The playoffs are finally here! After a wild up and down season, the Bruins righted the ship and finished the regular season strong. It looked like we were going to be playing the Senators for a long time, but on the last day of the season the Capitals moved up to 7th place and bumped the Senators down into a mathcups with the Rangers. The Capitals and specifically their captain Alex Ovechkin have been much better in the latter quarter of the season, and have plenty of talent to steal a few games. Here is my Series Breakdown:
One of the reasons why the Bruins won the Cup last year was their forward depth. The top 6 is among the best in the game, and the bottom 6 could ALL go elsewhere and have larger and more prominent roles. Patrice Bergeron's line (Marchand, Seguin) should be able to handle the 2nd line of the Capitals, Bergeron was the best face-off man in the NHL this year as well as the NHL leader in +/-. Both 63 and 19 were also in the top-5 league-wide. The Capitals might have the 3 best forwards in the series, (AO, Semin, and Backstrom) but the depth on the 3rd and 4th line doesn't match the Bruins. As mentioned, Ovechkin played great down the stretch, & Backstrom is a difference maker when healthy, which he may or may not to be(Returning from Concussion). I hate players like Semin, he plays lazy and reminds me of Phil Kessel- BUT if he is skating hard and playing smart, these guys are all-world and tough to beat. Ultimately the Bruins have a deeper group of forwards, but the Captials have the cream of the crop (for now.)
Chara and Seidenberg are going to be playing together again these Playoffs as the "shut-down" pair, and will see a whole lot of #8, Alex Ovechkin. Chara has historically owned Ovechkin, but AO has heard about failure in the playoffs his entire career. The caps are usually a top seed with high expectations, maybe will a different profile and approach in attitude, AO and the Caps will will there way to a few wins, but it will be tough to get through Big Z. If Boston's 2nd pairing (which will likely be Ference and Boychuk) can slow down the 2nd line of Chimera-Backstrom-Semin, the Caps have very little chance of scoring a lot of goals. As for the Capitals defense group, well, ex-Bruin Dennis Wideman is their best guy. Seriously. Mike Green is starting to resemle what he once was, but This is a D group that can be attacked. Dennis Wideman cant get the puck out if his own zone. Looch is going to rock him and cause turnovers that Krejci will magically turn into goals.
Seems like Tim Thomas always finds a new way to have a chip on his shoulder. This whole skipping the White House garbage is SO annoying, he's taking it personally and probably going to turn that into motivation. If he plays like last year, Caps are in trouble. Washington is most likely forced to start their #3, very young goalie Brayden Holtby, who has 20 something career NHL games. I actually think hes really good- I saw him a few times last regular season and he was impressive. The playofs, however, are a different strory. I am guessing the Bruins are going to test Holtby as much as possible, drive the puck to the net and make him make saves, I don't think he can save enough to steal the series, but it wouldnt be the first time a rookie stole a series and went on to greatness ( Patrick Roy, Cam Ward)
The Caps have some decent playoff experience, but have been victims in the 1st and 2nd rounds. The Bruins obviously know what it takes to go all the way and that should mean a lot in this series. The Bruins went to 7 games in 3 out of their 4 series last year, so the know they never really dominated and cannot lose focus. I expect them to be sharp in Game 1. Advantage Bruins.
Prediction: Bruins in 6. I am also predicting the Bruins win the Stanley Cup over the St. Louis Blues and become the first back to back champion since the 97-98 Red Wings.
Other NHL Matchup Predictions:
Rangers vs Senators: Rangers play a similar style to the Bruins & Lundqvist is the best goalie in the game at the moment. The Senators are probably happy just to have qualified for the playoffs. This one should end quickly. Rangers in 5.
Panthers vs Devils: Devils are the forgotten Eastern Conference team, playing in the shadow of NYR, PHI and PIT but they are a hard team to play against. I don't think they can make a run but they can definitely win a series or two. Devils in 6
Flyers vs Penguins: This is a juiciest of all the match ups. These teams HATE each other. I think Pittsburgh has the skill and better team, but my gut tells me the Flyers are going to find a way to win the series. Its PROVE IT time for Flyers goalie Bryzgalov. Flyers in 7
Canucks vs Kings: The West is so much better than the East. This is a tough, tough match up for the Canucks. Luongo, his backup Schneider, and LA goalie and UMASS-bred Jon Quick all have the ability to steal this series and I have a feeling that one of them will. Lets hope its Quick. The Kings are used to playing 1-goal, low scoring games. I could easily see a first round exit for the President trophy winning Canucks. Kings in 7.
Blues vs Sharks: These two teams are almost completely opposite. Sharks are offensive-minded with lots of playoff experience, while the Blue play a defensive style game and are very young and inexperienced. This could be a GREAT series but I don't see how the Blues can lose with the edge coming from their goaltending, no matter who starts. The beat the Sharks all 4 times in the regular season. It wont be THAT easy but I do think the Blues pull it out. The Blues are also my pick to come out of the West. Blues in 6
Blackhawks vs Coyotes: The Coyotes were swept out of the playoffs by the Red Wings last year. I like this year's Coyotes team much more, and the Blackhawks are missing their best player and Captain Jonathan Toews. If he plays I like Chicago but as of now, I'm riding the white-hot goaltender of the Coyotes Mike Smith. Coyotes in 6
Red Wings vs Predators: Another great series. The Red Wings have SO much talent, depth, and experience and common sense may seem that they are the easy pick but Nashville is on a mission. I love the way the Predators play and I think they make a deep run this year if they can get by Detroit. We all know the Red Wings are tough at home so we'll see if the Predators have the guts to win at the Joe. I think they do. Predators in 7.