It's playoff time in the NHL. Thankfully, there's only one Southleast Division team in the mix, and it's Washington. In the East, we've got a couple Original Six teams, and some nice big markets involved.
#1 WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. #8 MONTREAL CANADIENS
The Capitals claimed the Presidents' Trophy for the best regular season record, a staggering 121 points. In fact, they're the first non-Original Six team to register 120+. For my money, Washington is the best team in the League. But Montreal won the season series against them, 2-1-1. But all the games were close. I have no respect for the Canadiens this season, then again, Jose "Spaz" Theodore might get all emotional and even more spasmodic up at the Bell Centre, his former home. I think Ovechkin and the Caps are too good to be defeated by a team as mediocre as Montreal, but it'll be a struggle.
Capitals in 6.
#2 NEW JERSEY DEVILS vs. #7 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
The Flyers got in thanks to an exhilarating 2-1 shootout win over the Rangers in game 82. Kudos to the NHL Network for carrying the feed, as well as the feeds to other key games down the stretch. The Devils don't score goals, they prevent them. They were the only team to limit opponents to fewer than 200 goals. The Flyers struggle to prevent goals (they've had goalie issues all season), but they can score them. So it's your basic irresistible force meets an immovable object. But the Flyers won the season series 5-1-0.
Philly has some excellent centers in Richards, Jeff Carter, and Briere. They have an adequate penalty kill, but an outstanding power play unit (21.4%, 3rd in NHL). The Devils have Brodeur, and his immense experience. The Flyers have Boucher (2.83 GAA, .898 SV%) and Emery (2.64, .905). And that's New Jersey's biggest advantage. But Philly has beaten Brodeur this season (and last season, for that matter). Marty was 1-4-1 against the Flyers, with a 3.34 GAA.
For that reason, I'm picking the Flyers in 7. I don't want to, but I have to.
#3 BOSTON BRUINS vs. #6 BUFFALO SABRES
As a Bruins fan, this match-up pleases me. The B's were 4-2-0 against Buffalo. Tuukka Rask was 4-1-0 against them, with a 1.43 GAA and .954 SV%. While Ryan Miller was 2-0-2 against the Bruins, with a 1.71 GAA and .954 SV%. The numbers are pointing to a low scoring series, and I believe they're right. Both these teams have excellent goalies, both have anemic offenses. Derek Roy led Buffalo with 68 points. Patrice Bergeron led the B's with 52.
The key to this series is David Krejci. If he's on, he can beat Miller. He's the best playmaker the Bruins have. Without him, the power play dies (it's already on life support), and nothing will get started. At least the Bruins look hungry. Buffalo's backed into the postseason, and they've been on cruise control for some time now.
Bruins in 8 (it'll be 7 games, along with 3 periods worth of overtime mixed in).
#4 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. #5 OTTAWA SENATORS
Yeah, Ottawa made the playoffs. They quietly compiled a solid season, based mostly to a solid home ice record of 26-11-4. Unfortunately for them, their road record was 19th in the League. This is a great match-up for the Penguins, who give up an above average amount of goals. Because Ottawa struggles to score goals. The Senators only have four 20+ goal scorers, and none of them have more than 25. They're also without Alexei Kovalev, who tore his ACL. Pittsburgh's goaltending and defense are suspicious, but they don't need them in order to advance past Ottawa.
Penguins in 5.