2008 Eastern Conference Playoff First Round Preview
#1 Montreal vs. # 8 Boston
Talk about a dream first round match for Montreal, who captured the Eastern Conference for the first time in 15 years. The Canadiens have dominated the Bruins for the last year and a half, including winning all eight games this season and outscoring them 39 to 16 during this time.
The Bruins have a monster on their defense named Zdeno Chara, who has to utilize his size and punish Montreal if they have any chance in this. Of course the downside of playing aggressive is the potential for penalties and the Bruins must stay out of the box. The Canadiens have the best power-play in the league and will punish this terrible Bruins penalty kill.
This is also a perfect time for Montreal’s 20-year-old franchise goalie, Carey Price, to introduce himself to the NHL playoffs. Captain Saku Koivu may miss the entire 1st round, which leaves a hole in the lineup but should not matter in this case. This team has won eight of their last ten and the Canadiens are playing excellent hockey.
Boston will sneak a win but the Canadiens will advance into the second round.
Montreal wins in five.
#2 Pittsburgh vs. #7 Ottawa
What in the world happened to Ottawa? After the first two months of the season, it seemed everyone was ready to give the cup to the Senators. Now look at them. They collapsed and were lucky to make the playoffs, and they now have to face the healthy Penguins with former Senator All-star, Marian Hossa.
Sidney Crosby is back from injury and will line-up with Evgeni Malkin to end Ottawa’s year. Just as important is the return of the veteran grinder Gary Roberts, who has played one game since January. He brings great leadership in the locker room and on the ice. Interestingly enough, the Pens lost three of four meetings between the two teams this season and their one win came in a shoot-out.
Ottawa did lose Daniel Alfredsson to a knee injury and the amount of time of his absence is uncertain. The Sens captain may be out for anywhere from four days or four weeks, but either way he will be missed greatly. Jason Spezza has to step up and be the game breaker during this time, while Ottawa has to figure out a way to contain Pittsburgh’s offense. Not an easy task.
Goaltending on both sides is suspect in the playoffs and I can see a few overtime games in this series. At the end, Pittsburgh’s younger players are just outstanding and better than those for Ottawa.
Pittsburgh wins in six.
#3 Washington vs. #6 Philadelphia
If Alexander Ovechkin has not caught your attention yet, he never will. He has led his team to an amazing seven straight wins and to the top of the Southeast Division. This is a great story and Ovechkin has confirmed himself the MVP for this year, no question. The Capitals are the hottest team as of late and play a team who finished with more points, in the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers are going to punish Ovechkin and show no mercy of any sort. These "Broad Street bullies" will do whatever it takes to win games. Late hits, face washes, sucker punches, even cross-checks to the face of their opponent’s stars. Anything to get some Capitals off their game, or better yet, out of the game. Philadelphia has to contain Ovechkin and counter with Daniel Briere to shine.
Washington has one tool, and we all know what it is. Now it is time for others to play better than ever. Sergei Federov has arose from the past and is contributing like he used to. A huge part of the Caps success is the gold in the rough named Mike Greene. He is one of many playoff first timers for Washington.
Yes, I know the Caps are hard to beat at home as of late, but if you are on the Ovechkin banwaggon, get off. This is the playoffs.
Philadelphia in six.
#4 New Jersey vs. #5 New York Rangers
The Devils and Rangers have produced three shootouts and one overtime in eight regular season games this season. Incredibly, the New York Rangers have won seven of these low scoring games. When will New Jersey realize that they have to score more than one goal to win a game? Martin Brodeur has played exceptional hockey his entire career, but he needs more goal support to win the cup this year.
New Jersey does not like flashiness, pizzazz, or showboating, but they do like to win games. They have a history of scoring one goal and playing the infamous “trap.” Zach Parise is the most talented Devil and would score 90 points on any other team. On the defensive New Jersey, his potential is limited. Boring hockey, yes. Successful hockey, yes.
The Rangers are full of experienced players and firepower. Jagr, Shanahan, Straka, Gomez, and Drury have great playoff résumé’s with other teams in the past. Add in the fact that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been one of best goalies this entire season.
Both teams have terrible power-plays and good penalty killers, which lets fans know that special teams are just a waste of two minutes. If you like slow, defensive battles, here is your series. This will be the most bland series of the playoffs, and for the sake of NHL hockey, let us all hope the Rangers win.
New York in seven.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
> Follow the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs online with Pro Hockey Fans!
> Find all of the NHL news & articles online from Pro Hockey Fans.