Welcome back to the second set of first round predictions. Here we will look at the Eastern Conference. Will the Penguins dominate as expected or will the big bad Bruins have something to say about it? Both the Rangers and Capitals have been peaking of late, so one of those hot streaks will come to an end. Let’s not forget that the three Eastern Canadian teams are in the playoffs, and we are getting our first all Canadian series since 2004, so that’s pretty exciting!
#1 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. #8 NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Sidney Crosby Injury Watch
Glen Says: While everyone expects this series to be short, and they are probably right. These games may be closer than some people expect. While the Penguins won the season series 4-1 but three of those wins came in Pittsburgh’s undefeated month of March and they haven’t played since the Islanders really took off in the last month of the season. Expect Tavares to really arrive on the big stage with this series and Evgeni Nabokov to remind people that he was a pretty damn good goalie back in San Jose. Don’t get me wrong, the Isles aren’t taking this to seven or anything, but I expect this to be like the old Dallas-Edmonton series that Dallas would continually win in four or five, but every game would be tight and fun to watch.
Penguins in 5
Troy Says: Well this is basically the Eastern Conference’s version of CHI-MIN. No question Chicago was the best team in the league in the regular season but Pittsburgh was not far behind. Especially when looking at the second half of the season. Don’t forget that Pittsburgh has been without Crosby and Malkin for a while now but they haven’t skipped a beat. It’s been impressive. This is an incredibly deep team and the Islanders simply can’t match. The weakest link in Pittsburgh may be their goaltending. Fleury can sometimes be an enigma. He has the ability to lead a team to Stanley Cup but he can also stink out the joint. Still though, I’m pretty sure I could play goal for the Pens in this series and still win.
Expect to Hear: ”The last time the Islanders won a playoff series was against the Penguins in ’93 when Sidney Crosby was 5, Jonathan Tavares was 2. What a coincidence we were all 20 years younger then!”
#2 MONTREAL CANADIENS vs. #7 OTTAWA SENATORS
Glen Says: Somehow, someway these two teams have shared a division for over 20 years and have never once played one another in the playoffs. These two teams are the closest geographically of any two Canadian teams yet have absolutely no rivalry to speak. Their fan bases have even bonded over their mutual loathing of the Leafs. Hopefully this series will find a way to kick start a blood feud here. The Sens must be tickled that they not only spoiled a Toronto-Montreal love fest, but they also got their ideal matchup in the first round. The Sens would have been in a lot of trouble against the Bruins or Penguins, but they matchup well against the Habs. Think about it: Subban vs. Karlsson, Anderson vs. Price, The Calder Line vs. Galenchuk and Gallagher, these teams are a lot more even than the standings would indicate. Both teams are even limping their way into the playoffs.
These same Sens took last years Rangers to seven games, and last years Rangers are a much better team than this years Habs.
Senators in 7
Troy Says: This one tears my heart out. The Habs are my favourite team but Ottawa is probably number two. I love seeing an all Canadian series but I hate seeing it in the first round. Seems like such a waste. I’m really looking forward to this series though. It should be incredibly tight. This year I had the chance to go to my very first Habs game and it was against Ottawa (sans Karlsson). Montreal won 4-3 in a shootout and it was a fantastic game. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had with my pants on. Much like in the West this is a 2 vs 7 series that really doesn’t feel like one. All year long Ottawa’s depth and character has been tested and they’ve come through with flying colours whereas for whatever reason all the success Montreal has had feels odd. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far it hasn’t but I can’t shake this feeling that they’re not the team I want them to be. I think Ottawa may expose that.
Expect to Hear: ”This is the first playoff meeting of these two teams since 1927. We used to agree that these Senators weren’t the same as the old ones, but since we called that team in Winnipeg the Jets we’re kind of forced to now…”
#3 WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. #6 NEW YORK RANGERS
Fourth Time in Five Years: Get Ready for Divisional Playoffs Next Year!!!
Glen Says: This series, again? Have two teams met so frequently yet hated one another so little? Last years second round series was the most boring shot-blockingest series I can remember. Thankfully though, Dale Hunter is out and Adam Oates is in, oh and that Russian guy is playing about a thousand times better now than he was a year ago. I think that this will be the closest series taking place and we will see some legitimately amazing games from some truly elite players. The two guys under the most scrutiny will be Rick Nash, to see if he can be on the winning end of a playoff game in his career, and Braden Holtby, to see if he can duplicate his success from last year. I know which of those two I have faith in.
Rangers in 7
Troy Says: The two playoff chockiest teams get to play each other again. This one should be different though. First of all Ovechkin finally got over his love of Ice Dance and decided to start playing hockey again and wow has he been good. I’m not 100% sure on my stats but I think he had 234 goals in the last 15 games of the season. On the other side of the coin New York is an incredibly deep team lead by a Captain who is incredibly tenacious and completely capable of putting this team on his back and willing them to a win. In the last couple seasons Callahan has really begun to impress me. In the end I think Ovechkin is going to drag his team through this round. He’s a sleeping giant who has finally awoken.
Expect to Hear: ”Can you believe that he only scored 6 goals in 7 games? Ovechkin is such a choker. Look at that Brad Richards, he got 4 points in 7 games, he’s so clutch.”
#4 BOSTON BRUINS vs. #5 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Nothing of Interest Here, Nope, Not a Series of Lopsided Trades That Helped Define Both Franchises
Glen Says: This will be an unmitigated slaughter, plain and simple. The Bruins have stumbled a bit to close the season, but let’s not forget: this is essentially the same team that won the Cup two years ago. Sure you can replace Thomas with Raask, Recchi with Jagr, and Kaberle with Redden, but I’ll be damned if those aren’t lateral moves at worst, and more than likely full scale improvements. These guys can and will flip the switch and the Leafs will be in their way.
Even as an abject Leaf hater, it’s hard not to be a little caught up in their stories. Nazem Kadri finally arrives, Reimer plays so well that Luongo is stuck in Vancouver, but this will be a tough one.
Bruins in 4
Troy Says: I would love nothing more than to see Toronto knock off Boston in this series but unfortunately for Leafs fans I just don’t see it happening. Boston is deeper, tougher and bigger. Toronto’s best offensive threat is Kessel and for whatever reason he disappears against his former team. In 22 games against Boston he’s scored 3 goals. None of which were even strength. The plus here for Toronto could be Reimer. He has played very well against Boston of late and if he can outplay Rask he will give his team a chance. In the end I think the Bruins will be too much.
Expect to Hear: ”Kessel for Seguin and Hamilton isn’t the only time the Leafs made a bad trade with the Bruins. On November 9, 1954 the Leafs acquired Joe Klukay for Leo Bovin and well we all know how that worked out…”
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins over #7 Ottawa Senators in 6
#4 Boston Bruins over #6 New York Rangers in 6
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins over #4 Boston Bruins in 5
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins over #7 Ottawa Senators in 5
#4 Boston Bruins over #3 Washington Capitals in 7
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins over #4 Boston Bruins in 7
#7 Ottawa Senators over #1 Pittsburgh Penguins in 5
#6 New York Rangers over #5 Boston Bruins in 6
#6 New York Rangers over #7 Ottawa Senators in 4
So that means that the Stanley Cup Final will be…
Glen Says: Pittsburgh Penguins over St. Louis Blues in 5
Troy Says: Pittsburgh Penguins over Chicago Blackhawks in 7
Coin Says: New York Rangers over Chicago Blackhawks in 7