In a season that seemed longer than usual, likely due to the Olympics, the NHL playoffs get underway tonight with 4 games. My condolences to those of you who aren't hockey fans. See you all sometime in June when your petty lives once again remotely matter to us. It's playoff time! More after the jump...
The battle for the oldest and most storied trophy in all of professional sports begins tonight, with 4 series getting underway. Yesterday we looked at the aWestern Conference, today it's the Eastern Conference's turn:
1 Washington Capitals vs 8 Montreal Canadiens
The Capitals have certainly been a formidable opponent this season, winning the President's trophy and setting a franchise record for wins and points. They have some true superstars of the game, none bigger than Alex Ovechkin. But is this team, predicted by so many to be a lock for the cup primed for an upset? The answer may lie in their goaltending. Yes, you'll hear a lot of talk from the Capitals they are confident in their goaltending situation, but the Habs certainly don't think so. Montreal's Tomas Plekanec told the La Presse newspaper
"It's not as though we are facing (Martin) Brodeur or (Ryan) Miller, they don't have a dominant goaltender. When you look at the goaltending matchup in this series it favours our team. I just believe that our goaltending is more solid than theirs. I'm not saying their goalies are bad. I'm just saying our goalies are better." Cue the outrage. Do I think the Canadiens can pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets in recent NHL history? Perhaps. Why do I think that? Ask any goalie who's ever played for the Habs what it's like to go into that city at playoff time. Do you think Jose Theodore has the mental focus to overcome all that pressure? Unless the Caps are already up 2-0 by the time they get to Montreal, it could very well happen. I will say Caps in 6, but hesitantly.
2 New Jersey Devils vs 7 Philadelphia Flyers
We'd gotten away from it for a while, but with his move to the Devils from Minnesota, Jacques Lemaire and his thrilling brand of hockey is back in the playoffs. Can you stand the excitement? Granted, he does have a more talented squad offensively in Newark than he did with the Wild, but it's still classic Cult of Lemaire hockey. They go up against the Philadelphia Flyers, who should be commended for even making the playoffs considering the goaltending nightmare they've been through. How bad was it? Chances are they'd think about throwing my fat ass in there, because I could fill the net. So the Devils should have the no-brainer advantage in goal, right? When you look back at the last few years, you notice something: Martin Brodeur hasn't been able to get past the 2nd round for a while now. I can't see Brian Boucher being the better of the two, but considering some of the out of character goaltending we've seem from Fat Marty in the playoffs of late, this one could be a coin toss. Devils in 7.
3 Buffalo Sabres vs 6 Boston Bruins
The team that can't score going up against one of the best goalies in the league? This one is gonna be ugly, methinks. Unless Tuukka Rask stands on his head here, and the Bruins find a way to score some goals, this one should be over in 5. It's kind of shocking to see what happened to Boston, last year leading the East in offense, only to almost miss the playoffs. When you look a little closer however, you see that the Sabres struggled against Boston this season, and if the Bruins can find a way to break down Buffalo's stingy defense (funny how no one gives them credit for Miller's success... just sayin') the pressure will be on Miller to perform. Call it the Canadian homer in me, but I wonder if Miller has what it takes to win the big game. Bruins in 7.
4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5 Ottawa Senators
Another year, another Penguins/Senators tilt. While many focus on whether or not the Penguins have what it takes to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, they seem to be writing off the Sens completely. The Penguins have all the pieces, and this year we saw the emergence of Sidney Crosby the complete hockey player, as he far outshone team Evgeni Malkin. Malkin's point production dropped big time this year due to injury, yet despite the games he missed he set a personal record for penalty minutes, eclipsing the 100 minute plateau. The Senators are talented offensively as well, and it speaks volumes that the team likely won't miss Alexei Kovalev, who blew out his ACL in the last week of the season. Goaltending will be key here, as youngster Bryan Elliott goes up against Marc-Andre Fleury. As much as I would love to see an upset in this one, I think the Sens are once again out in 1. Penguins in 6.
Tomorrow, my look at the Canucks and Kings (and it will surprise you). This should be an excellent playoff season, and we look forward to enhancing your playoff experience in the comments sections.
So the Oilers won the draft lottery. Good for them. Boston picks second. I hope for the Leafs Nation's sake, that Toronto makes the playoffs next year...
The City of Glendale, Arizona voted last night on the 2 proposals to buy the Phoenix Coyotes. The winner was Jerry Reinsdorf's group, and their lease proposal. They must now work out a deal with the NHL. It's a bloody mess, and another embarrassing chapter in this sad legacy of Gary Bettman's Nero-like reign. Read more about it here.
On the heels of Tampa Bay firing their Coach and GM, the Atlanta Thrashers fired coach John Anderson, and named Rick Dudley their new GM. Don Waddell has been promoted to Team President. You know, for the outstanding work he did.