NHL playoff preview and predictions

Alexandra and The Fish breakdown all of the round one matchups and predict their winners

by Alexandra Giubelli
Washington Capitals vs. Montreal
Canadiens

Offence
With players like Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom it is hard to bet against the Washington Capitals. The Caps are first in the NHL with 3.82 goals per game and they are also first in powerplay percentage with 25.2%. However, the Montreal Canadiens can still surprise everyone if Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez pick up their slack and if Mike Cammalleri can be as dominant as he was before his injury. Montreal ranked a lowly 26th in the league with 2.66 points per game but they are second in the league in powerplay percentage with 21.8%.

Defense
This is where things get interesting. The Capitals have Mike Green who is arguably the best offensive defenseman that this league has seen in the past ten years. However, Tom Poti, Milan Jurcina and Joe Corvo are usually invisible in their own zone, and with a good pressure from Montreal’s offence, they can open up the game and get some good opportunities.  The Canadiens have Andrei Markov, who is not as good as Green, but he can easily help the offence in a big way.  The Canadiens also have Josh Georges and Marc-Andre Bergeron who may prove to be useful against the Capitals penalty kill, which is ranked 25th in penality kill percentage. The main areas for concern will revolve around Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek who didn’t have a great seasons as they proved to be mostly mediocre at best.

Goaltending
This has been a huge debate all year long in Montreal and for those playoffs I would go with Jaroslav Halak. Carey Price had his chance last year and the year before, and with the season Halak had I think he would be Jacques Martin’s number one. The Slovakian is ranking fourth in save percentage and ninth in goals against average.  The players are clearly more confident with him between the pipes. Washington, has Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov, whose season was interrupted by an injury. In the playoffs last year, Varlamov was Bruce Bourdeau’s man, but it is unclear  if he’ll be able to do the same this post-seasom. Theodore had a good season, which will probably give him the edge for starting job in the playoffs.

Verdict
Capitals win in six

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia
Flyers

Offence
The New Jersey Devils helped their offence when they aquired Ilya Kovalchuk at the trade deadline. Even if the Russian had trouble finding his rhythm in New Jersey’s defensive style of play, he will probably help them score a majority of their goals this post-season. Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrick Elias are the most important members of New Jersey’s offence as the Devils ranked ninth in the NHL in goals per game with 2.65. On the flip side, the Flyers possess a good offense with Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, and Claude Giroux. They also possess players that are able to score like Scott Hartnell and Dan Carcillo who can score at any time.

Defense
With Jacques Lemaire’s signature defensive style, the New Jersey Devils have always been one of the top defensive teams in the NHL. While they don’t have many big names on defense, they find success in the way that their forwards are able to retreat, making it difficult for other teams to enter their zone. The Flyers can have been plagued with defensve problems. While Chris Pronger might help them defensively, they do not possess a big defense that can make a big impact. In spite of this, the Flyers are ranked ahead of the Devils in penality kill percentage with 83%.

Goaltending
Martin Brodeur is the heart and soul of the New Jersey Devils. Without him, the team would not be where it is now. He is third in goal against sverage and 13 in save percentage. In addition to this, he led the NHL in wins with 44 and. The Flyers, have lacked consistent goaltending, as they used eight goaltenders throughout the entire season.  With no Ray Emery, and no Micheal Leighton, Brian Boucher will have to step up his game and play constantly if the Flyers want to have any chance at winning.

Verdict
Flyers win in seven

Buffalo Sabres vs Boston Bruins

Offence
The Buffalo Sabres don’t have a stellar offense, but they are able to capatalize on their oppertunities. The Boston Bruins were hit with injuries all year long, losing their best goal scorer Marc Savard to concussion. The Bruins can win the offencive battle against the Sabres even if they are missing their leading goal scorer.

Defense
Buffalo’s rookie defenseman Tyler Myers had an unbelievable season  finishing with 11 goals and 37 assists. But he can’t make a difference alone; he’ll need the others to step up their game. The Bruins had problems all year with their defense as they went from having the best defense in the NHL to one of the worst. Zdeno Chara is nothing like the Norris winner we saw last year and with Aaron Ward out for the season and Mark Stuart injured, the Bruins will have to step up their defense.

Goaltending
Ryan Miller has been the Sabres best player this season. He won the Silver Medal in Vancouver and kept the United States alive during the entire tournament. He is second in the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage.  On the other side of the ice, the Sabres will face rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask, who led the league in Goal Against Average with 1.97.

Verdict
Bruins win in seven

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa
Senators

Offence
To put it simply, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.  It’s hard to compare the Senator’s offence to the three headed monster that the Penguins have. While, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza are really good players,but with Alex Kovalev out of the line up for the playoffs, it is hard to believe that they will be able to outscore the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.

Defense
The Penguins have veteran Sergei Gonchar leading their defense, but they can also count on other players like Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik to help them in the defensive zone. The Senators,will have to count on  Felipe Kuba and Anton Volchenkov to make some big plays.

Goaltending
Marc-Andre Fleury will most likely be facing Brian Elliott in the series. While Fleury doesn’t have an amazing record this year, he usually steps it up when the playoffs start. Brian Elliott’s lack of post-season experience is highly questionable and his reaction to the pressure will determine the outcome of the series.

Verdict
Penguins in six


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