2011 NHL Playoffs – Round 1 East

Unlike previous years when I have attempted to break down each series with some anecdotes, I’m not feeling that this year. I don’t really know why, but I’m just not. I mean, I will say some things about each of these series, but it won’t be as in-depth as I have done in the past. I chalk it up to the fact it’s really dreary weather outside today and I’m just feeling like I have no energy.

On to the previews.

(1) Washington Capitals v. (8) New York Rangers

Just like last year, the Capitals enter the playoffs as the top seed in the East. However, unlike last year, it’s not on their own merit as much. Last year the Capitals won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s top team. This year it’s more because the Flyers started playing poorly down the stretch while the Capitals improved. As for the Rangers, once again Henrik Lundqvist is carrying the team. Seeing as he’s one of the top goalies in the league, that’s not surprising. The Rangers seem to have problems scoring lately, and some injuries that will hurt them. The Capitals have Alex Ovechkin, although who knows what kind of Ovechkin we’ll see this year. I’m going with Capitals in 6.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers v. (7) Buffalo Sabres

As mentioned in the Capitals/Rangers series, the Flyers were cruising at the top of the East until some shoddy play caused them to fall a bit, to the point where they lost their top spot in the conference and were almost overtaken by the Penguins in the Atlantic division. [EDIT: The Flyers should have lost the division to the Penguins. The Penguins had 49 wins, the Flyers only 47. However, the NHL’s stupid decision to use regulation and overtime wins as the tiebreaker instead of total wins robbed the Penguins. It’s a crock of crap. If you don’t like the shootout anymore, get rid of it. None of these bullshit half-measures.] However, the Flyers do have one of the top offences in the league, and with a healthy Chris Pronger a strong defence. It’s in goal where they are suspect, like most years. Who will man the crease this year, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton or Sergei Bobrovsky? Who knows. As for the Sabres, it will be Ryan Miller in the crease. The Sabres came on strong at the end of the season, only losing out on the 6-seed through losing one of the NHL’s many tiebreakers to the Canadiens. For this series I’m going with the Flyers in 6, but noting that the Sabres could pull it out thanks to the Flyers’ track record of suspect goaltending.

(3) Boston Bruins v. (6) Montreal Canadiens

For the 33rd time in NHL history, the Canadiens and the Bruins are facing off against each other in the playoffs. The Canadiens took the season series 4-2, but those two losses came in the last three games the teams played, 8-6 and 7-0. Add in the 4-1 win that saw Zdeno Chara attempt to murder Max Pacioretty (and don’t give me that ‘hockey play’ and ‘didn’t know who it was’ bullshit), and it’s safe to assume the Bruins are in the Canadiens heads. Of course, there’s also the mental aspect of the Bruins collapsing in last year’s playoffs, leading the Flyers 3-0 in the series and 3-0 in game seven, only to lose. Add in that Carey Price is on fire this year, as is Tim Thomas, and this could be a long series. Overall, I feel the Bruins’ size and offence will probably overwhelm a Canadiens defence corps that has been decimated by injuries all season. A healthy Canadiens defence would have given the Canadiens the division, so that’s how I view this series. I’m going with Bruins in 7, sadly. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins v. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

These two teams have never met in the playoffs. It should be an interesting series. The Lightning have one of the game’s best young players in Steven Stamkos. The Penguins have Sidney Crosby on their roster, but I will be surprised (and disgusted) if he plays at all these playoffs. [The kid suffered a concussion! If you play him before the 2011-2012 season, you’re jeopardizing his life.] I think this will be an even series. However, seeing as the Lighting have been mostly healthy all season and the Penguins lost Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for extended stretches, and the Penguins ultimately finished higher, I think the Penguins hold the edge. Plus, I am pretty sure more members of the Penguins were on the 2009 Stanley Cup winning team than Lightning players remain from that team’s (controversial and illegitimate) 2004 Cup-winning team. I think recent experience wins out. Penguins in 6.

Hmm, it appears as if I’m a liar. Oh well. Here are my previews and predictions. Up next, the West. Wednesday.