NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview

Apr 22, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) prepares to stop a shot from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period at Scotiabank Place. The Penguins defeated the Senators 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

 

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (7) Ottawa Senators

 

Series begins : Tuesday, May 14 at Consol Energy Center, 8:00 PM EST

Season Series:

  • Jan 27 – Penguins 2, Senators 1 (SO)
  • Feb 13 – Penguins 4, Senators 2
  • Apr 22 – Penguins 3, Senators 1

Why The Penguins Can Win

Pittsburgh, when they are on and the transition game is working, boast the most top end talent of all the teams remaining in the playoffs. Sidney Crosby came back in game two against the Islanders and at times, dominated with his skill and balance. Evgeni Malkin might be the most enigmatic of all the forwards on the Pens roster but can dominate a game with size to match his skill. Only problem that lies with Malkin is that famous temper, which can get the better of him when the right buttons are pushed.

The Pens goal of claiming a championship for new acquisition Jarome Iginla runs deep but then again, so do the Pittsburgh problems. The Islanders, in round one, exposed the defense of Dan Bylsma‘s group and forced them into many turnovers in their defensive zone by aggressive forechecking and speed. Douglas Murray struggled mightily and stretch passes might not be as effective if the Sens hold their line in the neutral zone.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury will continue to wear a baseball cap instead of his protective mask, as Tomas Vokoun draws the game one start. At this point, Bylsma might have bitten off more than he can chew however as I do not see how you go back to MAF if Vokoun struggles.

Why The Senators Can Win

Speed kills and the Senators are blessed with a ton of it. They have a group of young, hard working forwards who never seem to take a shift off. And that goes solely to the credit of the best coach in the entire league, Paul MacLean. A virtual unanimous winner of the Jack Adams award when it is handed out in June, the job he has done with 4 all-stars out of the lineup for extended periods has been nothing short of remarkable.

Erik Karlsson was welcomed back way ahead of schedule and had some questioning if it was the right move for the reigning Norris Trophy winner. It turned out just fine as Ottawa easily dispatched of the Montreal Canadiens in round one. Karlsson had 6 points in the series on a goal and 5 assists.

Craig Anderson picked up right where he left off, posting a .950 save percentage in the opening 5 games against the Habs. One of the most underrated goaltenders in the league this is where the Sens have their biggest advantage against the Penguins. He most certainly won’t allow soft goals and will make the Pens work much harder than they had to in the first round against Evgeni Nabokov.

Eyes Prediction

Penguins turnovers and sloppy defensive zone play do not correct themselves and Vokoun is just not enough for the scrappy Senators, who fight and claw themselves to the Eastern conference finals.

SENATORS IN SIX

 

February 12, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) tries to screen New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) while Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) defends during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

 

(4) Boston Bruins vs (6) New York Rangers

 

Series begins: Thursday, May 16 at TD Bank Garden, 7:30 PM EST

Season Series:

  • Jan 19 – Bruins 3, Rangers 1
  • Jan 23 – Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (OT)
  • Feb 12 – Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

Why the Bruins Can Win

The Bruins are massive and are going to play a much more physical game with the Rangers than the Capitals did. Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara are enough to give the New York forwards fits at both ends of the rink and Rick Nash, coming off a 2 assist opening round, will now find even less space to operate.

An incredible comeback in the final 10 minutes of the 3rd period and into the overtime should give the Bruins a feeling of invincibility that karma is on their side for good. Confidence is always paramount in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Bruins are riding a tidal wave of it at the present moment.

David Krecji opened up some eyes with an incredible 5-8-13 in the seven game series with Toronto but Boston is going to need Tyler Seguin to wake up and remember he is playing for the Stanley Cup if they are going to survive against the Rangers.

Tukka Rask will man the goal and takes a .923 save percentage into the second round. Can he finally come out of the shadow of Tim Thomas and lead the Bruins to glory? It will be a closely analyzed topic of discussion at the conclusion of this series.

Why The Rangers Can Win

The Rangers have experience on their side after going to the Eastern conference final last season before losing to the New Jersey Devils in 6 games.

They have a brash, outspoken and sometimes tyrannical bench boss in John Tortorella who relies on and demands tons of his top line players.

Ryan Callahan lead the way against Washington with inspired physical play but will really need to get his offensive output going, especially with the struggles of Nash and Brad Richards, recently demoted to the 4th line. The Rangers are a team that struggles to score at times so secondary output from Callahan and Derek Stepan will be instrumental to them moving on.

Henrik Lundqvist might just be the best goaltender on the planet right now, and gives the Rangers a chance to win each and every time they take the ice. That kind of reliance gives a team a more relaxed approach to these high pressure games just knowing he is back there manning the cage. A .947 save percentage and back to back shutouts in games six and seven make Lundqvist the ideal MVP candidate left off the ballot.

Eyes Prediction

Claude Julien looked like a genius moving Chara up front down two goals with two minutes to play in game seven against Toronto. He could have that luxury again especially if the Rangers find scoring to be problematic in this series. New York’s reliance on Lundqvist could come back to haunt them in this series but the tight checking nature of these teams style of play actually plays into the Rangers hands a little. Low scoring affairs tend to favor the team with the better goaltending and there is no question who has the advantage in this series. For that reason we think the Rangers squeak by in a seven game thriller as the original six foes meet for the first time in the playoffs since 1973.

RANGERS IN SEVEN

 

Thanks for reading us here at EyesOnIsles. Enjoy the second round of the playoffs and we will be checking in regularly with Top Shelf and our Islanders end of season recap. After that, its onto individual player report cards with ‘stay or go’ polls and our draft preview.

 

-AG

 

 

Topics: Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Nhl Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Playoff Push

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