If you look at the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture, 5 teams have clinched a playoff berth. Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa. There are 5 teams remaining in contention for the last three spots. Montreal is currently in 6th, and even though I secretly hope they collapse and fall out of the playoffs, they will make it. Boston somehow has gone from the highest scoring team in the NHL last season to the lowest scoring team in the NHL this season. I mean, it’s pretty pathetic when the Edmonton Oilers have scored more goals than you. And don’t give me nay of that “lack of Phil Kessel” bullshit. Something’swrong there, and it smells fishy. However, they also have one of the best defenses in the league, leading with the big Slovak, Zdeno Chara. They will find a way to get in, but by the teeth of their skins. Atlanta’s not going to make it, unless the lord blesses Ondrej Pavelec with ultimate super-hero powers to defeat Washington, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey.
That leaves us with a battle for 8th spot, between Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. Philly has the upper 2 points on them, however the Rags have a game in hand. The two play a back-to-back on the last two days of the regular season against each other, and they will likely be tied in points. The Flyers have the tiebreakers, and when you have a solid offense even without Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger in your backend, it’ll be hard to miss out. Even if they make it, expect them to be ass-raped pummelled by the Caps. With a goaltending tandem of Boucher-Caron, they can’t possibly go past the 1st round. But let’s leave that last spot open to bothteam, for now. I think Pittsburgh will win the Atlantic Division with an easier schedule to go. Buffalo wins the Northeast, as well. After the jump, the playoff matchups determined for Round One…
(1) Washington vs. (8) Philadelphia/New York Rangers
(2) Pittsburgh vs. (7) Boston
(3) Buffalo vs. (6) Montreal
(4) New Jersey vs. (5) Ottawa
Washington wins no doubt even with their shaky goaltending. Expect Tuukka Rask to give Pittsburgh’s shooters a hard time, but experience proves key for the Penguins. Buffalo and Montreal is a bit debatable, but Montreal loses to Buffalo because we all saw how Ryan Miller plays in pressure games. N-E-W Jerz and the Sens can go either way, but let us say Ottawa prevails and defeats Martin Brodeur and the Devils. Than, the second round playoff matchups go like this…
(1) Washington vs. (4) Ottawa
(2) Pittsburgh vs. (3) Buffalo
This is where things go tricky. Another frustrating matchup for the Penguins against Miller, but if they get on him early and often they can win handily. Ottawa will obviously have in tough with the Capitals. The Sens won the season series 3-1, and won their first game in Washington in over 4 years. That obviously will give them a boost. Washington has a stumbling defense, and Cory Clouston knows how to take full advantage of those situations. It is a primary reason Ottawa keeps winning against top tier teams, but flounder against weaker teams. But let us again say Ottawa upsets Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Than here is how it would go…
(2) Pittsburgh vs. (4) Ottawa
Last time these two met, the Penguins swept Ottawa. The Sens will obviously have a hard time facing the defending Cup Champions. For now, I will stop here. This is what I am calling Far Far Away. To get at this point would be an immediate success for a playoff rookie coach and his team. I will tell you that they are capable beating New Jersey. They have played before, even when the trap was as prominent as ever at The Rock. Ilya Kovalchuk can be considered a Sens-killer to some degree, but his time in Jersey has not been good. Martin Brodeur has been fighting the puck at times this season, including with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics. Washington is a different story, but there is a team that can be upset because of their weak goaltending. Varlamov has been hurt all season, and Theodore can not get a grip on himself.
The wonderful thing about the playoffs, is that anything could happen. Who thought the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 would be Carolina vs. Edmonton, two out-cast teams. Who thought Fernando Pisani would be the leading scorer that year in the playoffs. When you have made the big dance, you can do anything. Anything at your will, and anything you believe you can do.