Alright, the first round is in the books and boy was it a dandy. It wrapped up on Wednesday night with three game sevens! You are not going to see three game 7’s on the same night too many more times. As far as my predictions went, I was 6 for 8 only getting the Red Wings (homer) and Avalanche wrong. EA Sports was also 6 for 8, only blowing it on the Avs and Sharks… But lets face it the only people who blew it were the Sharks. Up 3-0 and then lose 4-3? C’mon! Here is a quick peek at the two Eastern Conference series and my prediction for who we will see move to the Conference Final.On Friday we will release our Western Conference preview.
#1 Boston Bruins vs. #3 Montreal Canadiens
Of all the teams in the second round, the Bruins and the Canadiens have the most rest of any. Montreal caught a break with Ben Bishop out and they took advantage of Anders Lindback, sweeping the Lightning in the first round. As for the Bruins they lost game 1 and that appeared to wake them up. They went on to win four in a row, outing the Red Wings in 5.
As a Wings fan, I have to admit, that hurt. However, could you ask for a better second round matchup than the Bruins and the Habs? This is one of, if not the biggest rivalry in the NHL and we get to see them do battle for potentially seven games. There is a lot of bad blood between these two franchises, and the Canadiens seem to have the Bruins number to a certain degree. Their speed will definitely pose a problem for the bigger, slower Bruins, but ultimately I think Boston wears down the Habs and take them out in 6. One thing to keep an eye on in this series is Milan Lucic vs. Alexei Emelin. These are two players who are important to their team and both play a physical brand of hockey. Plus they really just do not respect each other. Below their is some evidence of the hatred between the two.
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #2 New York Rangers
The Rangers were featured in one of the three game 7’s last night, and the Penguins narrowly escaped being there. New York downed the Flyers 2-1 last night, but were really on the ropes in the third period, but Henrik Lundqvist was exceptional in a game 7 yet again. Pittsburgh had a 4-0 lead in game 6, but allowed the Jackets to make it 4-3 in the third, but never able to tie it up.
Heading into the second round, it is clear that the Rangers have the edge in net, but Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the great equalizers. Marc-Andre Fleury posted a 2.81 GAA and .908 SV% in the first round versus Lundqvist’s 2.11 and .919. The Pens and blueshirts split the season series 2-2, each taking a game in a shootout. The last time these two teams met in the postseason, was in 2008, when the Pens won the series 4-1.I like the Penguins in this one. Had the Flyers beat New York, I probably would have went Philly, but with Malkin finding his scoring touch in game 6 (see below), Paul Martin and Kris Letang finally healthy and then Crosby leading the way I have Pens vs. Bruins in the East Conference Final. However, King Henrik is the clear edge for New York, so I see this one going seven games.