It went down to the last day of the regular season but when it was all over, the Montreal Canadiens were crowned as champs of the Eastern Conference. Although it required a loss by the Pittsburgh Penguins to achieve this, we can not say that the Habs did not deserve this honour. The team boasts the most goals for, the best ranking on the power-play and one of the future's brightest stars in nets and a team chemistry that Habs fans have not seen since the last Stanley cup victory in '93. Well, the dust has settled, the regular season games are over and the standings are set. Here are my 2 cents on who I predict will advance to round 2 in the east.
Montreal Canadiens Vs Boston Bruins: Montreal in 5
The Canadiens have dominated the slower Boston team beating them 8 times this season. Every game with the exception of the last meeting had the Canadiens enjoying lots of time on the power-play as the sluggish looking Bruins can't seem to keep up with the high flying Habs. For those who sya the law of averages has to catch up to the Habs sometime, that time does not seem to be now. In order for this to happen, the Bruins have to become a much better and faster team in order to compete with the Habs. Patrice Bergeron is slated to make a comeback during this series, but I can't see him being that huge of an impact in his first few games back, besides, Habs defenseman Mike Komisarek is scheduled to make a comeback of his own. Unless I'm totally off my rocker on this one, I feel I'm even being generous giving the Bruins a game. Sorry Boston, better luck next year.
Pittsburgh Penguins Vs Ottawa Seantors : Pittsburgh in 6
Firepower for firepower, you could almost flip a coin. I said almost..... An Alfredsson-less Ottawa team might be missing their crucial playmaking right winger, leaving Spezza and Heatley to provide most of the offence with a little help from the likes of Vermette and Fisher. The Penguins however, will give the Sens all they can handle with the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Hossa, who I feel has something to prove in the post season as that as always been the knock against him. The key game-breaker in this series is goaltending. While Ty Conklin was afire during Marc-André Fleury's injury stint, Fleury has more than regained his team's confidence as well as the number one spot going 8-2 in his last 10 starts. We can't say the same for Ottawa's goaltending situation. Ray Emery has all but been relegated to glorified water boy as he is so deep in Coach/General Manager Brian Murray's doghouse that he will probably not be used at all unless Martin Gerber really stinks up the joint. Gerber has had quite a few references made as to his Swiss heritage and his likeness for a specific cheese from that country.
Washington Capitals Vs Philadelphia Flyers : Philadelphia in 7
I am going to go out on a limb on this one. While the Capitals did a phenomenal job coming out of nowhere to dethrone Carolina and make it to the final dance, I believe that Philly has alot more to prove to all as they were always in playoff contention whereas the Ovechkin led Capitals have been on adrenalin for far too long already. It will be a hard fought battle, but these two teams met 4 times in the regular season, splitting the matches 2-2 and Philly has shown they can stand their own against teams that may be better than them offensively, but will punish their competition with the robust "Broad Street Bullyesque" style of play that has made them notorious around the league. 7 games because Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Huet will not go quietly into the night.
New York Rangers Vs New Jersy Devils : New York in 6
Martin Brodeur will steal two games for New Jersey. As for the rest, Jersey has had more than it's share of problems this season facing the Rangers 8 times and losing 7 times. Their only win was their last game of the season where it took the shootout to settle things. Jersey can not generate offence as they are 27th in the league in goals per game. They have always played to protect a one goal lead which had worked until the last month of the season where they saw that type of play drop them out of 1st place in the east to 4th. The Rangers are not much better at 25th in the league but their style is more that of pouncing on a team's mistake and capitalizing on it. Even if veterans Shanahan Jagr, Drury and Gomez leading the way and agitator Sean Avery working overtime to get under Jersey's skin doesn't pan out, the Rangers know they can count on Henrik Lundqvist to stop the puck when needed as he has for most of the season. The goaltending battle however, is not in question. Martin Brodeur, hands down is the better goaltender. You have got to like your chances with this man in nets. However, although they say you win with goaltending, I don't think Brodeur can get 4 shutouts, so Jersey's chances of taking the series are diminished.
So that's it. I said my piece. Time will tell how right, or (sigh) how wrong I am. I will not be held responsible for any lost bets... Take it for what it's worth..and have some fun!! It's the playoffs folks!!!
Tomorrow, my predictions for the West, round 1.