2008 NHL playoffs: First round.
So this is the time of the year once again, the 2008 NHL playoffs are set to begin this week. What team should we follow more closely? Who will win the Holy Grail?
Let's go thru the Eastern conference first round matchups:
Boston Bruins (8) vs Montreal Canadiens (1):
The Montreal Canadiens have surprized every hockey analyst this season by finishing in first position of the conference. Not a lot of hockey analysts gave any chance to the Canadiens this season but here they are, standing atop of the conference and with the ice advantage thru the first three rounds.
The Boston Bruins also had a notable season. With the loss of their main offensive weapon Patrice Bergeron, very early into the season, nobody thought that Boston would be able to get into the playoff round.
Both teams faced each other eight times during the regular season and the Canadiens have won all of them. In fact, Montreal has won their last 11 matchups versus the Bruins. I do not expect a very close series.
My prediction: Montreal as a winner in five games.
Ottawa Senators (7) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (2):
The Senators had an up and down season. The team led the conference standing for the major part of the season but collapsed towards the end. Ottawa was expected in first place but a lack of consistency in defense and goaltending sent the team all the way down in 7th place. Their offensive power is undeniable but will their defense and goaltending hold up?
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a very good season despite losing Sidney Crosby for a long period of time. Evgeni Malkin elevated his game during Crosby's absence as he carried the team on his shoulders. The team also acquired Marian Hossa at the trade deadline, another very dangerous offensive weapon. Pittsburgh was eliminated by Ottawa last season, another reason to be motivated.
My prediction: Pittsburgh in six games.
Philadelphia Flyers (6) vs Washington Capitals (3):
The Washington Capitals qualified for the playoff round at their very last game of the season. An irresistible push during the later part of the season allowed the team to edge the Carolina Hurricanes on top of the Southeast division. Alexander Ovechkin was simply spectacular all season long. Ovechkin wrapped up the season with over 60 goals, an impressive plateau. The acquisition of goaltender Christobal Huet at the trade deadline will help the goaltending department of the Capitals.
The Philadelphia Flyers had a bit of a deceiving season. After signing forward Daniel Briere and defensemen Kimmo Timonen during the off-season, the Flyers were expected to be among the best in the east. But the team underachieved this season and they now have to face the fantastic Alexander Ovechkin in the first round.
My prediction: Washington in six games.
New-York Rangers (5) vs New-Jersey Devils (4):
The Hudson river battle should be a good one. Both teams hate each other and should produce a very interesting series. For the Rangers, their main strenght is the veteran squad. The Rangers team is an experimented one with Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury. As for goaltending, Henrik Lundqvist has shown consistency and he should be able to bring the Rangers into the second round.
As for the Devils, their only hope is that goaltender Martin Brodeur will be hot. If Brodeur does not dominate in his net, the Devils have no chance. The offensive squad outside Zach Parise is not talented enough to bring enough goals to the team.
My prediction: The Rangers in six games.