8 Things to Watch in The Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference

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by Peter Christian and Bryan Vickroy

Click here to read the Western Conference edition

Bryan and Peter are back to provide some poignant (albeit a little tardy) insight into the recently started Stanley Cup playoffs. Sit back, crack open a Molson Ice and enjoy, eh?

Best 1st Round Matchup

(BV) #2 New Jersey vs. #7 Philadelphia: Many experts think the Flyers will take this series from Martin Brodeur.  Philly dominated the season series, and all their offseason moves were geared strictly towards a deep playoff run.  They snuck in on a shootout victory, and are shooting go much deeper.  This series will be a throwback.  Expect both teams to be methodical, physical, hostile, and games getting ugly if the score isn’t close.  Expect at least one suspension.

(PC) #2 New Jersey vs. #7 Philadelphia: New Jersey is playing the infamous Lemaire trap and this Flyer’s squad is earning every ounce of the Broad Street Bullies comparison. I hate to make the cliche comparison of an unstoppable force vs. the immovable object but this matchup personifies it perfectly (the Devils are the immovable object by the way).

Most Important Goalie

(BV) Brian Boucher, Flyers: Former playoff hero, former unemployed goalie, current Flyers starter (by default).  Injuries derailed the top 2 starters for Philadelphia this season and thrust Boucher back into the playoff spotlight again.  He’s been known to be shaky, but also can get hot and carry a team, at least he has in the past.  Philly just wants him to do enough to allow the thugs up front to grind and bully their way to a Cup.


(PC) Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins: His performance in last year’s Stanley Cup Championship run was crucial. If the Penguins desire a repeat “The Flower” will have to raise his game to the level of last spring.

Player to Watch

(BV) Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Devils: The soon to be free agent got a trade to a contender before the deadline, and will get his first true taste of championship hockey.  He was swept out and neutralized in his only career playoff appearance.  New Jersey needs his scoring and mean streak to make a run.  He knows every goal will only make his wallet thicker.

(PC) Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals: The media attention always goes to Alex Ovechkin but Backstrom is silently the heart of the offense. He just turned in his 1st (of what will likely be many) 100+ point season at the age of 22. He’s amazingly talented and very content to be surrounded by Ovie and Semin on his line. When he’s on, the Capitals roll. The Caps Cup chances go as he goes.

Line to Watch

(BV) Washington Capitals  (LW Alex Ovechkin, C Nicklas Backstrom, RW Alexander Semin): The highest scoring team in the league boasts three of the top 15 scorers, and the game’s best player in Alex Ovechkin.  Almost impossible to stop on the power play, and equally as tough at even strength.  They have a tendency to slack on defense and get in trouble at times.
(PC) 

Washington Capitals  (LW Alex Ovechkin, C Nicklas Backstrom, RW Alexander Semin): Really? Was there a question who this would be? The trio combined for 294 points for crying out loud. When these guys are clicking there isn’t a more fun line to watch in all of hockey.


Best Fireworks

(BV) #1Washingtion vs. #8 Montreal: The top 2 power play units in the league and two of the loudest arenas in the NHL.  Montreal is the Mecca of hockey, and the Canadiens are treated like religion.  Washington has caught the passion of Ovechkin.  On paper looks like a mismatch.  Washington is hell bent on a Stanley Cup victory.  Montreal is in the hangover of their year long centennial celebration.  A true hockey experience, and a good bet for lots of goals.

(PC) #4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Ottawa: Everyone knows the Penguins have the offensive firepower to score with anyone, but their defense and goaltending can be so suspect that even the most offensively challenged teams can open up the ice on them. Both these teams have a handful of postseason experience under their belt, so this series will be a nailbiter.

Most Likely 1st round Upset

(BV) #6 Boston over #3 Buffalo: I personally don’t see any upsets happening in the East, but this could be the best chance.  Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller has been a work horse this season, not including his run as American hockey hero.  Boston has not one but two well rested, certifiable starters.  Goals will be hard to come by, and defense is the strong suit of each team.  Once games get to overtime, anything can happen, even an upset.

(PC) #5 Ottawa over #4 Pittsburgh: As I said above, Fleury’s play between the pipes will largely dictate whether the Pens make another run deep into the playoffs or get sent home early. Ottawa is anchored by the very sound Brian Elliott in net who will be able to keep them in games while the Senators offense tries to get a softie past Marc-Andre.

Most Overmatched Coach

(BV) Claude Julien, Bruins: Not only does Julien matchup with the league’s longest tenured coach in Lindy Ruff, but Juilien has been bounced from teams twice after having winning seasons.  The team dropped tremendously in scoring from last year, and Claude could complete the unemployment hat trick with a poor showing.

(PC) Cory Clouston, Senators: Clouston’s first ever NHL playoff series pits him against the defending Stanley Cup Champions and forces him to account for Sidney Crosby at all times. Lucky for Cory, he’s got a great group of veteran players around him but his lack of experience could lead to a few “deer in the headlights” moments during the first round.

Indispensable Grinder

(BV) Chris Pronger, D, Flyers: It might be considered cheating to put a defenseman on the grinder list, but Pronger is no ordinary d-man.  He makes rushes of his own, has been known to take up residence in front of the net on the power play, and was specifically acquired to shut down Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs.


(PC) Scott Hartnell, LW, Flyers: I won’t cheat and name a defenseman, but I will definitely stick with the Flyers. Hartnell was one of 4 Philly players with more than 100 PIM this season, but Scotty was the only one with more than 25 points. For all of Hartnell’s hits and “rule bending” he finds the scoring sheet quite a bit as well. If he’s on the ice, his opponents always need to keep an eye on him. He’s always a threat to land a monster hit, but he isn’t a stranger to putting the puck on net either.

Comments

  1. Bryan Vickroy says

    Chris Pronger will spend more time in the corners than 75% of the fowards in the league. A defenseman who plays more like a selke winner than a norris winner is not a cheat. If I had my way, the Torpedo would evolve the game. 4 forwards on the fly and one true defenseman. It’s the future!!!

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