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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Preview

Alexander Ovechkin leads the Washington Capitals into the NHL playoffsAlexander Ovechkin leads the Washington Capitals into the NHL playoffsIt’s the time of year that all hockey fans wait for – the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Which of this year’s crop of 16 teams will be crowned champs? The Washington Capitals rolled through the regular season, earning a #1 seed, but it’s a new season and anything can happen.

In the Eastern Conference, the top overall seed Washington Capitals face the #8 Montreal Canadiens, who limped into the playoffs after mighty struggles to start the year.

 The Caps are led by scoring powerhouse Alexander Ovechkin, who plays with an edge and is able to elevate his game when he needs to. Add a talented supporting cast and you have a team that produced the NHL’s best scoring differential and most goals for.

Montreal will need big time production from their top scorers to compete with the Caps. The Canadiens have talented forwards, but they have been inconsistent. However, if Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Tomas Plekanec, and Mike Cammalleri play at their peek, Montreal may have a hope of keeping up with Washington.

The East’s #2 seed, the New Jersey Devils end up with a tough draw for their opening round as they face the #7 Philadelphia Flyers. Despite the gap in seeding, the Flyers defeated the Devils in all but one of their regular season meetings.

The Devils will rely on Olympic standout Zach Parise, who led the team in scoring in the regular season. New Jersey’s veteran goaltending in Martin Brodeur should hold them in good stead, as will a line-up that is experienced from top to bottom.

However, the uneven Flyers are poised for an upset. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter provide an excellent one-two punch, and will have to shoulder most of the burden of overcoming a defensive Devils squad.

In another series ripe for an upset, the #6 Boston Bruins face the #3 Buffalo Sabres.
The offensively-challenged Bruins are without Marc Savard, one of their top weapons, and so will have to rely on a team effort. Boston will have to play conservatively and be opportunistic against Buffalo.

The Sabres will look to their four 20+ goal scorers to get them past the Bruins’ D, with playmaking center Tim Connolly orchestrating much of the magic.

The team that wins this series will be in tough in the second round, but it starts here. In spite of their challenges this season, Boston has a real shot to advance.

The #4 Pittsburgh Penguins renew their post-season rivalry with the #5 Ottawa Senators.

The high-flying Penguins offense led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will tell the story in this one. Meanwhile, Daniel Alfredsson and the Senators will try to shut down the Pens’ big two while adding some offense themselves.

The NHL playoffs rarely disappoint, and this year’s road to the Stanley Cup will be no exception, with Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals and Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins likely to meet somewhere along the way.

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Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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