SenShot’s Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

It took an extra day to sort out all of the matchups in the Eastern Conference, but once all the dust settled following Ottawa’s win over Boston, there are some very intriguing matchups.  Here is a breakdown of all the Eastern Conference opening round series:

#1 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs #8 NEW YORK ISLANDERS

John Tavares leads his upstart Islanders team into the postseason for the first time and staring across the ice at him will be the stacked Pittsburgh Penguins.  This will be a true David vs Goliath matchup.

 

March 30, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Jarome Iginla (12) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (right) fight for the puck during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY

The Penguins have not missed the playoffs since 2005-06 and have played 12 playoff series in the past 5 seasons, including one Stanley Cup and one more finals appearance.  They are an ornery bunch, however, not having advanced past the first round in the past two playoffs.

The Islanders, on the other hand, haven’t made the playoffs since 2006-07 and haven’t won a series since the 1992-93 season when the upstart Islanders went to the Conference finals, beating the highly favoured two time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

PITTSBURGH NY ISLANDERS
36-12-0 Record 24-17-7
8-2-0 Last 10 6-1-3
18-6-0 Home 10-11-3
18-6-0 Away 14-6-4
24.7% (2ND) PP% (RANK) 19.9% (10TH)
79.6% (25TH) PK% (RANK) 80.3% (20TH)
162 (1ST) GF (RANK) 135 (7TH)
119 (12TH) GA (RANK) 136 (21ST)
25.9% %GF ON PP 23.0%
HEAD TO HEAD
4-1-0 RECORD 1-4-0
2-1-0 HOME 0-2-0
2-0-0 AWAY 1-2-0
17 GF 9
9 GA 17
3/14 (21.4%) PP (%) 2/18 (11.1%)
16/18 (88.9%) PK (%) 11/14 (78.6%)

 

KEY PLAYERS

Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT – While the scoring will take care of itself, the biggest letdown in the playoff last year was the goaltending of Fleury.  If he has a repeat of last season’s meltdown, there will be huge question marks about his clutch ability in the future.

John Tavares, NYI – Mr. Everything for New York will have the pressure of the entire team on his shoulders.  Tavares carried the team on his back for most of the season, so this is nothing new.  If the Penguins shut him down, the Islanders have zero chance.

 

MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES

Obviously all eyes will be on Sidney Crosby, who returned to practice Friday after suffering a broken jaw earlier in the month.  Defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Joe Vitale are both listed as questionable to start the series.  Orpik would likely get the task of shutting down the Islanders’ top line so his absence would definitely be felt.

The Islanders come in as healthy as you would expect a team to be at this point of the season.

 

LATE SEASON ADDITIONS

The Penguins were already one of the top teams in the conference before they added Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray at the trade deadline.  Two of them are former long-time captains of their previous teams.

The Islanders held with what they had going into the trade deadline.

 

INTANGIBLES

Pittsburgh is the most talented team in the East, and on top of that they have the incentive to win one for a pair of NHL warriors who have yet to raise the cup in Iginla and Morrow.

The Islanders have so little playoff experience that they might not even realize how big of an underdog they are in this series.  They really have nothing to lose and can play pretty loose and let the cards fall where they may this time around.

 

THE PENGUINS WILL WIN IF

They just stick to playing hockey.  The Flyers got them off their game last season, but don’t expect that to happen this time around.

 

THE ISLANDERS WILL WIN IF

They can avoid realizing that they have no chance.

 

SENSHOT SAYS:

Jared:  I counted it up, and the Islanders’ top 9 forwards have a total of 11 career NHL playoff games, all played by Brad Boyes.  It is just too much to expect for the young and inexperienced Islanders to knock off the most talented team in the playoffs (with all due respect to the Blackhawks).  Iginla will not allow a repeat of last season to happen, not that Crosby would get wrapped up in that kind of extra-curriculars once again.  PREDICTION:  Penguins in 5

Phil: Before the season began I think it would be safe to say that not many people expected the Islanders to make the playoffs. As the season went along it became increasingly more obvious that they had gotten better as a team and may be able to contend for a playoff spot and they did just that, finish in 8th. As for the Penguins there isn’t much to say we all know it will be a huge disappointment for the franchise if they don’t make the Stanley Cup Finals. I don’t think the Isles have good enough goaltending to even steal a game. They have a good power-play and that may help them in taking a game but I don’t think they will be able to get very far with the Pens insanely deep line-up.  PREDICTION: Pens in 4

Jamie:  Before the series gets underway, let’s take a second to let that playoff seeding sink in. The Islanders are finally gelling like a team that wants to win, and not just a team that hates the Nassau Arena. Pittsburgh added a lot of depth on the roster at the trade deadline and for the most part it has panned out for them. That depth is going to be too much for the playoff inexperienced Islanders team. These guys look like they’ll only have a chance if they can keep the powerplay contained, and no one has really accomplished that this year. Penguins advance in this one.  PREDICTION:  4-1 Penguins

 

 

#2 MONTREAL CANADIENS vs #7 OTTAWA SENATORS

Ottawa’s win over the Bruins on the last day of the season sets up their first ever playoff series with one of their biggest rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

 

Feb 25, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Ottawa Senators centre Mika Zibanejad (93) and Montreal Canadiens centre Lars Eller (81) face off in the third period at Scotiabank Place. The Senators defeated the Canadiens 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY

Montreal bounced back from a dreadful 2011-12 season where they finished dead last in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs. However they are just three years removed from a Cinderella playoff run that saw them advance to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to the Flyers.

The Senators were not supposed to make it last season, but they did and gave the Rangers all they could handle.  Again, injuries were supposed to derail the Senators season, but they persevered and ended up getting a most favorable matchup.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

MONTREAL OTTAWA
29-14-5 Record 25-17-6
8-2-0 Last 10 6-4-0
14-7-3 Home 15-6-3
15-7-2 Away 10-11-3
20.7% (5TH) PP% (RANK) 15.9% (20TH)
79.8% (23RD) PK% (RANK) 88.0% (1ST)
146 (4TH) GF (RANK) 112 (27TH)
124 (14TH) GA (RANK) 100 (2ND)
28.8% %GF ON PP 22.3%
HEAD TO HEAD
2-1-1 RECORD 2-1-1
2-0-0 HOME 2-0-0
0-1-1 AWAY 0-1-1
7 GF 10
10 GA 7
4/20 (20.0%) PP (%) 5/12 (41.7%)
7/12 (58.3%) PK (%) 16/20 (80.0%)

 

KEY PLAYERS

Carey Price, MTL – Down the stretch Price was not good, and that is an understatement.  He has lost 6 of his last 8 decisions, and allowed 3 or more goals in each loss. He was suggested as a Vezina Trophy candidate prior to that strecth, and he comes into the playoffs colder than cold.

Kyle Turris, OTT – With no Jason Spezza on the horizon, Turris has the chance to finally show he can carry the load.  While the Canadiens’ top two centres are not overly big and strong, Turris can expect a healthy dose of Brandon Prust, who will try to physically intimidate the Ottawa pivot.  Turris needs to battle through and be a first line performer.

 

MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES

Montreal will be without its most physical defenseman, Alexei Emelin, for the duration of the playoff with a torn ligament in his knee.  His intimidation will be missed on a team that doesn’t have much of that on its blue line.

Ottawa’s best forward, Jason Spezza is still on the shelf after undergoing back surgery just 5 games into the season.  He is not skating with the team, and a return any time soon does not seem likely.

 

LATE SEASON ADDITIONS

Montreal stood pat, preferring to promote form within and gave Jarred Tinordi a shot.  Not sure if he will be in the lineup for the playoffs, but he brings a physical element that is missing on the Habs blueline.

Ottawa brought in one of the top scoring rookies of the season, Cory Conacher from Tampa.  After seeing action on the third line when he came over, he has seen primarily fourth line duty the last couple of games. Jean-Gabriel Pageau came up from Binghamton and added a boost of energy and some production to the lineup.

 

INTANGIBLES

The Habs went from 15th to 2nd in the East in a year.  Obviously they have some good chemistry happening and that can take a team a long way.  Whether they can take it back to 1993 is another story.

The Senators overcame what most thought was a season-crippling number of injuries and while they didn’t  always look pretty while doing it, they proved the doubters wrong.

 

THE CANADIENS WILL WIN IF

They can remove Erik Karlsson from being a factor in games.  If Karlsson excels, he is a nightmare for any opposing team.

 

THE SENATORS WILL WIN IF

They can get to Price early and create doubts in the minds of himself, the team, the fans and maybe most importantly in Montreal, the media.

 

SENSHOT SAYS

Jared:  While it might be a bit biased, I still think that the Senators have a great thing going, and that Karlsson will be the difference maker.  If the Senators can stay out of the box and play more 5 on 5, then they will win.  If they give the Canadiens more than 2 or 3 power plays per game they will be in trouble, even though they have the best PK in the league (and I am not referring to Subban).  PREDICTION:  Senators in 7

Phil:  How can I convince everyone my thoughts on this series? The Habs have surprised some people, many didn’t expect them to be the winner of the North East, including myself. I truly believe the goaltending will determine the winner of this series and the Sens have the edge in that department and also have a much more talented back-up in Robin Lehner. If the Sens top guns can contribute on a nightly basis the Sens will win this series. The fact that Ottawa has a dynamic player in Erik Karlsson, a goaltender like Craig Anderson and a Captain like Daniel Alfredsson, I really think the Sens have an edge which is why I’m going with the Sens.  PREDICTION:  Sens in 7

Yes sir/ma’am The Battle for Gatineau commences! I really like this series, and not just because I’m a blatant homer, but because these teams match up very well against each other. A couple games in the season series were “should have hads” for the other teams, and regardless the series ended as a tie. There is no reeeaaalll bad blood amongst these two team, but it’s the playoffs so let the hatred be born. This is going to be a spirited fight and I think a test to see who can chase which goaltender first. Get Price off his game and Budaj won’t keep them in a series. Chase Anderson and Lehner will. P.K. versus King K, and King K and his loyal #lalala men will take this series.  PREDICTION:  4-2 Senators

 

#3 WASHINGTON CAPITAL VS. #6 NEW YORK RANGERS

These two clubs are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last 5 years.  They are very familiar foes in the playoffs and will be back in the same division next year so that has the potential to continue.

 

Mar. 24, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) takes a shot on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) during overtime at Madison Square Garden. Washington won in a shootout, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY

The Rangers went to the conference final last year as the #1 seed in the East, beating the Capitals along the way, in round 2.  The Rangers have ended the Capitals season just the once, while the Caps ended up on the winning side both times when they met in the first round.

The Capitals have not made it to the third round since 1997-98 when they advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, and lost to the Red Wings.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

WASHINGTON NY RANGERS
27-18-3 Record 26-18-4
8-1-1 Last 10 7-3-0
15-8-1 Home 16-6-2
12-10-2 Away 10-12-2
26.8% (1ST) PP% (RANK) 15.7% (23RD)
77.9% (27TH) PK% (RANK) 81.1% (15TH)
146 (7TH) GF (RANK) 126 (15TH)
130 (18TH) GA (RANK) 108 (4TH)
30.1% %GF ON PP 19.0%
HEAD TO HEAD
1-2-0 RECORD 2-0-1
0-1-0 HOME 1-0-1
1-1-0 AWAY 1-0-0
4 GF 8
8 GA 4
1/10 (10.0%) PP (%) 3/9 (33.3%)
6/9 (66.7%) PK (%) 9/10 (90.0%)

 

KEY PLAYERS

Henrik Lundqvist, NYR – The reigning Vezina trophy winner has a rejuvinated Ovechkin to contend with, as well as Nicklas Bacstrom and Mike Green as the trio have been red-hot of late.

Alex Ovechkin, WAS – Although he had some help, the  Capitals resurgence over the second half of the season is due to Ovechkin not necessarily playing better, but having more fun.  His exuberance is contagious and he is the on-ice leader of the Caps. As he goes, so go the Capitals.

 

MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES

The big one for the Rangers is defenseman Marc Staal.  His eye injury will likely not recover enough for a return in this playoff season.  Brian Boyle is also out indefinitely, which hurts the Rangers’ depth up the middle and in the faceoff circle.  Ryane Clowe is questionable for the start of the series.

Centre Brooks Laich is Washington’s answer to Brian Boyle and he is also out indefinitely, while Joel Ward is questionable for game 1.

 

LATE SEASON ADDITIONS

The Rangers made the biggest trade at the deadline, bringing in Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett.  While Dorsett hasn’t made an impact, Brassard and Moore have been very good for New York.

The Capitals also made a splash, bringing in Martin Erat from Nashville, but due to injuries, his impact has been little more than a ripple.  Still, he provides some depth in the second line and has the potential to be a streaky scorer so you can’t ignore him.

 

INTANGIBLES

The Capitals have re-discovered how to have fun, and it translates to their play on the ice.  It took some time, but they realized that Adam Oates has taken the shackles off and their thoroughbreds can now run the race instead of pulling wagons.  That makes a big difference.

Are the Rangers fed up with John Tortorella?  That is the big question, and if the Rangers coach has lost his room, then it will be a short playoff for NYR.  He willed them into the playoffs, but that room has to be the anti-Capitals.

 

THE CAPITALS WILL WIN IF

They can get their power play going.  The Rangers don’t score much and they also are mediocre on special teams.  If Washington can use their PP to gain momentum it will snowball

 

THE RANGERS WILL WIN IF

The games are boring and played at a snail’s pace.  They cannot allow this to become a track meet or they will be out in a hurry.

 

SENSHOT SAYS

Jared:  These are two teams with contrasting styles that will either be fun to watch or the worst series ever.  There will be a lot of time spent in the Rangers end, and Lundqvist will be the key to whether or not the Rangers can weather the storm.  In the end, the Rangers play more of a playoff-type game and I think that will be just enough in this round.  PREDICTION:  Rangers in 6

Phil:  As I have said multiple times goaltending is such a huge part of the playoffs. It’s obvious that the Rangers have the edge in that area in Henrik Lundqvist. The only way I can see the Caps getting anywhere near winning this series is if Alex Ovechkin can find that extra gear he has to take over this series. The Rangers have a deeper line-up than the Caps and have better a goaltender which is why I think they will come out on top.  PREDICTION:  Rangers in 6

Jamie:  This is going to be the series to watch (other than of course the Sens series). It may not be boiling over with bad blood, but it’s the playoffs and have you seen Ovi lately? In what is becoming a perennial matchup, the Caps and Rangers take each other on, and while the Rangers have better goaltending, I don’t think they have what it takes to get in to a shootout with an Alexander Ovechkin and Co. that is out to prove everyone wrong. Caps take this one and truck on to the next round.  PREDICTION:4-3 Capitals

 

#4 BOSTON BRUINS VS #5 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

This is the matchup that the Leafs were dreading heading into the final weekend of the season.  The Bruins have been like the Leafs kryptonite, no matter how well the Leafs are playing, Boston usually has the answer.

 

March 7, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) faces off against Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY

The Bruins have played in 10 playoff series since the Leafs last made the playoffs, winning 6 of them including 4 on the way to the Stanley Cup in 2011.  They bowed out in the first round to the Capitals last year.

The Leafs have not seen the postseason since the last lockout, a string of 7 straight misses.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

WASHINGTON NY RANGERS
27-18-3 Record 26-18-4
8-1-1 Last 10 7-3-0
15-8-1 Home 16-6-2
12-10-2 Away 10-12-2
26.8% (1ST) PP% (RANK) 15.7% (23RD)
77.9% (27TH) PK% (RANK) 81.1% (15TH)
146 (7TH) GF (RANK) 126 (15TH)
130 (18TH) GA (RANK) 108 (4TH)
30.1% %GF ON PP 19.0%
HEAD TO HEAD
1-2-0 RECORD 2-0-1
0-1-0 HOME 1-0-1
1-1-0 AWAY 1-0-0
4 GF 8
8 GA 4
1/10 (10.0%) PP (%) 3/9 (33.3%)
6/9 (66.7%) PK (%) 9/10 (90.0%)

 

KEY PLAYERS

Zdeno Chara, BOS – Chara is the anchor of the Bruins blueline, and with a deep Toronto offense he will be counted upon to play nearly 30 minutes a game in a shutdown role, and also expected to contribute at the offensive end.

James Reimer, TOR – People keep expecting Reimer to fall apart, and the fact that the Leafs were trying to replace him might have served to motivate him to excel.  The playoffs are a different animal, and we will see if Reimer really has what it takes to succeed in Toronto.

 

MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES

Jaromir Jagr (flu) and Nathan Horton (upper body) are both questionable to start game 1, but will likely be a factor before too long.

For the Leafs, Tyler Bozak missed the last couple of games with an upper body injury but should be back for game 1.

 

LATE SEASON ADDITIONS

The Bruins whiffed on Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, but finally got some offensive depth in acquiring Jagr. They also did some other tweaking, bringing in former Senators defenseman Wade Redden from St. Louis and claiming Kaspars Daugavins off waivers from the Senators.

 

INTANGIBLES

The City of Boston has been a tangle of emotions over the past couple of weeks and the Bruins can either be distracted by that or harness them and gain inspiration from that.  If they can get through the first round, it could be a long playoff run for them.

Toronto hasn’t been here in a long time and if they can steal one of the first two games in Boston, they can ride the wave of the home crowd that will no doubt be out in force after the ACC has been playoff dark for so long.

 

BOSTON WILL WIN IF

They can stick to playing hockey.  The likes of Brad Marchand can’t get to running around, because Toronto actually has better special teams play.

 

TORONTO WILL WIN IF

James Reimer outduels Tuukka Rask in between the pipes.

 

SENSHOT SAYS:

Jared:  Boston has had the Leafs’ number over the last few seasons, but not by as much as you would think of late.  The Bruins are deep and confident, but are limping in down the stretch and lost a couple of key games that would have given them the division title.  Can they flip the switch?  I don’t think so.  PREDICTION:  Leafs in 6

Phil:  In the latter third of the season it seemed the Leafs had a hard time shooting pucks at the opposing nets. If they can get passed the Bruins defense and get some scoring chances they might make this a series. The miraculous shooting percentage the Leafs own will eventually dry out, if they can’t shoot and create scoring chances. The Bruins aren’t the team to hope that shooting percentage continues as they own a very balanced attack and that will hurt the Leafs in the end.  PREDICTION:  Bruins in 6

Jamie: This is going to be a gritty series. Remember Philly/Pittsburgh last year? Im expecting that this year. Lucic is looking far angrier than he has all season, and if that temperament carries over, expect to see more PIMs than you can shake a stick at. This is Rask’s time to shine, and one way or another will settle the score of the Phil Kessel trade. Expect the hate to boil over in this series. Not many big breaks for goals here, just nitty, gritty, get it done. Boston is going to take this series, but it is going to wear them out.  PREDICTION:  4-3 Bruins

So there you have it, the breakdown of the Eastern Conference playoff series.  If you missed the Western Conference breakdown, check it out HERE

Topics: Boston Bruins, Eastern Conference Playoff Preview, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Playoffs, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals

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