Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Eastern Conference Playoff Preview
Top billing in the Eastern Conference belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning and they drew the second wild card spot, which belongs to the New Jersey Devils, who are a feel good story in the standings. They took a much maligned figure, the number one pick last summer and are riding a previously career backup into their first playoff in six years. Hard not to feel somewhat good about that.
The Lightning may have been the best team in the east, but the Devils were not afraid of them in the regular season. The Devils actually swept the Bolts this year, going 3-0-0.
Out of the 24 players on the selection sheet, the only one worth noting on the injury side is Steven Stamkos, but he should be ready to go for opening night. Everyone else on the injury page on the website was a healthy scratch, just to make sure that they were healthy. Oh yes, and if you're a reader of this blog, you may want to notice that Cory Schneider is the goalie on the sheet for the Devils... that could be a bit of land mine.
Everyone loves an Original Six match-up in the playoffs, right? The Boston Bruins failed to take the Atlantic Division title in the make-up game on Sunday against the Panthers, so they give us one of the more storied match-ups in this opening round, a date with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The plucky Leafs get the big, bad Bruins and this should be a great series.
The Maple Leafs did get the better of the Bruins in the regular season series, going 3-1-0 this year, but now it will be a true test of the new batch's resolve in the playoffs. We all know that it is a different beast, now that the big prize is on the line.
Rick Nash has been dealing with concussion symptoms since the middle of March, limiting his play since being acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline. The Boston coaching staff seemed pretty confident that he would be able to play in Game 1, but we'll play 'wait and see' on that one.
Is this Alexander Ovechkin and company's year, finally? Boy, if it is, they are going to have to go the long and hard way to get there. An opening round draw against the Columbus Blue Jackets will prove to be rather interesting, if not difficult, for the Washington Capitals, who won the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets are a feisty bunch and have some added skill in their lineup and this really could come down to the battle from the crease, where there are two excellent goalies going head-to-head.
The Capitals were the better of the two sides in the regular season, going 3-1-0, all results in regulation, which should give the edge to Ovie and his band of brothers, but those Blue Jackets. They've upset some people before, why not again now?
Both teams rested up some bodies before the end of the regular season, so it looks like both sides will come into this series healthy. Feel free to pick these two at will, whichever way you see fit.
Finally, the Battle of Pennsylvania is another big highlight in this opening round of the playoffs. This rivalry is good and fierce and should prove to be just that, especially with the backdrop of the Stanley Cup looming large. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will wage war upon one another and I'm sure no one will be given any mercy.
The Penguins swept the season series against the Flyers, going 4-0-0, but two of those victories did come in extra time, which may or may not help the Flyers in some strange, dark horse kind of way. The Flyers have the horses, but damn, those Penguins are running hot.
Pittsburgh forward Derick Brassard was the only name on the injury list between the two teams, as he was dealing with a lower-body issue before the end of the regular season. He did practice on Monday, taking regular line rushes with Phil Kessel, so that's positive news for him.