Thanks to the Devils’ win over the Buffalo Sabres, we can finally be
sure about the Eastern Conference playoff seeding. Let’s take a look at
the first round.
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
My goodness, this could be an absolute bloodbath barring a miraculous
performance by Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak. The Canadiens are limping
their way into the playoffs, losing three in a row and going on a 3-4-3
streak in his last 10 games. Sometimes the simple stats tell
everything: the Canadiens are the only team in the postseason with a
negative goal differential (-6) while the Capitals sport an absurd +85.
2. New Jersey Devils vs. 7. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers will be headed into the playoffs with Brian Boucher
getting them there down the stretch, although there’s a possibility that
Philly turns to Johan Backlund. With the emotion that Boucher is
playing with now, I can’t see how they give up on too quickly. That
being said, it’s going to a drawn out, defensive battle that definitely
favors the New Jersey Devils. This is what they acquired Kovalchuk for.
3. Buffalo Sabres vs. 6. Boston Bruins
This is a very, very interesting matchup. Three months ago,
this would have been a lock for the Sabres. Yet with Tuukka Rask in net
for the Bruins, anything is possible. This is going to be the
goaltending battle of the first round, with Ryan Miller doing his best
to once again magically carry a team to glory. Neither team has much
offense, so I’m expecting a number of overtime games. Since I said that,
that means the average score in each game will be 5-3.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Ottawa Senators
I’m not going to be picking the series just yet, but I’m
completely up in the air on this series. The Senators had a run of
horrible games right after the Olympic break and looked to be falling
apart, but have pulled it together at the end of the season. The
Penguins, on the other hand, have some questions as they enter the
postseason in search of a second straight Stanley Cup. The Pens could
win in five, or the Senators could win in six. Hmm….