Saturday presented the first round matchups for the Western Conference’s side of the 2013 playoffs. Eastern Conference fans had to wait an extra night to see how the Ottawa Senators’ eventual 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins might juggle the seeding, but now we know which teams will face off in the quarterfinals:
1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8) New York Islanders
Casual fans might look at this as an easy win for Pittsburgh, yet the Islanders have finished this season on an absolute tear and the Pens have dealt with an array of injuries that might cause some challenges. The two teams haven’t met in the postseason since the Isles upset the two-time defending champions 4-3 in the second round of the 1993 playoffs.
2) Montreal Canadiens vs. 7) Ottawa Senators
The Canadiens haven’t faced the modern version of the Senators in the postseason before. Still, the two teams shouldn’t need any time to generate ire for each other thanks to their regular meetings as Northeast Division foes. Oh yeah, that Canadian thing might factor into the hype just a touch, too …
3) Washington Capitals vs. 6) New York Rangers
These teams are about as familiar with each other as two East playoff teams can get. This is the third straight year these two squads will play in a seven-game series, but at least the Capitals insist on shaking things up by changing their coaches each time (2013’s contestant: Adam Oates).
4) Boston Bruins vs. 5) Toronto Maple Leafs
Recent history might be more interesting in this series than the stuff that goes way back. Do you weigh the Bruins wobbly finish (2-5-2 in their last nine) or their dominant days against the Leafs in the playoffs (Toronto has dropped 12 of its last 13 postseason games against Boston, according to The Score TV) more heavily? Most Buds fans are still trying to get over the “We finally made the playoffs after nine years” thing, though.