So the NHL playoffs are upon us and I thought I would put together my predictions for this years festivities. Please note that all of my predictions are based on pure guesses. I am a Flyers fan living in South Jersey and I dislike teams such as the Devils, Rangers, Red Wings, and Penguins. So yes some of my predictions may be based on me being biased. Lets start with the the first round:
#1 Montreal vs # 8 Boston
Outcome: Montreal in 5
Reasons: Montreal is an extremely strong team this year. They have got great play from all aspects and with a power play that is pretty much unstoppable, they too will be pretty hard to beat.
What to watch for: Bergeron being cleared for the playoffs. Montreal has won 13 straight against the Bruins and a little offensive help with Bergeron back in the lineup could help the Bruins. Tim Thomas will have to be huge in every game for them to stand a chance. One thing that could help could be the rookie goalie Carey Price being nervous come playoff atmosphere and being rattled early. If the Bruins want a chance they will need to get to Price early and find a way to stay out of the penalty box.
#2 Pittsburgh vs # 7 Ottawa
Outcome: Ottawa in 7
Reasons: Well I know seasons series don't mean anything now but Ottawa handled the Penguins pretty well during the year. Everyone must think I am crazy that Malkin, Crosby and Hossa can be stopped, but hey Spezza and Heatley are not bad themselves. These two high powered offensive teams are gonna have to tone it down and play playoff hockey which means closer games...but will they? Will this series be a 7-6 game....maybe 7-1 wins for each team? Offense wins games but defense wins championships. This series is going to come down to goal tending. Fleury is hot going into the playoffs but one thing with him is that he is very inconsistent. Gerber, well he is nothing much either but all its going to take is a few good games from one of these goalies to steal the series. This will probably be one of the most entertaining series in the first round and I think will go to game 7.
What to watch for: Crosby diving. I know I am crazy for even saying this but I really want the league to stop protecting the star players and call a good clean game both ways. I know it would be great for the NHL to see Ovechkin and Crosby in the East finals but please don't ruin the playoffs for me.
#3 Washington vs #6 Philadelphia
Outcome: Philadelphia in 6
Reasons: Well obviously they are my favorite team so I have to stick by them. Flyers and Washington are two of the hottest teams going into the playoffs. Philly had to overcome a horrible season last year and then a 10 game losing streak towards the end of the season that almost kept them out of the playoffs. Washington made some great moves at the trade deadline, Huet being my favorite. However, I am sorry to say it but the southeast is a terrible division and playing Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Florida 8 times a year would help any team. If the scheduling was in the old format, Washington probably would have been eliminated a week ago or so. Instead they finish in 3rd in the east but have less points than the Flyers and would be tied for 7th in the East. Flyers are coming off two huge shut outs over the Devils and Penguins and that can only boost Birons confidence. Depending on which Flyers team shows up for this matchup, they could take the series in 4.
What to watch for: Ovechkin. He is the real deal, he is the best hockey player in the world. However, does the NHL want a Pittsburgh Washington East final? Will Capitals get the calls while the Flyers are on the short end of the stick because of players like Boulerice, Downie, and Cote? Also watch for Biron, he has tweaked his game a little and has two shutouts in a row. The Flyers D has also played well after averaging over 30 shots given up a game they came out and played solid down the stretch only giving up 20 - 25 a game. This should be another interesting series to watch.
#4 New Jersey vs #5 New York Rangers
Outcome: Rangers in 6
Reasons: Rangers won 7 of 8 and lost the 8th in a shoot out. Its going against my theory of Defense wins championships because Brodeur is the best goalie in the game and the Devils play shutdown hockey. However, the Devils have been having lots of problems scoring goals and Devils and Rangers are 1 and 2 in goals against this season which tells me that Lunquist is not that bad himself. It will be a very very close series probably several overtime games but I feel Rangers have more veterans and more firepower.
What to watch for: Brodeur. Best goalie in the world. Does he have anything left in the tanks after starting 70+ games? Sean Avery. As much as I dislike the guy, he is a force out there and causes havoc everywhere. If he can get under the skin of the Devils players this series could get real ugly real fast.
#1 Montreal vs #7 Ottawa
Outcome: Montreal in 6
Reasons: Like I said before Montreal is a tough team. They really got it going. Ottawa will need to stay out of the box and hope for an amazing series from Gerber to even stand a chance. Ottawa will be coming out of a 7 game series tired and beat up, against a team that is pretty fresh after winning in 5. Ottawa would need to get Alfredson back and hope to rattle Carey Price early and often.
What to watch for: Montreal power play.
#5 New York Rangers vs #6 Philadelphia
Outcome: Philadelphia in 7
Reasons: Devils Rangers series should be ugly and tough. Leaving a Rangers team beat up and soar for the Semifinals. Flyers are another tough team that loves to play the body. Look for the Flyers to pounce on the Rangers from the get go and to go after the Rangers D.
What to watch for: Lunquist has not faired very well against the Flyers. Neither has Biron or Nitty against the Rangers. Valiquette looked good for the first couple games but proved to be beatable in his final game. Do the Rangers go with the backup? Does Biron stay hot through the Capital series and gain momentum and confidence?
Eastern Conference Finals
#1 Montreal vs #6 Philadelphia
Outcome: Montreal in 5
Reasons: Several. Montreal owns the Flyers. Montreal will be well rested. Flyers take too many penalties and they are not that great at killing them. Montreal should swarm the Flyers like they do every year and take the series pretty easily. I figured I would give my team atleast one win.
What to watch for: Flyers of the future, Upshall, Richards, Carter, Umberger, Hartnell, Lupol. How do they handle themselves? Do they pick up the slack or disappear come crunch time. Carey Price, is he the real deal?
Thank you for stopping in and taking a look at my predictions for this year. I hope you thought they were interesting at the least. I am always open for feedback and discussions. Tell me what you think.
**I apologize for my poor spelling and grammar errors. English was never one of my fortes in school.