Earlier I covered the Western Conference match ups for the first round. Like I promised, here’s the Eastern Conference match ups for the first round and my commentary on what I expect to happen in the games and their final out comes.
I promise not to go overboard with this match up, the New York Rangers are my other team so I’ll keep analysis to a minimum. Defensively the Rangers have a solid core of guys like Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Michael Del Zotto blocking shots and coming up strong in front of Henrik Lundqvist. However the Rangers defense isn’t limited to just their defensive pairings. Everyone has been jumping in this season when it comes to blocking shots. However the Ottawa Senators should not be counted out when it comes to their defensive skills. Erik Karlsson is having an awesome season racking up 78 points proving himself valuable in both zones. Ottawa’s main skill will be their ability to clear the puck from their zone faster than the Rangers can keep up. Despite this, I am giving the defensive edge to the team that works together to stop an offensive attack, Rangers.
Goaltending wise, the Rangers have the perennial Vezina contender Lundqvist who is not without flaws. Lundqvist has a problem with soft goals, letting them up far too often for a goalie with his stats and against the Senators every save matters. The Senators aren’t much better seeing as how there is no middle ground for Craig Anderson, either he is fantastic or in full on meltdown. The problem with Lundqvist’s soft goal issue is directly linked to the Rangers’ offensive problems and the Senators will have a problem rebounding offensively from a Anderson meltdown, so goaltending is really a toss up. However, I will go with the Rangers for goaltending.
Why did I go with the Rangers for goaltending? Well it’s easier for their offense to rebound from Lundqvist letting up one soft goal than the Senators needing to net 4 or 5 goals to catch up on a Anderson meltdown. However, the Senators will have a better shot getting the puck in the net because the Senators have a better skills at clearing the puck with their speed which creates more scoring opportunities on the Rangers. Offensive advantage goes to the Senators.
Cait Factor: Rangers
Overall: Senators in 5
After a strenuous start to the season, with coaching changes, the Washington Capitals face another challenge, over coming their loss of both goaltenders. If Braden Holtby’s first 7 games are any indication of what the Capitals have to look forward to, they should be reassured the young goaltender is prepared to fill in. Boston Bruins have their old workhorse still minding the nets after last year’s Stanley Cup win, so their worries should be eased. However if either team loses their goaltenders due to injury, there is reason to panic. Tukka Rask, Tim Thomas’s backup is has been injured since March and might not be prepared in time for the first round, leaving the Bruins with Anton Khudobin who has playing in one NHL game this season. As for Holtby’s backup, well that’s a mystery. Goaltending goes to Bruins for their depth and playoff experience.
The Capitals have been struggling this season defensively, between slumps and injuries, it hasn’t been pretty for the Caps. And facing off against the Norris Trophy contender Zdeno Chara, well it’s safe to say the defensive advantage goes to the Bruins.
Offensively the Bruins have this amazing depth that the Capitals can’t even being to touch. While the Capitals do have guys like Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, if those guys are “on” the Capitals really struggle to get points up on the board. Sure, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich are there to help push the goals up, but four guys aren’t going to cut it against the offensive powerhouse that is the Bruins. Advantage has to go to the Bruins in this case.
Cait Factor also goes to the Bruins.
At the end of the series, it will be Bruins in 5 games.
Despite the fact the Florida Panthers fell into the playoffs with a record that only highlights the flawed system the NHL uses, the advantage has to go to the Panthers over the New Jersey Devils. The Panthers do not have the big name superstars that the Devils scored these past few seasons (Zach Parise, Ilya Kovlachuk), but what they do have is four lines of contribution offensively, which has really thrown the Devils for a loop this season. And where Kovlachuk really shines, the shoot out, is not a factor in the playoffs. So for this match up, despite the fact that the Devils out scored the Panthers in their season match ups, I’m giving the Panthers the offensive advantage.
When it comes to goaltending, the obvious edge would say the Devils with Martin Brodeur but the all star goalie is not exactly the same player he was 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. Brodeur thrives in the trap defense the Devils have moved away from in the past few season, but he has managed to adapt to Coach DeBoer’s style. Counting out the Devils as a goaltending force would be a foolish thing to do. Not saying that the Panthers are exactly a pushover. The steady rotation of Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore has really pushed this team into their first playoff apperance in over ten years (last appearance played the Devils too). That coupled with offense means the Panthers have a strong shot at doing something big this off season, goaltending advantage goes to the Panthers.
Defensively, I don’t have much hope for the Panthers. What it comes down to is the adaptability the Devils have created for themselves over the past few season gives them an unbelievable advantage over the Panthers. There are no stand out players on either team in terms of defense, but the Devils have a history of being a defensive heavy team, if all else fails, they have that to fall back on and have Brodeur to show them how. Advantage: Devils
Cait Factor: Panthers
Final outcome Panthers in 4.
It’s the battle of the philosopher and the first overall pick of the 2003 draft. Philadelphia Flyers’ have a few scary games there when Ilya Bryzgalov was between the pipes and now all the Phoenix Coyote fans are shouting for the Flyers to get used to it because that is “tradition Bryz” come April. Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Penguins have Marc-Andre Fleury in net for them. Considered one of the top players of a star studded roster, Fleury has managed to set himself apart and prove to the Penguins organization that he is just as important as the guys in the offensive zone. Despite his run away success in 24/7, Bryzgalov is second to the Penguins in my goalie match up.
Okay let’s be honest, I’ve been trying to come up with a paragraph about the offense and defense but that’s not what’s going to win or lose this game. It’s who can survive the beatings the best. We all got a preview when the Penguins and Flyers matched up a few weekends ago and brutally attacked each other for the last 5 minutes of the game. Doubtful that the who series will be like this, but you can bet that the games will be chippier than most other games. Both have super stars that can light up any goalie when they put their minds to it, solid defensive action, and guys unafraid to knock some bodies around. This should be a meeting of skill but I don’t see skill being the deciding factor so much as ability to survive and rebound. Flyers will be the team to do that.
Cait Factor goes to the melting ice or the Flyers, preferably melting ice.
Series goes to 7 with a Penguins victory