Some debate whether or not the regular season means anything, but you have to admit that was an incredible 82 games for the Vancouver Canucks. In this 40th year they achieved a great many accomplishments, both as a team and individually. And yes, the regular season was important in that the Canucks wanted to ensure home ice throughout the playoffs. And now they get the chance to silence the critics right out of the gate. The Canucks will face the team that vanquished them the last two seasons. The team some say has their number. The team that this team was built to defeat this season. Don't kid yourself. This version of the Canucks was designed to address the deficiencies that arose in those last two playoff series. We're just getting it out of the way early. After the jump, a few words about enjoying the post-season here at Nucks Misconduct as well as a look at the other 7 series.
We want to make sure you continue to enjoy yourselves as you've done all season, so we will have open threads on non-Canucks game nights, and the Coffee will be here on game days, and Missy's 'A Bit Of...' in between. So for those of you who are regulars here, make sure you're being respectful if you're over at Second City Hockey, our Chicago counterparts. We love that you guys and gals have always tried to represent NM in a positive manner (for the most part lol) and in the pressure cooker of the playoffs, where rhetoric and emotions can boil over, try and keep your cool.
To visitors from SCH or other SBNation sites, welcome. The doors are open just as they are all season long, and unlike a lot of other sites, we don't make you wait to post here. As long as that's not being abused, I can't imagine it will change. Please be respectful and join in on the discussions. Don't like the Canucks? That's fine, just participate and have something to offer besides insults and you'll find we're a pretty accepting bunch.
EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers- After months of the Philadelphia Flyers leading the East, they started to fold and the Flyers seized the opportunity to finish atop the East for the 2nd straight season. The Caps will be looking to erase last year's embarrassing loss to Montreal in the first round, and will have to find a way to solve Henrik Lundqvist in order to do that. Washington has the high powered offence led by Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin and a lot of depth throughout the lineup. If there are questions about the Caps, it's the back end. They're banged up, with Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and Tom Poti out, and their youngsters John Carlson and Karl Alzner have shouldered much of the load. If they can play the way they have this season and get Green and Poti back (Wideman could be out longer due to his hematoma) and they could be alright. The other question is can the young goalies stand up to the pressure for the Caps? Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov have been good, and Braden Holtby added some interesting wrinkles to their situation as a call up this season. The Rangers are obviously going to be missing Ryan Callahan and everything he brings to the ice, so much of the pressure will be on veterans Marian Gaborik (yeah, I am surprised he ain't injured, too...) and Chris Drury, as well as youngsters Derek Stepan and Bryan Boyle. Defensively the Rangers are solid despite their inexperience, and will look to Bryan McCabe, along with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to help make life easier for Lundqvist. Overall, the Capitals aren't likely to collapse like they did last time, though the Rangers are not gonna be a pushover. The key for Washington is Alexander Semin, who hasn't scored in his last 14 playoff games. If they can't find a way to him rolling, they could be in trouble. Washington in 6.
Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres- With just 4 regulation losses in their last 24, the Sabres have quietly gone about their business, and present more of a challenge to last year's runners-up than you would think. The key is in goal, where Buffalo's Ryan Miller will battle with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. The challenge for the Flyers is using their offensive depth to get through a solid Sabres D core and Miller, and with Chris Pronger likely to be ready for the series, the Sabres will be up against it to get through to the untested and shaky of late Bobrovsky. If Bob drops the ball the Flyers will turn to Brian Boucher to hold the fort. For all of their talent up front, and there isn't another team as offensively deep in the East as the Flyers, their goaltending could be what sees a pretty successful season go all for naught. If there's an upset to be had in the East, it's this one. Sabres in 7.
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens- Much like the Canucks and Blackhawks, this series seemed fated. The Original 6 rivals didn't need anything to add to one of the most intense rivalries in sports, but the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident as well as a ton of fights in a Boston romp, and these two that will play each other for the third time in the last four years stands to be the one to watch in the East for the potential fireworks alone. Montreal has been hot and cold this season, relying on their power play strength and a fantastic season from G Carey Price to get them through. Boston has been blessed with the best goalie in the league this season, Tim Thomas has been lights out for the Bruins, but with last year's epic collapse against the Flyers fresh in their memories, you have to wonder why more people aren't questioning Tim Thomas in the playoffs the way they do some goalies. Offensively the Bruins have a ton of grit, and will need to use that to try and cash in offensively. That means getting production from more than than Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron. The Habs will need to keep their composure and try and do what they've done all season. Draw penalties and make their opponents pay on the power play. They will need to see their veterans step up and make a splash if they want to get out of this alive. It's amazing when you look at Thomas' numbers that he was able to have the kind of season he has. The Bruins gave up the second most shots in the league, and after Zdeno Chara, they're good not great, and it will likely be up to Thomas to shut the door like he's done all season long. The Canadiens D is a bit banged up, but a mix of youth and experience might be their best hope at staying competitive. From the brash but talented rookie PK Subban, to James Wisniewski and Brent Sopel, the Habs will have their hands full with the Bruins. The Habs aren't gonna go quietly, but I think the Bruins at least in this round will get through it. Thomas is the key, and if he isn't able to close out like he did last time, they're not going anywhere. Boston in 7.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning- All eyes on this series will be on Pittsburgh as they await news of Sidney Crosby's return from a concussion suffered in January. Coach Dan Bylsma has done a hell of a job without the best player in the world and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, and the additions of Alex Kovalev and James Neal certainly didn't hurt. The Lightning meanwhile will look to their 3 superstars: Martin St Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos to try and penetrate the Pittsburgh D and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Defensively the Penguins are solid, with Kris Letang leading the way. Letang, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik will need to be at their best to withstand the speedy and talented Lightning forwards. Defensively Tampa Bay is pretty bad, honestly. A lot of veterans including Pavel Kubina (who won a cup with Tampa in 04) and Mattias Ohlund, but they give up a lot of goals, though that's improved a bit with the addition of Dwayne Roloson in net. After losing Crosby, the play of Fleury has been probably the biggest reason the Penguins didn't fall off the earth, and they will need him to continue his strong play. But Fleury has had some dips in his play, and should he sputter out of the gate here, they could have a hard time with the Lightning. As far as Roloson, he's been good since coming over from the New York Islanders, but does the 41 year old goalie have enough to take them on a long run? We will find out. A lot of this series will be about which team can be the first to win on the road, as the home team won every game in their season series. Should Sidney Crosby be able to return to the lineup, that would change everything. Pittsburgh in 7.
I will have my Western Conference preview on Wednesday as we prepare for Game 1 between the Canucks and Hawks.
WAACH 'Cast's Classic Album Of The Day- SLAYER- Reign In Blood
Already legendary in the metal underground, their major label debut was a stunning step forward for the band. Faster and heavier than anything previously released, this album has inspired untold numbers of metalheads worldwide and to this day holds up against anything released in the 25 years since it was unleashed upon us. Critically acclaimed as one of the finest albums the genre has to offer, this is 28 minutes of mayhem that changed my life.