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Welcome to the second of two parts (there’s two conferences, figured that’d be a good enough place to end it) of our Official Guide To Picking First Round Winners. We covered the Western Conference on Monday. Today, we look at the East. Get those tickets in early.
NY RANGERS (1) vs. OTTAWA (8)
The Sens have made a game of it this year starting with serious Norris candidate Erik Karlsson (78 points in 81 GP, a +46 turnaround from last season) and seven other players with 30+ points. Sergei Gonchar still has some gas in the tank. Jason Spezza drives the bus on the first line (84 points in 80 GP), while 39 year old Daniel Alfredsson (59 points in 75 GP) is on record saying that this might be his final chance at the playoffs. Kyle Turris (29 points in 49 games with OTT) has done well since being acquired from Phoenix. The Senators can play the underdog card hard here, they were on almost everybody’s list to be a lottery team this year. They’ll need to ride the wave The Rangers come into the playoffs with the first seed in the East led by Marian Gaborik and the handsomely paid Brad Richards. If you want to go ahead and say the Senators are even with the Rangers in offence (they’re not), you’ve got to stand up to NY’s consistent defence. Brandon Prust, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonough are three who played in all 82 games this season. Michael Del Zotto scored 41 points in 77 GP. Remember Anton Stralman? He fits just fine on NYR. Don’t forget All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist in all of this. Lundqvist finished the season with a GAA under 2.00 and a SV% of .929 (and seven shutouts), which is pretty darn good.
WHY THERE COULD BE AN UPSET
Ottawa will have to have every piece in the Jenga house wiggle just right to get out of this one. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson will need to play out of his socks and likely improve on his .913 season SV%. Henrik Lundqvist is going to be good, Craig Anderson is going to have to be better. Ottawa will need secondary scoring this series and some bounces.
Rangers in five.
BOSTON (2) vs. WASHINGTON (7)
The Bruins looked like they were suffering a bit of a hangover when the season started, but, it was rather short lived. 19 year old Tyler Seguin leads this team into the second season with 67 points on the season, followed by Patrice Bergeron, David Krecji and Milan Lucic, all 60+ point scorers. Boston’s defence will be ready with Zdeno Chara patrolling along with Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Joe Corvo. Goaltender Tim Thomas had battled a late season lower body injury and looks ready for the playoffs. The Capitals slid into the playoffs late into the season after wrestling with Southeast Division champs Florida and ninth place Buffalo. Alexander Ovechkin will likely be on everyone’s mind (65 points in 78 GP), but so will this year’s prize UFA Alex Semin (54 points in 77 GP). Defenceman Dennis Wideman is having a 46 point year, while young guys Karl Alzener and John Carlson will also help try to shore up the D. The big question mark is goaltending. Braden Holtby is getting the start, with Dany Sabourin backing him up. Holtby has an illustrious NHL career spanning 21 games, and Dany Sabourin has played 14 career playoff minutes.
WHY THERE COULD BE AN UPSET
Washington will need to outscore Boston by a wide margin. Every game. Boston will need to come out flat at home, and Washington’s first line will have to take it to Tim Thomas. Braden Holtby had better eat his Wheaties.
Bruins in five.
Turn the page for Panthers/Devils and Penguins/Flyers