NHL 2010 Playoffs Bracket: Eastern Conference Matchups

April 30th, 2010 No Comments

The first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs are in the books and, thus far, you gotta love what we’ve already witnessed.

The Montreal Canadiens’ upset win over Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals was one for the ages, as was Sidney Crosby’s first round magic.

The Boston Bruins’ solid performance against the Buffalo Sabres was inspiring as was the Philadelphia Flyers’ upset win against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

The table has been set for round two:

The Montreal Canadiens will face the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins will take on the Philadelphia Flyers.

Let’s take a look at where to watch the games, which players to watch, and how I see these series panning out.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8): Pittsburgh Penguins

Where To Watch The Series:

Fri Apr 30, 2010 Canadiens vs. Penguins 7:00 PM CBC, VERSUS

Sun May 2, 2010 Canadiens vs. Penguins 2:00 PM CBC, NBC

Tue May 4, 2010 Penguins vs. Canadiens 7:00 PM CBC, VERSUS, RDS  

Thu May 6, 2010 Penguins vs. Canadiens 7:00 PM CBC, VERSUS, RDS  

* Sat May 8, 2010 Canadiens vs. Penguins 7:00 PM CBC, VERSUS

* Mon May 10, 2010 Penguins vs. Canadiens 7:00 PM CBC, VERSUS, RDS  

Wed May 12, 2010 Canadiens vs. Penguins TBD CBC, VERSUS, If necessary

Pittsburgh Penguins:

Regular Season Rankings: 
               

Record: 47-28-7 (101 points)                       

Goals for per game: 3.04 (fifth overall)

Goals against per game: 2.87 (20th overall)

Power play: 17.2 percent (19th overall)

Penalty Kill: 84.1 percent (ninth overall)

Playoff Rankings: 



Record: 4-2

Goals For per game: 4.00 (second overall)

Goals against per game: 3.17 (twelfth overall)

Power Play: 25.0 percent (fifth overall)

Penalty Kill: 68.2 percent (fifteenth overall)

Top Playoff Performers: 



Player                               Goals           Assists             Points

Sidney Crosby                 9                      5                   14
Evgeni Malkin                 4                      4                    8
Bill Guerin                        2                       4                   6
Sergei Gonchar              0                      6                    6
Chris Kunitz                    2                        4                  6

They often say that the first round of the playoffs is the toughest to get through. Many teams lose their focus early on, resulting in a first round ousting and a lot of questions heading into the summer.

After surviving a bit of a scare from the Ottawa Senators the Pittsburgh Penguins will now host the suddenly tough to beat Montreal Canadiens led by the outstanding goaltending of Jaroslav Halak.

Facing a tough goaltender is nothing new to the Penguins, they have beat the best in the past. That said, the Penguins have been horrific on the penalty kill, stopping opponents at just 31.8 percent of the time.

The Canadiens have been excellent on the power play all season long, so the Penguins short comings on the PP are of great concern.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been very average thus far and has looked shaky at times. Fleury will have to play better against the Canadiens, a team that undoubtedly will have little pressure on them heading into round two.

Sidney Crosby has been one of the NHL’s best performers throughout the playoffs, including some incredible highlight reel plays—hardly a surprise, after all, Crosby is the best player on the planet right now.

Evgeni Malkin has been great on the power play where he has registered three of his four goals. Five-on-five Malkin has struggled a bit, but you get the feeling he will heat up against the Canadiens—a team he loves playing against.

Keys To Victory For The Penguins:

Keep consistent pressure on Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak. This means getting to the net and avoiding taking too many perimeter shots—something that cost the Washington Capitals dearly. If you are going to beat Halak you are going to have to pay the price.

Stay out of the box. The Canadiens power play has been hot all year. The Penguins must avoid penalties at all costs—especially when you consider the Pens 68.2 percent penalty kill success rate.

Keep the scoring spread out. No question, the Canadiens are going to key on Crosby and Malkin. Twelve different Penguins registered a goal in the Ottawa series, spreading out the offense will keep the Canadiens on their toes.

Jordan Stall needs to step it up. With the Canadiens expected to focus their efforts on Crosby and Malkin that means Staal will have more opportunities to face Montreal’s third defensive unit—he must exploit this matchup and score goals.

Get the power play going early. The Penguins have struggled on the power play for most of the season. The Pens had some decent success against the Senators, they will need to be near flawless against the Canadiens. Montreal stopped the number one regular season power play an astounding 97 percent of the time in its first round series against the Washington Capitals.

Marc-Andre Fleury must be focused. Fleury has looked unfocused thus far, giving up far too many rebounds and getting caught out of position most nights. His inability to play the puck has also been exposed—he needs to get in the zone.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8): Montreal Canadiens

Regular Season Rankings: 
 
               

Record: 39-33-10 (88 points)                        

Goals for per game: 2.56 (26th overall)

Goals against per game: 2.66 (13th overall)

Power play: 21.8 percent (second overall)

Penalty Kill: 83.0 percent (12th overall)



Playoff Rankings: 



Record: 4-3

Goals For per game: 2.86 (ninth overall)
Goals against per game: 3.14 (eleventh overall)

Power Play: 20.0 percent (eighth overall)
Penalty Kill: 97.0 percent (second overall)



Top Playoff Performers:

Player                                         Goals                Assists               Points 


Mike Cammalleri                     5                              5                          10
Tomas Plekanec                      4                               3                           7 
Andrei Kostitsyn                    3                              3                            6
Brian Gionta                             2                                2                          4
Scott Gomez                            1                                3                           4

Fresh off one of the greatest upsets in NHL playoff history the Montreal Canadiens have already won the Stanley Cup in some of their fans hearts.

Make no mistake about it, Montreal is peeking at exactly the right time—playing excellent defense on the penalty kill and letting goaltender Jarolslav Halak save their bacon five-on-five.

Mike Cammalleri has been nothing short of spectactular, scoring timely goals and making the big plays when needed.

The Canadiens have a puncher’s chance against the Penguins who struggle on the power play at times and have a slew of issues on the Penalty kill.

Rest assured, the Canadiens will not roll over for the Penguins, this is going to be a tight series with special teams likely being the deciding factor in most games. The Candiens will aim to take advantage of the Pens shaky penalty kill, which was horrific against the Senators.

Keys To Victory For Montreal:

Jaroslav Halak must stand on his head. No question here, Halak is the reason the Canadiens are in the second round. His heroics are well documented and will be needed if the Canadiens are to beat Sidney Crosby and his Penguins.

Limit Crosby. Can the Habs keep Crosby off the scoreboard? Probably not. That said, they can limit his chances and will likely play him as they did Alex Ovechkin—keeping him to the perimeter, making him take low percentage shots.

Hal Gill must continue to play a physical game. The Candiens are undersized, Gill has the ability to play large and will be given the tough task of keeping the likes of Crosby, Malkin and others out of Halak’s crease.

Take advantage of power plays. Once again, the Penguins really struggled on the penalty kill in their series against the Senators. The Pens defense has been exposed, the Canadiens must make good on their chances.

Get a spilt in the first two games. Hockey is all about momentum. The Canadiens are on such a high coming out of their series against the Capitals you’d hate to see them get behind 2-0 in this series early on. A split in the first two games would go a long way in setting the tome in the series.

Prediction:

First things first—nobody from the Penguins will be making statements about Jaroslav Halak looking “shaky.” Alex Ovechkin made that comment during the Capitals first round series against the Canadiens and, in the end, the only thing Halak was shaking at the end of the series was Ovechkin’s hand wishing him good luck on the golf course!

Second prediction: Montreal fans will take issue with the refs!

Ok, seriously…The Montreal Canadiens look every bit like this years Cinderella team. Trouble is, they will have to beat the NHL”s “prince” (Sidney Crosby) to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals.

With the Likes Of Crosby, Malkin and Staal down the middle it will be tough for the Candiens to key-in on one line. In the end the Penguins depth will cause the Habs a lot of problems, simply put, I can’t see them nullifying all three of these guys.

To be fair, the Canadiens just beat the NHL’s best regular season team, so an upset over the Penguins is possible, if unlikely. Can lightning strike twice?

It is my belief that the Penguins are on the verge of becoming a modern day dynasty. Despite their defensive deficiencies I still see the Pens squeaking this series out, after their seven game series against the Capitals Montreal will simply run out of gas.

Pittsburgh Penguins in six.

 

Boston Bruins (6) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (7)

: Boston Bruins

Where to Watch the Series:

Saturday, May 1 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS

Monday, May 3 at Chicago, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS 


Wednesday, May 5 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS 


Friday, May 7 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS 


*Sunday, May 9 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS


*Tuesday, May 11 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS

*Thursday, May 13 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS


* If necessary

Boston Bruins:


Regular Season Rankings: 
                


Record: 39-30-13 (91 points)                       
Goals for per game: 2.39 (30th overall)

Goals against per game: 2.33 (second overall)

Power play: 16.6 percent (23rd overall)

Penalty Kill: 86.4 percent (third overall)

Playoff Rankings: 


Record: 4-2
Goals For per game: 2.67 (11th overall)

Goals against per game: 2.50 (fourth overall)
Power Play: 27.3 percent (fourth overall)

Penalty Kill: 100 percent (first overall)



Top Playoff Performers:

Player                        Goals            Assists             Points

Mark Recchi                      3                        2                      5

David Krejci                      3                         2                     5
Miroslav Satan                 2                         3                     5
Patrice Bergeron             2                        3                      5
Dennis Wideman              1                         3                     4

Let’s face it, the Boston Bruins are not exactly an entertaining team, to watch, that said, they did manage to get by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round—a team that could put just about anyone to sleep on most nights.

The Bruins barely made it into the playoffs, so any success they have this year is all gravy in my opinion.

The ageless Mark Recchi played a spirited series against the Sabres, registering three goals and two assists, leading the Bruins with five points. Don’t write Recchi off just yet, something makes me believe that this former Philadelphia Flyer will have a huge impact on this series—which very well be his last playoff in his career.

Clearly, outside Recchi, it has been rookie goaltending sensation Tuukka Rask that has been the biggest difference maker. Rask has demonstrated the ability to compete under pressure—but can he keep it together when the Flyers start crashing his crease?

Boston failed to give a power play goal against the Sabres, a trait that will serve them well against the Flyers.

Keys To Victory For Boston:

Stay out of the penalty box. The Flyers play an aggressive up-tempo style that often induces their opponents to take retaliatory penalties. Given the Flyers power play success, the Bruins would be wise to walk away, turn the other cheek, anything but allow themselves to get goaded.

Continued success on the power play. The Bruins owned the 23rd best PP in the regular season, they were much better against the Sabres, increasing their average by 10 percent over that of the regular season.

Tuukka Rask must continue to be a “money” goalie. No question, Rask is the key to this series. The Flyers will likely run Rask at every opportunity, if he can keep it together he will be successful. Rask must also watch his rebound control, which has been suspect at times.

Zdeno Chara must be physical. If the Bruins want to win the series they will have to compete in the trenches, the “Big Z” is the Bruins’ go-to guy when it comes to being physical.

Try to get Marc Savard going early. Given Savard is coming off what can only be described as a horrific concussion, nobody will be shocked if Savard struggled in this series. Hopefully he can be a contributor for the Bruins—don’t expect the Flyers to “play nice,” they’ll be going after him from the get-go.

Philadelphia Flyers:

Regular Season Rankings:

Record: 41-35-6 (88 points)                       
Goals for per game: 2.83 (eighth overall)

Goals against per game: 2.71 (15th overall)
Power play: 21.4 percent (third overall)

Penalty Kill: 83.0 percent (11th overall)

Playoff Rankings: 

Record: 4-1
 Goals For per game: 3.00 (11th overall)

Goals against per game: 1.80 (first overall)
Power Play: 27.6 percent (fourth overall)
Penalty Kill: 87.5 percent (fourth overall)



Top Playoff Performers: 


Player                 Goals         Assists              Points
Mike Richards         2                   6                          8
Claude Giroux         4                    2                          6
Chris Pronger           2                    3                         5
Daniel Briere             2                    3                         5
Kimmo Timonen      0                   3                         3

More than a few prognosticators had their NHL playoff brackets ruined when the Philadelphia Flyers upset the heavily favored New Jersey Devils in the first round.

With the benefit of great goaltending from Brian Boucher and solid contributions from the likes of pugilist Daniel Carcillo (two goals, three points, plus four rating), Ian Laperriere (who hit everything that moved) and Blair Betts (who was lights out defensively), the Flyers caused the Devils all kinds of trouble, limiting their effectiveness in the Flyers zone and making it very tough for them to gain any speed through the neutral zone.

To some it up, the Flyers played an intimidating brand of defense-first hockey, which, in the end, worked to a “T” against the undersized Devils.

No question about it, the Flyers are going to employ the same tactics against the Bruins—tight-checking, in-your-face hockey, with an emphasis on taking the body, running the goalies and hitting everything that moves.

Keys To Victory For Philadelphia:

Brian Boucher must continue his heroics. Boucher escaped from the series against the Devils with an impressive 4-1 record, 1.59 goals against average and a .940 save percentage, one shut out and some much needed confidence. Boucher will need to continue to be on top of his game, anything less than a stellar performance will prove costly.

With the absence of Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter the likes of Scott Hartnell and James Van Riemsdyk need to step up offensively—neither one had a goal against the Devils.

Claude Giroux must continue to produce. Giroux is a streaky player, the Flyers better hope his four goal performance (including two game winners) against the Devils was no aberration.

Mike Richards must continue to lead by example, staying out of the penalty box and instigating physical play.

Chris Pronger must continue to contribute on the power play. When Pronger is effective the Flyers win, when he’s not, not so much…

Prediction:

It’s hard to bet against the Cinderella Flyers, and my heart is telling me to go with the Orange and Black. That said, you have to think with the injuries to Carter and Gagne that the Flyers are running out of horses/bodies with which to compete.

The Bruins are a tough team to figure out—one game they score five, the next they couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat.

Look for both these teams to struggle offensively—both Boucher and Rask are hot right now, which should make this a low-scoring series.

The Flyers should give the Bruins everything they can handle—they have a ton of heart and their gritty style can be effective on many nights. In the end I just can’t get past the Flyers injuries and the fact they have been playing exhausting playoff hockey for three months now.

In the end, I figure the Bruins should emerge victorious (as was the case at the Winter Classic). Make no mistake about it, this series will be an all-out war, but there can only be one winner…

Boston Bruins in seven games.

Leave a Reply