Wednesday, April 09, 2008

2008 NHL Playoffs Round I Eastern Conference

Series A: Montreal Canadiens (47-35; 104 points; 1st Northeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 3rd Overall) vs. Boston Bruins (41-43; 94 points, 3rd Northeast Division, 8th Eastern Conference, 15th Overall):

Two teams nobody really expected to be in the playoffs this year, the Habs and the Bruins will meet in the playoffs for the 30th time. Nobody scored more goals than Montreal and their Power Play led them through the season. Boston overcame a ton of injuries to get back into the playoffs for the first time in four years by playing a tight defensive game. Montreal however lacks playoff experience and is relying on a rookie goaltender, Carey Price, to carry them deep into the playoffs. This is setting up as a classic case of a good offense facing a good defense. However, only two playoff teams scored fewer goals than Boston, Anaheim and New Jersey, and both had better goal differentials (+14 and +9 respectively) than Boston (-10). Us Caps fans know that good defense alone doesn't get it done in the playoffs, you have to score goals in order to win. Boston is hoping that Patrice Bergeron will return and the eight game season series sweep at the hands of the Canadiens was just a fluke; but missing most of the season means you aren't ready when the puck drops in the playoffs and Montreal knows it can handle whatever Boston throws at them. The bad news for Montreal is that Boston plays a very tough and borderline cheap physical game and sometimes seems more interested in hurting people instead of winning the game. The sooner Montreal can get rid of Boston, the better off they'll be. Montreal in five.

Series B: Pittsburgh Penguin Scum (47-35; 102 points; 1st Atlantic Division, 2nd Eastern Conference, 4th Overall) vs. Ottawa Senators (43-41; 94 points; 2nd Northeast Division, 7th Eastern Conference, 13th Overall):

From the "Careful What You Wish For File," the Penguin Scum blatantly tanked their season finale in Philadelphia on Sunday in order to draw Ottawa in the first round instead of the Flyers. The Penguin Scum have a history of tanking in order to get what they want and it usually works out for them too. I said usually because they tanked the 2004 season in an attempt to land A.O. but we all know how the draft lottery turned out that year. (It's ok though, they were gifted Canadian Diving Team Captain, Secondary Assist Cindy Crosby a year later in the Draft Lottery.) You can't blame the Penguin Scum for wanting to play Ottawa who got out to an early lead in the Eastern Conference, looked like they were going to challenge for the President's Trophy, and then almost ended up missing the playoffs entirely. You have injuries to their Captain and another top forward, a soap opera in the locker room with last year's MVP, and an unsettled situation in the front office with Bryan Murray pulling a Lou Lamoriello to get things turned back around. Murray's gambit hasn't worked so far but could the Penguin Scum's gambit become the galvanizing force the Senators have been looking for? The Senators knocked off the Penguin Scum in the first round last year and some of the same problems for Pittsburgh still exist this year as Ottawa won the season series 3-1. The Penguin Scum still lack a tough presence on the blueline, they can't have total confidence in their goaltending, and who is the grizzled vet that is going to lead all of the youngsters through the playoffs? We know Cindy will play no matter what her balky ankle does but Hossa has been a non-factor since joining the Penguin Scum and has historically been a non-factor in the playoffs. There are definitely big seeds for an upset sown in this series but we're going with the flow in picking the Penguin Scum in five.

Series C: Washington Capitals (43-41; 94 points; 1st Southeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference, 12th Overall) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (42-42; 95 points; 4th Atlantic Division, 6th Eastern Conference, 11th Overall):

A series this big deserves its own post.

Series D: New Jersey Devils (46-36; 99 points; 2nd Atlantic Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 6th Overall) vs. New York Rangers (42-42; 97 points; 3rd Atlantic Division, 5th Eastern Conference; 9th Overall):

One of these days the Genius Manager, Lou Lamoriello will learn that you can't rely Martin Brodeur to do everything. The Devils brought in Kevin Weekes to provide Brodeur with a real backup who could give him more nights off. It resulted in one fewer appearance, 62 fewer minutes on the ice, and 3 fewer goals allowed for Brodeur this season. Brodeur also pitched 8 fewer shutouts with all that extra rest Weekes provided. Even worse for the Devils, they were shutout themselves, 11 times this season and had just one win in eight games against the Rangers this season. As a matter of fact, New Jersey becomes the first team to make the playoffs with a division record than not even Gary Bettman can spin as above .500 (13-15-4). So why do the Devils "have a punchers chance"? Well, they're playing the Rangers. This is a team who's Captain is openly yearning to play in Siberia next season. The Rangers are also beginning to wonder if Henrik Lundqvist is the playoff goaltender they need to go far in the playoffs. This is a series where somebody has to win and the winner really won't deserve it. And do you want to know something even more ludicrous? By finishing 6th in the NHL, the Devils have a real shot of winning the Cup because no team that has finished worse than 6th overall has won the Stanley Cup. The Devils were the last team to do it in 1995 but that was 13 years ago and Marty needs a rest. Rangers in seven.



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