It’s playoff time baby so stop what you’re doing and grab a snickers.
But seriously, if you have a job you should probably quit it.
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins VS. #8 New York Islanders
First off nobody cares about how the teams matched up in the regular season.
What’s up: I can only imagine how pissed off Islanders fans were last night when they realized that the Bruins losing to the Sens meant a date with the Penguins. The Pens are an absolute juggernaut, and if Crosby comes back to the lineup early on, I don’t see the Isles winning even one game. With Sid in as the first line centre that drops Jokinen into a third line role, and Brandon Sutter into a fourth line. When you look at the Isles up front– Taveres, Nielsen, Aucoin and Cizikas– it doesn’t even compare to what the Pens have to offer.
Matchup: Sidney Crosby VS. John Taveres – Both of these guys are getting serious attention for the Hart, and rightfully so. It took Marty St. Louis 25 days to pass Crosby’s point total, and Crosby is still tied for third in the league in points. Crosby’s 1.56 points-per-game is the highest of his career, and if he comes back and produces at that same pace, I don’t know how any team can stop the Pens. But Taveres on the other hand, if you take him out of the lineup, you take the entire Islanders team out of the dance. He was their leader all season, and in a regular 82 game season he would have tallied 50 goals.
Gamebreakers: For the Penguins it has to be Iggy. This is his first real shot on a
contender(The Flames cup run doesn’t count) and Iginla, who is already a clutch performer will most likely be paired up on a line with Crosby and either Kunitz or Dupuis. Basically just a recipe for success. Let’s not forget the extremely potent power-play combination of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla and Letang
And for the Islanders; Michael Grabner. This guy can fly, he won the fastest skater competition when he was a rookie. He can score some goals too. He’s one of those streaky bastards where you never know if he’s gonna produce or become invisible. But with the heavy artillery primarily focused on Taveres and Moulson it may give Grabner some room to soar.
Prediction: The Isles are headed up, but it’s the luck of the draw this year. The Pens are just too good, and will take the Islanders in four. Let’s just hope I’m wrong.
#2 Montreal Canadiens VS. #7 Ottawa Senators
What’s up: Unlike the Islanders, the Habs and Sens were both pretty happy last night with what happened in Boston. The Habs won the division, which ensures them home-ice in the first two rounds, and the Sens avoided Pittsburgh. Both teams are coming off of over-achieving seasons so this series could go either way. It’s gonna come down to a coaches duel, as both Maclean and Therrien should be put into consideration for the Jack Adams. The biggest hurdle that these two teams will have to overcome is the intense travel schedule. I wonder if they’re just gonna take Mega Bus?
Matchup: P.K. Subban VS. Erik Karlsson – These guys are young, they’re good and they can both quarterback a power-play. Subban led all defenseman in points with 38 and came second in power-play goals for a defenseman with seven. The only guy with more was Andrei Markov. Subban had a Norris calibre season. The winner of the Norris last season was Karlsson, who if he hadn’t severed 70% of his achilles in February probably would have ran head-to-head with Subban. Game one will be his fourth game back and the Sens are gonna have him logging lots of minutes if they wanna get through to the second round.
Gamebreakers: Montreal has two bright stars for their organization, their names are Alex
Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. Galchenyuk had a hot start to the season but cooled off near the end, and if he can lead the secondary scoring the Habs will be a threat. Gallagher just needs to continue to do what he does best. And that is to piss off the opposing team and score some goals.
The return of Jason Spezza is like going out and getting a superstar at the trade-deadline. He is good. If he can come back healthy at some point in this series, it’s gonna give the Senators an added boost. They’ve made it this far with an AHL lineup and having Spezza back would be huge.
Prediction: The series is gonna go long and I am predicting an upset. The Sens will take the Habs in seven. Book it. Craig Anderson will outplay Carey Price and Spezza will make a return that will bolster the offence.
#3 Washington Capitals VS. #6 New York Rangers
What’s up: For the fourth time in five years, the Caps and Rangers will see each-other in the post-season. If the playoffs started a month ago, both of these squads would not be in this position, as they both popped the clutch and chucked it into sixth gear for the final month of the regular season. The revival of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green may become the achilles heel of the Rangers’ season. But the same can be said of King Hank who looks to be en-route to his second Vezina in two years.
Matchup: Alex Ovechkin VS. Rick Nash – Ovi and Nash are both known to put their teams on their backs and run the ball, errrrr puck. If Maria Kirilenko continues to show up at the Verizon centre, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Ovechkin will continue this ridiculous pace that saw him score 23 goals in his last 23 games to secure the Rocket Richard. And this is Nash’s first ever playoff appearance on a real team, so he won’t have to put too much stress on his back this year, but he’s got to be that offensive force that goes toe-to-toe with Ovechkin. If Nash can’t match him, then I don’t know if the Rangers will get through to the second round.
Gamebreakers: In the Nation’s Capital, the Caps are gonna be relying heavily on Mike Green to continue to quarterback this top-ranked power-play. At just over 26%, the Capitals power-play will be a huge part in them beating Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers. With Greens grown maturity and hipster lifestyle, let’s just hope that he can play a little bit of defence as well.
Watch as Green picks the shit out of that corner and goes top-cheese.
At Madison Square Garden, Derek Stepan is that quiet threat that can rip holes through the Capitals defence. If he can continue being that secondary scoring threat, and I think he will in this series, then the Rangers will have a chance. That is, if Nash can mirror Ovechkin, which is no small task.
Prediction: Both teams are looking to keep up the solid play, but Ovechkin and company will prove to powerful for the Rangers. Especially if the blue-shirts find themselves getting into a little bit of penalty trouble. Capitals in six.
#4 Boston Bruins VS. #5 Toronto Maple Leafs
What’s up: I don’t even know if people blogged the last time that the Leafs were in the playoffs, but that doesn’t matter anymore, because they’re in. And it’s not like they just barely squeaked by, the Leafs had a legitimate season, and that’s why they have a pretty good chance against the Bruins. Sure, Boston has generally beaten up on the Leafs in the past, and sure a Leafs-Habs first round would have been one for the ages, but the Bruins are the fate, and Leafer fans are gonna have to live with it. These two teams play a very similar type of hockey, and the big guns in Toronto are gonna make it or break it for the Leafs. This is the time for Kessel to step up and score his first goal against his former team. He’s also gonna have to outplay Seguin and Hamilton so that the Leafs advance and the comments about how bad of a trade Burke made in acquiring Kessel was, are silenced.
Matchup: Zdeno Chara VS. Leafs Offence – Chara is big, and Kessel is pretty small. With that being said, Kessel is gonna need some help from the likes of Kadri, Lupul and Bozak. The Leafs have quite a bit of fire-power up front and a generally weak defensive corps, so if they want to win this series, their big-guns will have to be firing on all cylinders. They’ve got to take more shots than they give up. The Leafs are gonna have to stop being out shot by a country mile, because in the playoffs that’s not gonna fly, especially against a team that is so defensively sound in Boston. When you look at the fact that it would be Chara versus the Leafs offence in Boston and Subban versus the Leafs offence in Montreal then you start to realize how much better the Leafs would have matched up against the Habs.
Gamebreakers: Dressed in black and yellow, the guy who all Leafs fans will hate by the end of
the series is Brad Marchand. He did it when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup against the Canucks, and he’s gonna do it again in the first round against the Leafs. He is an agitator, and the Leafs cannot start taking penalties because of this huge-nosed prick, or else they can kiss the season good-bye.
The Leafs have their own little pest that draws tons of penalties, too. Nazem “The Dream” Kadri will look to relish his first opportunity at playoff hockey by getting under the skin of the Bruins and provide some lethal secondary scoring. The big matchup, after the Chara versus the world one, will be Kadri and Marchand. We saw it with Gallagher and we’ll see it again with Marchand. The two little weasels will be at each-others throats like Homer on Bart.
Prediction: This series is going to be brutal and whoever comes out of it is will be battered and bruised. Chara and the Bruins will end up being too tough for the Leafs, and the B’s will take it in seven.