Yesterday, we looked at the Western Conference's slate of playoff matchups. (Western Conference) Today, we're going to break down the inferior...I mean Eastern Conference playoffs.
Washington vs. New York
It’s incredible that the Capitals are in the number one position. For much of the season they struggled to find their identity and the HBO documentary, “24-7 with the Penguins and Capitals” happened to catch the Caps at their darkest hour. The cameras showed up just in time to document the 9 game losing streak that was tormenting the
hockey team. Since beating Washington at the Winter Classic the season has looked up. The Capitals come in trying to shed the playoff chokers label. They’ve lost home game 7’s in each of the last 3 seasons. In the case of 2010 they were the President’s Trophy winners and held a 3 games to 1 lead on Pittsburgh before blowing three straight. Montreal
The only team Washington’s beaten in the playoffs since Ovechkin’s arrival was the New York Rangers, and even that was a brutal 7 game series.
snuck in on the last day of the season thanks to a loss by the Carolina Hurricanes, but the blue-shirts did go 3-1 against the Caps in the regular season. New York
Guys to Watch:
Alex Ovechkin – Ovechkin had a down year in production, but his mere presence on the ice changes the way other teams operate. The scurvy Russian will be an impact player with or without a boatload of points.
Jason Chimera – the former Blue Jackets’ great is the kind of role player who can make or break a playoff run. He’s huge, and one of the fastest skaters in the league. If he can help provide secondary scoring and shut down the energy line of the other team then the Capitals will have an improved chance of going deep.
Bruce Boudreau – The Capitals head coach gained fame during “24-7” for creative use of the ‘F’ word and indulging in a Miller Lite tallboy after the Winter Classic. Boudreau is one of the more entertaining coaches in the league, but if
Henrik Lundqvist – The Rangers goaltender is one of the best in the game. If he gets hot, the Capitals could be in trouble.
Sean Avery – the pest of all pests. There’s a rule about blocking a goaltender’s vision named in his honor. Avery can get under this skin of the
players and take them off of their game or at least try very hard, either way, it’ll be entertaining. Washington
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo
A year ago the Flyers made the playoffs on the last day of the season thanks to a shootout victory over the Rangers. The Eastern Conference’s 7 seed then won three series before dropping the finals to the Blackhawks. Carrying that momentum the Flyers played most of the season in first place before going into coast-mode and falling behind
. Washington has 3 solid defensive pairings that could all be the top pair on any team. They also have depth at forward, and a relatively unknown, but capable goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky. Philadelphia
The Sabres on the other side are on fire. 9-1-2 in their last 12 games took them from bubble playoff team to a team that may do some damage in the playoffs.
Guys to Watch:
Chris Pronger – Pronger is no stranger to deep playoff runs. He helped
Edmonton reach the finals in 06, won a cup with in 07, and was a big part of the Flyers’ run last year. Pronger turns it on during the postseason and is not only a shut down D-man, but also a threat to score from the point on the power play. Anaheim
Ryan Miller – the team
goalie, Miller will determine how far the Sabres go in the playoffs. USA
Boston vs. Montreal
This is an interesting matchup because Boston-Montreal is one of the game’s most historic rivalries and this will be the third time in 4 years that the two teams have met in the playoffs. Expect a very intense matchup.
The Bruins were a game away from the Eastern Conference finals last season…for four games. They led
3 games to none, blew games 4, 5, and 6. In game 7 they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in front of their home crowd, and in one of the all-time greatest choke jobs, gave up 4 goals in the second half of the game and lost the series. The sting of that series should be at the forefront of Bruins fans minds coming into this postseason and against last year’s Cinderella darlings, it’s important they don’t fall into the same trap again. Philadelphia
The Canadiens won two series last year as the 8 seed, both coming back from 3-1 deficits to take out
Washington and . They placed all of their chips on goaltender Carey Price and let playoff hero Jaroslav Halak walk to Pittsburgh . Can St. Louis Montreal complete another surprising run or can perennial playoff contender finally advance past the second round? Boston
Guys to Watch:
Zdeno Chara – He’s a 6’10 Slovak, but his skills seem to have faded.
’s quick forwards could take advantage of his slow skates. Montreal
Tim Thomas – the favorite to win the Vezina (best goalie), Thomas has played less than stellar in the playoffs in recent years. So Thomas goes, so go the Boston Bruins.
Mike Camalleri – the
product was a key player in the Canadiens ride to the conference finals last year. One of those players that seems to step up their game in the playoffs, University of Michigan will need him to come up big again. Montreal
PK Subban – Last year’s playoffs were his coming out party, and his first regular season this year showed he has the skills to be a superstar. The defenseman can snipe from the point on the power play or join the rush.
Carey Price – There may be no job in sports more demanding than Montreal Canadiens goaltender and early in his career it looked like Carey Price couldn’t deal with the pressure. This season he’s been the reason for the Canadiens’ success, but he still needs to prove that he can perform in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay
I’m not even going to try to be unbiased here. I’m rooting for
, which is hard because of the way their first year head coach, Guy Boucher, spurned the Blue Jackets offer to be the bench boss in Columbus. But Tampa Bay , and their fans, are responsible for the worst game I’ve ever been to in ten years of going to Blue Jackets games. (read about that here Sports Weekend From Hell). I can’t even try to be impartial towards that city or one of their teams. Pittsburgh
The Penguins will probably have Sidney Crosby back, who hasn’t played since January 5 after sustaining a concussion.
Crosby has been practicing in full contact drills without any ill side effects. It’s probably safe to say that he’ll be on the ice for the playoffs. The Penguins are also without Evgeni Malkin and have played just two games all season with their “big three” intact (Crosby, Malkin, Stall).
Guys to Watch:
Sidney Crosby –
Crosby is the best player in the world, but will he show any rust after not playing for 3 months?
Steve Stamkos – the number one overall pick from a few years ago has blossomed into a deadly sniper, especially on the power play.
Dwayne Roloson - If he doesn’t get hurt in game 1 of the 06 Finals, the 8 seed Oilers probably win the Stanley Cup with him. He’s a very capable goalie, but the
defense will need him to make a lot of big saves on his own. He could be hung out to dry often and he’ll need to come up big if the Lightning have any hope of knocking off the Penguins. Tampa
Stay tuned for more playoff coverage as they unfold.
There you have it. If you agree, disagree, or have thoughts of your own. Share them with us at sportshatemeSHM@gmail.com OR follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/SeanofUnionBlue