(Sidney Crosby ladies and gents….. Photo Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar)
When I looked at Colin Fitts' excellent Western Conference Preview, it hit me. Let's do this almost Dobberhockey style. The Eastern Conference features a few teams not expected to make it but yet they did. Justin Glock from The Hockey Writers did most of the work for me with the East it seems. This looks like a completely backwards way of doing a preview but we are going to try this anyway. Anyhow, here are our predictions for Round 1.
Eastern Conference QF Predictions
- 1 PIT vs 8 NYI PIT in 5
- 2 MTL vs 7 OTT MTL in 5
- 3 WSH vs 6 NYR etc. WSH in 7
- 4 BOS vs 5 TOR BOS in 5
The first thing that is going to be asked is why? There is no need to get fancy here as you want to know who is going to win, right now. However here is the rationale for each series in quick form.
Pens over Islanders in 5
WHY?: This is simple. Sidney Crosby is going to play and when he does, the Islanders will not have the answers to stop him. New York is a feel good story and is one of the few teams in the playoffs with a goal differential at even or minus territory. Pittsburgh for awhile there was flirting with a +50 diffeential. They know how to scoe goals in bunches (just ask Carolina). While the Islanders have the ability, they have to keep the score down and the intensity way up. The only way New York beats Pittsburgh is if they are physical from second one! The problem is I cannot see the Islanders executing that plan the whole way out. Pittsburgh has Malkin, Neal, Letang, etc…etc…and that is too much firepower.
Canadiens over Senators in 5
This one could be closer. Ottawa is one of the grittiest teams I have seen in the last decade and Erik Karlsson looks like last year's Norris Trophy winner. Both teams limped into the playoffs honestly but Montreal has the ability to turn their game up a few notches. That is a question mark with Ottawa. These are going to be hotly contested games and very close to boot. However, Carey Price does have the slight edge over Craig Anderson. Something tells me Montreal carries over the momentum from the Boston win and perseveres.
Capitals over Rangers in 7
This is truly contrasting styles all over again. Now, Adam Oates has an ultra hot Alexande Ovechkin, fresh off the Rocket Richard Trophy. The Washington Capitals were 25-10-2 down the stretch including a 17-6-1 stretch in the second half. The New York Rangers are just as hot scoring 3.6 goals per game in April and running a power play at over 21% for the month. Also, the Rangers are averaging over 15 blocked shots per game and look to have that game in gear with Henrik Lundqvist posting a clutch .937 save percentage over the final six weeks. Records do not matter. There is only one question. Who wins the battle of styles? The higher pace of the Capitals or the slower counterattack of the Rangers? Honestly, it is the toughest series to predict but in the end, Braden Holtby is the "X Factor". Ultimately, he will likely hold down the fort just long enough for Washington's secondary scoring to make a difference. Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer hit the back of the net just enough to eek the Caps through to the second round in an uncanny reversal of last year's matchup.
Bruins over Maple Leafs in 5
Yes the Bruins are struggling but it is the Maple Leafs. TSN can throw all the la-di-da stats around it wants to but they cannot get around the fact that Boston just has Phil Kessel's number.The explanation is simple. Nothing turns a switch on like playing a rival and with Nathan Horton 100%, that should make a difference for David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Yes, Toronto has firepower with Kessel and Joffrey Lupul just to name a few. However, the playoffs brings an intensity that these two may not be able to match. Toronto will have to strike early and often to have any chance whatsoever. If they cannot, Boston coasts to a five game thrashing of their Northeast Division rivals. Tuukka Rask should be able to outperform James Reimer with all due respect. As a result, Reimer may keep Toronto in at times but he may also be the reason they see the golf course early.
That is it for now. We will be following the playoffs closely and expect some timely updates along the way. Enjoy those playoffs pools and Round 1 of course!