Whoa Nelly! Are you ready for the up for grabs Eastern Conference? No team has shown true dominance through out the dominance. In fact, it took to the last handful of games for each of the division champs to secure their crown. But even the pundits can't seem to agree if division champs Boston, Philadelphia or Washington is strong enough to take the Conference. Which makes the field wide open, much like it was last year where the bottom seeds shocked the millions of office pools through out Canada.
To pick a winner is like winning the lottery. Last year the two lowest seeds were battling in the Conference final. Can that repeat again?
Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers
Of course I am going into more detail about this particular series at a later date. The quick overview is Washington will have to learn from it's mistakes through the last three post seasons. All of them have gone to seven games. Even with the Capitals high powered offensive players, it struggled this year to score. But where the offense faltered the defense picked up. For the Rangers, there is little or no fear going into this series. They have taken 3 of the 4 games in the regular season series including a pair of blow out games were the Broadway Blueshirts beat the Caps 7-0 and 6-0. Ouch. If the Rangers can show the offensive spark they had against the Caps in the regular season, the Caps will be going home early with a plethora of questions.
Washington sneaks by New York Rangers in 6 games
#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers have tripped up in the final stretch of the season and lost their first place in the Eastern Conference to a surging Capitals team. Even though they had to deal with some pretty big losses on the blue line in Chris Pronger and a inconsistent netminding conundrum they are still a scary team to face in the playoffs. They face a team that has turned it on as of late just to make the playoffs. Philly's hard nose play should wear the Sabres talent guys down. I just don't see how Ryan Miller can stop them all.
Philadelphia defeats Buffalo in 5 games
#3 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Montreal Canadiens
Who isn't going to watch this hard charged series. You have history, intrigue, and controversy. Every thing a classic series should have. Will the Habs get their day by putting Zdeno Chara on the golf course early? Can Tim Thomas stop a sneaky Canadien offense that seems to relish in big game goals? Can Carey Price live up to the hype that Jaro Halak left last post season? A lot of questions that are worthy of watching to see the answers. If Boston can lock down defensively and negate the Habs' speed, they will have a much better post season than the come from behind debacle against Philly a year ago.
Boston takes out Montreal in 7 games
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa reminds me a lot of the Caps two years ago. Great offensive talent but so-so defense and okay goaltending. The big question is how the Penguins are going to approach them with out their offensive keys in place with Sidney Crosby not likely to return until round two and no Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins have survived nicely with out either in the line up with others picking up the slack. If Tampa can survive the relentless forecheck of the Penguins and keep the play in Marc-Andre Fluery's end, then they should pull out the upset. But this is a team that needs more playoff experience before that can happen.
Penguins knock out Tampa in 5 games.
Eastern Champion: Boston Bruins
The Bruins have a chance to take it all and the way Tim Thomas is playing, it's plausible to see them conquering the Eastern Conference. They will have to survive an emotional first round against Montreal and battle Washington and Philly to take the Eastern crown. I do think the Capitals can make it to the Conference finals, but injuries will plague them through the post season. It will be Boston that takes honors here.
Stanley Cup Winner: San Jose Sharks
I picked them last year, and for much the same reasons I pick them to win it all last year. Shaking free of their demons, I just like the direction this team is taking themselves. But it will be no easy task for them. They have to keep their scoring up and their goaltending has to be top notch. Plus a series between Boston and San Jose would be pretty intriguing with the age old trade that sent Joe Thronton to the west coast.
Coming up... Series breakdown between the Caps and Rangers.