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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Round One: Eastern Picks

The playoffs are right around the corner, and there are sure to be some pretty great series to watch. The first round match-ups will see some pretty great teams take an early exit in a battle to the finish. The west has been arguably the better of the two conferences throughout the regular season, but at this point, that goes out the window. It’s all about who can win 16 high pressure games.

The Boston Bruins being the Presidents Trophy winner with 117 points is the odds on favourite to go all the way this year. The western conference however boasts six (yes, SIX) teams finishing the regular season with 100 points or more. That includes Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Colorado, St. Louis, and Chicago. The east only has four with Montreal and Tampa Bay just squeaking in with 100 and 101 respectively, Pittsburgh has a solid 108, and then Boston at 117. Looking at this and this alone, clearly the ice is tilted toward the Western teams in the amount of contenders they have.

After looking at a number stats and comparing them to the biggest factor, my gut feeling, I’m going to do my best to predict how these playoffs are going to go, and who will be drinking from Lord Stanley’s cup.

­EAST Matchups

Boston VS. Detroit
This match-up will be an interesting one. The Boston Bruins have been a dominating force all season with an ability to run through all four lines and get offense. They have a good combination of scoring talent and grit, and are backstopped by one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. They have a mix of young guys, and veterans with lots of playoff experience. They don’t necessarily have a glaring weakness that any team can truly exploit.

Detroit has been battling through injuries to key players all season long, and have still managed to put up wins. They had an astonishing man-games-lost ranking at 417. Not only did they lose players, but they lost key players in their line-up. They managed to get wins by leaning on young guys like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Now that they have some players back, they could be a tough opponent against the rough Boston Bruins.

I am going to take the Bruins in six. They have the advantage in goaltending and I think they are going to overwhelm and smother Detroit.

Tampa Bay VS. Montreal
Tampa Bay is a team that made the playoffs when nobody expected they would. Normally, they are a solid team, with Stamkos leading the team to victories, but when the now team captain was injured, and injured badly everybody thought they were done for. The Lightning had some young players step up their game, and Ben Bishop continued to make the big saves and help win games.  Montreal and Tampa Bay have been neck and neck the whole way down the stretch battling for home ice advantage, with Tampa Bay edging out the Habs by one point in the final game of the season. Every game has been tight, having three of four go into extra time. Montreal has the advantage in net, but both teams are relatively even in scoring power, and defence with a slight edge to the Bolts. This series will be all about who wants it more, and which goalie steals games. 

I am taking Montreal in seven. They are coming into these playoffs with confidence and a solid line-up all around. Get ready for a great series of hockey.

Pittsburgh VS. Columbus
Pittsburgh has been badly beaten up over the course of the year leading the league by a crazy margin in man-games-lost at 527. They lost guys like Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. They finished second in the east despite the setbacks, and played as though they were a full roster.  Sidney Crosby is obviously a huge piece for Pittsburgh and could carry his team, but if Marc-Andre Fleury plays anything like he did last playoffs, don’t expect the Penguins to go very far.
Columbus has an excellent goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, and what I would consider an average line-up. What they lack in super star players they certainly make up for in depth. Almost everyone in the line-up has the ability to chip in offensively.

I am taking Pittsburgh in six. Pittsburgh can match Columbus in depth, but they have more high-end talent and game changers. If Fleury is on point, and can make some big saves like he can in the regular season, Pittsburgh shouldn’t have to many problems winning the series.

New York VS. Philadelphia
New York has solid talent in their top six, and some pretty good depth. They have extremely good goaltending in “King” Henrik Lundquist. He can make huge saves, and is good in high pressure situations. If Martin St.Louis can get his scoring touch going again, New York can definitely do well against Philadelphia.

Philly has a good mix in their line-up. Their goaltending has done well this year with Steve Mason on the back. My concern for Philly is that the Rangers will be able to exploit them, and Philly simply won’t be able to beat Lundquist. I don’t see Philadelphia being a real threat to the Rangers.

I am taking New York in five. New York has better scoring and goaltending. They will just take over Philly and swiftly kick them out.

Summary
These are my picks for the first round in the East. Some of these series' will certainly have some surprises and some upsets, but that is what is so great about the playoffs. You never know what player will step-up his game, and what team will completely collapse. Now, all that matters is winning four of seven.

Thank you for reading! I will have my Western playoff preview up later on today.

Be sure to follow @darrinharmy

2 comments:

I agree for the most part.

Boston in 6, Detroit is tough but Boston is deeper & more physical.
Montreal in 7 is what I expected on Monday. If Bishop misses time, I'd say Montreal in 6. If Tampa still had Marty St. Louis with Stamkos, I'd change this. We have Vanek now and they have a banged up goalie. Edge: Habs

Pittsburgh over Columbus, if everyone is healthy and M.A.F. plays average, Pittsburgh in 5. Too strong. Breakout series for Ryan Johansen & Ryan Murray though.

NYR vs Philly will be great. I think the Rangers take it, but I see this one going 7. Philly is stronger than they started and Mason has been solid.

Yupp, I don't think Tampa is as strong as they were at the beginning of the year roster wise, but Bishop came up huge for them.

I figured CLB could take two, based on Bobrovsky stealing a game, and then figured Columbus could at least win one on their own.

Philly was a tough one. They have a good team, but I just think once New York gets on top of them, they're going to get frustrated. Mason has played well, I am just unsure if he can stand tall every game against some pretty impressive forwards.

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