April 7, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek (93) skates up ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference

 

Like little children on Christmas day, the moment we’ve been waiting for all season is finally upon us.  16 Teams have battled 82 games each to end up in the position that they’re in today.  No matter what the regrular season told you, and no matter what position you’re in right now, before the games begin everyone is the same. Even.  The first round begins tonight with some interesting matchups to provide some initial excitement.  Starting tonight, say goodbye to life as you normally know it.  You’ll be up late, you’ll never be able to read enough, and adrenalin will keep you going.  Enjoy the ride no matter who you root for.

Here’s a quick look at the Eastern Conference Matchups:

(1)New York Rangers vs.(8) Ottawa Senators:

The Rangers who are coached by John Tortorella play a hard game.  They are just physical enough to go along with their skill level. When you have a game breaker like Marian Gaborik on offence and Henrik Lundqvist in goal you’ll be hard to beat.  The Rangers featured balanced scoring, which ranked them 11th in the league, however they don’t need to score much since they have the King in goal, and their goals against ranked 3rd in the NHL.  If they have a weakness it’s on defence, but goaltending makes up for that.

Ottawa is one of the surprise teams this season, finishing 8th in the East, when most picked them to finish 14th or even 15th.  Strange how they came together, but nonetheless they’ve been pretty consistent all season long.  Jason Spezza seemed th thrive under new head coach John MacLean this season jumpring from 57 points last year to 84 points this season.  He’s shooting more, and even playing some defence.  Erik Karlsson has come from nowwhere to be a highly skilled offensive defenceman.  Second on the team in scoring with 78 points, Karlsson logs just over 25 minutes of ice time, and makes things happen for the Senators.  Where I think they’ll struggle is in goal.  Anytime you have Craig Anderson as you’re main guy, you need to be worried.  Prediction: Rangers in 5

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals:

The Bruins will attempt to win their second consecutive Cup.  While it’s difficult enough to win one, going for two is harder.  A topsy turvy season for the defending champs, they still found a way to finish second in the conference, and deflect all the adversity that was thrown their way.  A tough, hard hitting, and rough bunch, no game is easy against Boston.  Ranked third in the league in goals for, and sixth in the league in goals against, this is one of the most well balanced teams you’ll see.  Tyler Seguin in only his second season led the B’s in points and is only getting better.  However players like Patrice Bergeron and David Kreci are right behind him.  If Tim Thomas plays anything close to how he did last year, this team can find itself in the conference finals.

The Washington Capitals were picked by almost everyone to challenge for the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season. When you look at their roster and see Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and what appears to be some wily veterans, you scratch your head when you see how the season ended up for them.  Honestly this team underachieved, and could be called the San Jose Sharks of the Eastern Conference.  Goaltending is also an issue as Tomas Vokoun has had injuries, struggled at times, and now Michal Neuvirth may not be available.  Coach Dale Hunter has his hands full here on this one, and while the Capitals may have more skill, the Bruins have more grit, and desire.  Prediction:  Bruins is 5.

(3)Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils:

Full and complete review coming in a separate post.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers:

Two teams that don’t like each other, and two teams that I don’t like either for that matter.  This will be a mean, nasty, and physical series which promises to catch everyone’s eye.  How will Sidney Crosby survive?  Will the real Matt Cooke reveal himself, and go back to his old ways?  Can Marc-Andre Fleury stay hot?  Lots of questions with this team, and to have to face the Flyers out of the gate, they can only hope their emotions don’t get away from themselves.  Evgeni Malkin who led the team in scoring with 109 points is as dangerous as they come.  Don’t forget about James Neal either who scored 40 goals himself.

The Flyers always play the same no matter who is on their team.  They are in your face, in your sides, and on your back.  Constantly.  Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell combined for 65 goals as the team leaders on the ice.  Both are extremely talented and yet both play a different game, and offer a nice compliment to each other.  Also, you can never discount a team who has Jaromir Jagr on it’s roster.  The question mark for the Flyers in my mind is Ilya Bryzgalov.  Which version do we get, and can he finally put the issue of goaltending for the Flyers to rest, or will it continue to remain a humongous problem?  Prediction:  Penguins in 7, unless the Flyers win in 6.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Eastern Conference Finals New Yuork Rangers Nhl Playoff Preview Pittsburgh Penguins Washington Capitals

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