Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8)
Washington has the best player on the planet in Alex Ovechkin, another 100-point scorer in Nicklas Backstrom, an 84-point scorer in Alexander Semin, the league’s top offensive defenseman in Mike Green, the best home record in the NHL (30-5-6)…Should I keep going? Couple all of these factors with a struggling Canadiens team and you got all the makings of a clean sweep; the second in as many years for Montreal fans.
Prediction: Washington in four
New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)
Philadelphia has gotten the best of New Jersey this season, which has some experts calling for the 7-seed over 2-seed upset. Still, I can’t bet against Martin Brodeur and the rest of the experienced Devils. Toss in an Ilya Kovalchuk and I can’t help but like what the Devils offer on paper. Games aren’t won on paper though, so I do expect a hard-fought series. In the end though, I’ll take perhaps the best goalie in NHL history to prevail in the decisive game.
Prediction: New Jersey in seven
Buffalo (3) vs. Boston (6)
Ryan Miller is an absolute stud in net, and Buffalo’s scoring attack actually isn’t as bad as people make it out to be; they are ranked 10th in the NHL at 2.82 goals per game. But I have a hard time going against the Bruins in this series, even though it will take stellar goaltending and the sudden discovery of a scoring touch. Wake up Michael Ryder! Wake up Marco Sturm! Wake up David Krejci! Wake up Milan Lucic! Bruins are taking this one in an upset, although they will need seven games to do so.
Prediction: Boston in seven
Pittsburgh (4) vs. Ottawa (5)
Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup as the fourth seed last season because they were simply better than their seed indicated. Though they’ve been banged up at times this season, I think it’s once again the case. They’ll likely be without Chris Kunitz to start the series and without Matt Cooke for the remainder of the season, but their trio of centers (Crosby, Malkin, Staal) can make up for subpar wingers. Alexei Ponikarovsky, acquired at the trade deadline, could be a difference maker.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six
Beyond Round 1…..
Based on these predictions, here is how I think the rest of the Eastern Conference playoffs will play out. I wanted to put all of my cards on the table now, so feel free to mock me once my picks go array (which could be sooner rather than later):
Washington (1) vs. Boston (6)
Washington in five
New Jersey (2) vs. Pittsburgh (4)
New Jersey in six
Washington (1) vs. New Jersey (2)
New Jersey in seven