
Synopsis: Washington’s Rocket Richard Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin will have to watch his back in this series. The ruthless Flyers will no doubt want to take the tough young Russian sniper out of the equation as soon as they can, any way they can. But both teams better watch it with the penalties: Ovechkin scored 22 power play goals this season, and Philadelphia has the second-best power play in the league. This series should play out like a Western, with the high-flying fan favourite Ovechkin wearing the white hat as he takes on Philadelphia’s band of merciless assassins.
Prediction: Mercy is for the weak! The Flyers bludgeon and bloody the Caps into submission in six.
#4 New Jersey Devils vs. #5 New York Rangers
Season series: New Jersey (1-4-3); New York (7-0-1)
Synopsis: New Jersey beat the Rangers for the first time all season last Sunday in a nail-biting shootout to gain home ice advantage, and ill feeling is already growing between the two teams. The highlight of this series will be the duel between the pipes: Henrik Lundqvist has been exceptional against Jersey, but Martin Brodeur is the best goaltender of our time.
Prediction: Brodeur has an uncanny knack for carrying the Devils deep into the playoffs. New Jersey wins in seven.