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Post Season Playoff Breakdown: Eastern Conference

The 2009-2010 NHL season has come to an end. Some teams have made the post season, others have not. Not long ago, the girls at Chicks Who Give A Puck broke down each conference and gave our thoughts and what each team needed to do to make the post season. Now that the post season is here, here are our thoughts on each remaining team and their first round match ups:

Washington Capitals: The Caps not only won the Southeast division, they took the entire league by storm this year. Goaltending seems to be a huge issue for the Caps,  Their choices in Semyon Varlomov and Jose Theodore are less than promising. Throughout the season, the Caps have proven they have it in the bag offensively as Alex Ovechkin was one goal away from tying the league scoring title and Nicklas Backstrom finished off with 101 points on the season. Defensively however they are too selfish and take far too many risks for a team without a strong goaltending backbone.  And lets not forget Ovechkin can also choke. He had only 3 shots on goal in last season’s Game 7 against Pittsburgh which eliminated the Caps with a 6-2 loss and his much talked about Olympic performance was far from what we anticipated coming from such a high caliber player . All that combined with the mental idea that they are in for smooth sailing could make or break them.

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens sit in the last spot in the playoff bracket. A win this past Sunday by the Philadelphia Flyers pushed them to the bottom. Can the Habs upset the Caps?? Their regular season record against the top seeded Caps is 2-1-1, so obviously it has been done twice almost 3 times this past season one of them being the snap of the Caps 14 game hot streak. The Caps are known to play very loosely in their own zone so the key to a Habs upset would be to keep them in their own end, which with Ovechkin may be better said than done. On the bright side, even though they are one of the lowest scoring teams, the Habs have scored 14 goals in the 4 game head to head series against the Caps. The focus needs to be on the possible 7 games ahead of them and no further if they want to pull it off.

New Jersey Devils: Goaltender Martin Brodeur has proven this season he is a force to be reckoned with. He may be known to hold his own in the back end, but lets face it, Marty isn’t in his 20’s anymore and he has already played 76 out 80 games so far this season. US Olympian Zach Parise can score goals and so can Ilya Kovalchuk, a top line forward they picked up from the Thrashers at the trade deadline. The Flyers play a very physical game and spend a lot of time in the penalty box which is something the Devils could benefit from, but let’s not forget that they only have one win on the books this season against these goons and pests.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers almost didn’t make the post season. Sunday’s match up against the New York Rangers had the atmosphere of a game seven in the finals as it was do or die for both teams. The decision came down to a shootout, which is strange as goaltending seems to be an issue for this team as well. With Ray Emery out with season ending surgery and Michael Leighton sidelined with a high ankle sprain, the Flyers should have made a trade deadline decision to get them through the post season, but they did not. The Flyers play a very physical game which at this point in the season could hurt them. They need to spend less time in the penalty box and more time getting pucks on net.

Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller. What else does Buffalo have going for them? Oh that’s right, rookie Tyler Myers. After an outstanding stint in the Olympics, Miller has done his best to prove he is who Sabres fans say he is. Myers is up top with not just rookie defenseman but defenseman in general but where do they stand up front?? Tim Connolly tends to produce more goals per game in post season play and throughout the season was their second best in combined goals/assists. Connolly recently missed 9 games with a foot injury and should be back any day now. On top of that they have 3 other forwards who have scored 20+ goals and their penalty kill is the second best in the league. Power play, not so much and their opponent could exploit that weakness if they are not careful.

Boston Bruins: Goaltending will save the Bruins this season. After winning the Conference last season and getting eliminated by the mediocre Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins are back. Tim Thomas will likely take a seat and rookie phenom Tuukka Rask could take this team right past a mostly defensive dominate Sabres team. The Bruins are known to let up few goals, but also have problems getting them in the opposing teams net. What will hurt them? The absence of Bruin power forward Marc Savard who is still sidelined from the well known incident with Penguins Matt Cooke. And as much as we have seen a hell of a year out of Rask, he’s a rookie and only time will tell what the pressure of the post season will do to him.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Can and will the Pens make it to the finals for the third consecutive year? There’s much speculation as they have not been playing the kind of hockey that not only they want to play, but the kind of hockey we’re all used to seeing. Right now everyone is healthy, so that’s a plus but goaltending is shaky at best. Marc-Andre Fleury is a spectacular goaltender when he is on his game, but when he’s not it is a nightmare. Though he tends to bounce back after bad games, there’s little time to bounce in the playoffs. On the bright side: Sidney Crosby. Crosby finished the season with a personal and league best 51 goals. He also produced 58 assists ranking him only 3 points behind Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin. Crosby is known to thrive under pressure but Evgeni Malkin on the other hand didn’t produce amazing numbers in the 09 playoffs, or show us what we are used to during this year’s regular season. What will hurt them? Both New Jersey and Washington swept their respective series and out of the 8 teams above them in the league they have failed 15 different times. Crosby says the playoffs are a different season, can they come out on top or is it someone else’s turn at the Cup?

Ottawa Senators: With controversial star Dany Heatly long gone, the Sens were not a huge favorite to make the playoffs. Last year they missed the post season for the first time in 11 years and they are back with a vengeance as they take on the team that swept them in the first round the last time they qualified. The absence of power forward Alexei Kovalev will sting a bit as he is out with what some say could be a carreer ending knee injury, but they still have a pretty efficient blue line in players like veteran Daniel Alfredsson who has 71 points coming off the season. Out of their two goaltening choices, neither have NHL playoff experience which could either hurt them or surprise us all.

Sara Lynn’s predictions:

Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens: Montreal in 7

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers: New Jersey in 6

Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins: Boston in 6

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators: Pittsburgh in 5

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