Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2009 NHL Playoffs Round I Eastern Conference

Taking a general look at the Eastern Conference, Boston and Washington fans have to be happy that some of the most dangerous teams in the conference will face each other and beat each other up in the first round making their path to the Eastern Conference Finals easier. That is of course, if they can advance that far...

Series A: Boston Bruins (53-29; 116 points; 1st Northeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 2nd Overall) vs. Montreal Canadiens (41-41; 93 points; 2nd Northeast Division, 8th Eastern Conference, 13th Overall):

For the 32nd time and for the second year in a row these two teams will meet in the first round of playoffs. Last year this was Series A as well only the seeds were reversed with Boston barely making it in as the 8th seed and Montreal cruising into the 1st seed. The Canadiens looked they would breeze on through jumping out to an early 3-1 lead in the series but Boston came back and forced Montreal into a Game 7, which the Canadiens survived to advance. Of all the series this year, this is the hardest one to predict. When you compare these two teams on paper, Boston is clearly the superior team and should win this series very quickly. However, in 2002, Boston was the 1st seed against 8th seeded Montreal and the Bruins lost, 4-2. Two years later, the Bruins were the #2 seed and lost 4-3 to the 7th seeded Canadiens. So don't think that the Canadiens cannot win this series. As a matter of fact, we're sure you've heard that the Canadiens have won 24 of the previous 31 series between these two teams. The only thing that would surprise us here was if this was a quick series either way. Boston has size, speed, and a nastiness that can punish the Canadiens. Montreal has history on their side and sometimes that is enough in the playoffs. This series though will be decided by the goaltending. Tim Thomas and Carey Price will have to prove themselves in his series. The one who does the best job of doing just that will advance his team. With great history comes great pressure. Carey Price has yet to show that he can harness the ghosts of the Montreal Forum to his advantage so we take Boston in seven.

Series B: Washington Capitals (50-32; 108 points; 1st Southeast Division, 2nd Eastern Conference, 4th Overall) vs. New York Rangers (43-39; 95 points; 4th Atlantic Division; 7th Eastern Conference, 12th Overal):

Check back at oh, about 3:30 pm for this one...

Series C: New Jersey Devils (51-31; 106 points; 1st Atlantic Division, 3rd Eastern Conference, 5th Overall) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (45-37; 97 pointsl 2nd Southeast Division, 6th Eastern Conference, 11th Overall):

So the Genius Manager Lou Lamoriello finally figured out a way to manage the minutes of one Martin Brodeur; injure him so he misses most of the season. Oddly enough, missing Marty caused the Devils to discover how to play offense as they scored their most goals in a season, 244, since 2000-2001's 295. Problem was, once Marty came back, the offense dried up once again. So did Marty get enough rest during his injury to keep him from breaking down in the playoffs? The history says no. Players who miss large chunks of the regular season rarely, if ever, perform well in the playoffs. Complicating matters further for the Devils is that they're playing the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes are back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. The Canes were bolstered by better health this season and Cam Ward finding the form that won him the Conn Smythe in 2006. Ward was red hot down the stretch and will have to stay that way if the Canes want to advance because the Devils can and will wear teams out offensively. The Canes of course will have to hope Brodeur doesn't turn it on again and at his age, almost 37, it is getting very hard for Brodeur to do just that so Canes in six.

Series D: Pittsburgh Penguin Scum (45-37; 99 points; 2nd Atlantic Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 8th Overall) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (44-38; 99 points; 3rd Atlantic Division, 5th Eastern Conference, 9th Overall):

A rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals, won by the Penguin Scum, occurs in the first round this year. Out of the playoffs and left for dead in February, the Penguin Scum got on a hot streak and didn't just earn a playoff spot, they earned home ice in the first round too. But that's about it for the good news for the Penguin Scum. They're facing the Flyers in the first round this year and while they've done well against Philly in the playoffs and regular season recently, playing Philly in the first round is a lot different than playing Philly in the later rounds. Philadelphia will once again go as far as Martin Biron can take them but Philadelphia's fate will hinge entirely on Penguin Scum goaltender Marc Andre Fleury. If Fleury can avoid the MAF-gaffes that has plagued his career, Pittsburgh will advance. We happen to think that the Flyers can match the Penguin Scum's offensive firepower and Philly's special teams will keep them in this series. But even though the Penguin Scum should win, Philly is going to get a pound of two of flesh. While Dan Bylsma has the Penguin Scum playing a more physical game than Michel Therrien did, but the Penguin Scum are not built for that type of game, the Flyers are and it plays into their hands. But once again, if Fleury is on his game, the Penguin Scum will win because Martin Biron cannot out duel him. The only question is, how much of a physical toll will this series take out of the Penguin Scum? Penguin Scum in seven.



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