In the second part of our Round 1 predictions the HabsWorld writers examine the Eastern Conference series, and provide their predictions. Only one of the series has a unanimous prediction; did our writers all predict that Montreal will be able to defeat the Senators? Who will win between the Habs’ two most hated Northeast rivals, Boston and Toronto?
Pittsburgh vs NY Islanders
Tale of the Tape: Islanders won 1st game [4-1]; Penguins won games 2 through 5 [4-2, 6-1, 4-2, 2-0]
Matt Gauthier predicts: Pittsburgh in 4
Brian La Rose predicts: Pittsburgh in 5
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: New York in 7
Alexander Letourneau predicts: Pittsburgh in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Pittsburgh in 4
(Brian) I would love to see the Islanders pull off the upset but I don’t think they stand much of a chance here. The only way New York has a chance is if we see the bad version of Marc-Andre Fleury which has made appearances in the postseason before. The Penguins’ offensive depth is quite impressive and that’s not even factoring in the currently-injured Sidney Crosby. Tavares and Moulson form a formidable duo for the Isles but that won’t be enough for them to win.
(Jonathan) The Islanders are 3-0 all time in playoff series between these two teams, including a come back from down 3 games to 0 by the Islanders in 1975 and the 1993 Islanders win that shocked the hockey world knocking out the two time defending champs. They held Mario Lemieux to just 3 goals in the 6 game series, pretty great considering he scored 5 in 1 less game in the 1st round. But can they do it again to not only Crosby but the deepest team in the league? Ill go off the board and say yes Islanders in 7.
(Alex) An unhealthy Pittsburgh team is scary to play against. A healthy Pittsburgh team is flat out horrifying. Aside from John Tavares and Matt Moulson, and they play excellent hockey together, I don’t see too much from this Islanders team that can really put a scare into the Penguins. One would have to believe that Marc-Andre Fleury can’t get any worse than he was last year against Philadelphia. And if he does, the Penguins have the firepower to overwhelm Evgeni Nabokov, along with a capable backup in Tomas Vokoun to step in if everything is going in. No disrespect to the Islanders, who had a pretty solid season, but they don’t stack up to this Pittsburgh team. And that doesn’t include the possibility of Sidney Crosby coming back.
(Norm) The uncertainty of Sidney Crosby is not enough to deter this year’s Penguins squad. Their depth at forward is impressive this season, and the team has performed equally well with or without Crosby in the lineup. The young Islander’s team should be pleased to make it to the postseason for the first time in 6 seasons. The experience will be good for them to build on.
Washington vs New York Rangers
Tale of the Tape: Rangers won the 1st game 2-1; Capitals won 2nd & 3rd games 4-1, 3-2
Matt Gauthier predicts: Washington in 7
Brian La Rose predicts: New York in 6
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: New York in 7
Alexander Letourneau predicts: Washington in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Washington in 5
(Brian) Both teams struggled early but really picked up their games down the stretch. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are playing up to their potential, forming an elite front line duo while the Rangers have a much deeper squad after some deals at the trade deadline. Tighter checking games generally occur in the playoffs which has to favour New York while I give them the nod between the pipes as well. If there’s a low-seeded team capable of making a run like Los Angeles last year, I think the Rangers are it.
(Jonathan) Should be a lot of fun to watch Alexander Ovechkin against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers D. John Tortorella looks like he has turned his “bad team” around enough to make the playoffs anyways. At one point the Rangers had the fewest goals in the league but they pulled themselves up by their boot straps and finished the year in the top half of the league. Thanks in large part to Rick Nash and Derek Stepan.
(Alex) I never really thought the Rangers were that good this year. They had their moments, and they certainly looked brilliant after their trade deadline acquisitions, but they seem to live and die by Henrik Lundqvist. I don’t think Lundqvist will be able to stifle the rampant Alex Ovechkin. The wild card here is Brad Richards. He had a pretty disappointing season but he is a former Conn Smythe winner and these guys turn it up to a new level in the playoffs. Washington’s been playing some good hockey of late but they’ve been riding the hot hand of their captain. Braden Holtby has been good, but he is prone to brain farts and soft goals. Ultimately, contain Ovechkin and the Capitals will struggle, but, I don’t think the Rangers are capable of doing that.
(Norm) Rangers were predicted by many to be a Cup finalist this season, but they struggled early in the season before finding their stride. Washington also had a slow start, but rebounded to take their division and the #3 slot in the East. However Alex Ovechkin provided a huge boost after he adjusted to playing his off wing, and his goal scoring ability will prove the difference in this series.
Boston vs Toronto
Tale of the Tape: Bruins won 1st two games 1-0, 4-2 lost3-2, won 3-2, won
Matt Gauthier predicts: Boston in 5
Brian La Rose predicts: Boston in 6
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Toronto in 7
Alexander Letourneau predicts: Boston in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Toronto in 7
(Brian) I know both of these are hated rivals but is anyone else really looking forward to this series? This should be a very physical matchup with all sorts of intriguing storylines as well. Boston has owned the head-to-head results recently but this year the games have been more closely contested. The Bruins are one of the better defensive teams in the league while the Leafs have really been struggling to generate much in the way of chances in the offensive zone. If that continues early on, this could be over in a hurry.
(Jonathan) Well on first media day of the playoffs Kessel decided to skip out and I guess Nonis will be speaking with him. But if I was the GM id pat him on the back. Kessel will only be asked questions about “The Trade” and his struggles against the Bruins. I think Phil will be a world beater against Boston and I expect the scoring in this series to be quite high. Wouldn’t the ACC love it if they could turn the Thank you Kessel Chant around on the Bruins.
(Alex) This is the series I’m looking forward to the most. Both these teams have struggled to the finish line and something’s gotta give. They’re going to beat the hell out of each other. There will be cheap shots, bickering, penalties, maybe a Colton Orr v. Shawn Thornton scrap and most likely a suspension. Maybe two. I give the nod to Boston only because they have the Stanley Cup rings. It’ll be emotional and all that but at the end of the day, the Bruins know what it takes to win in the playoffs, while the Leafs simply do not. Nazem Kadri and Brad Marchand should tangle up nicely in this one. Tuuka Rask is not Tim Thomas but I think he’s got the experience to outduel James Reimer, who in all honesty has been exceptional this year for Toronto. Give it to the former champs on the grounds that they are former champs.
(Norm) There’s something unusally wrong with the Bruins as they finished the season. They’ve battled the Habs for first place in the division for most of the season, and would have taken it if they had won their last game at home. Key veterans like Tuuka Rask, Milan Lucic have struggled during the stretch. While Toronto has not fared well against the Bruins recently, I believe the time is right for them to use their size and truculence to defeat the Bruins this time around.
Montreal vs Ottawa
Tale of the Tape: Ottawa won 1st game 5-1, Habs won 2nd & 3rd 2-1 and the 4th 4-3
Matt Gauthier predicts: Montreal in 5
Brian La Rose predicts: Montreal in 7
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Montreal in 6
Alexander Letourneau predicts: Montreal in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Montreal in 7
(Brian) Of the matchup possibilities in the final days of the year, this was probably the most desirable for the Habs but this is one of the more evenly matched series of the bunch. Goals are going to be at a premium with the Senators’ goaltending and defence; the key to Montreal’s success as a result is going to come down to Carey Price. If he returns to the form we all know he’s capable of, the Canadiens should prevail but if he scuffles, Ottawa has enough talent up front to make the Habs pay.
(Jonathan) A pretty great match up and I think it comes down to 3 battles. Karlsson vs Subban- which stalwart can dictate play and insulate their teams best. Price vs Anderson- Can Carey stay focused and provide the Canadiens a chance to win each night? and Will Anderson avoid frozen chicken? And lastly is the big bodies the Senators have Smith, Greening and of course Chris Neil who can all impose themselves physically. Neil will be effective that’s albeit certain; But Greening and Smith have not done much in their combined 20 playoff games they have just 2 assists. Montreal will need to have strong performances from Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong, Travis Moen and Ryan White.
(Alex) Setting the bias aside, I think Montreal has the ability to knock off a pesky Ottawa team. The Senators have been stunning this year considering the volume of injuries they had to deal with, which affected some real quality players with the club. They’re getting healthy at the right time and Erik Karlsson is ridiculously good. Daniel Alfredsson is an accomplished Habs killer and they have some good young guns to boot. That being said, the teams split the season series, each winning two at home and all but one were close games. Montreal seems to have regained some of the form from earlier in the season, partly due to a physical presence in Jarred Tinordi patrolling the blue line. I expect some big things from the youngsters. Brendan Gallagher is made for playoff hockey. The goaltenders are a tossup. Craig Anderson had a great year and has some playoff experience, with good numbers. Carey Price has double the experience, but worse numbers. I’m leaning towards Anderson stealing a game or two. Home ice will matter in this one and I think the Canadiens will win it in grueling fashion.
(Norm) Ottawa is a stingy defensive team, with a traditional Habs killer in Daniel Afredsson. However, the Habs hold an offensive edge overall at forward. The Senators goalie Craig Anderson was having a Vezina like start before he was injured, and gives his team a slight edge over Montreal. The Canadiens have a top 3 on defence [PK Subban, Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges] that are very similar to Ottawa’s [Erik Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips], and the coaches on both sides have maximized their rosters efficiency this season. This series will be close but the Habs will prevail.