Philly Reign Staff
It's playoff time, baby! And I gotta admit, with this being the first article authored by each member of Philly Reign collectively, we're all pretty pumped. Each of us has submitted our picks for the first round of the playoffs, and naturally we disagree. But I digress. Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, we give you our picks for the first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs!
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals ― 1 Washington Capitals v. 8 New York Rangers
Mike: Henrik is the perfect answer to Alexander Ovechkin’s onslaught. It’s no secret that Lundqvist has the skills, what, with the eleven shutouts he recorded this season (first overall in the NHL) and all. But if the Rangers have proven anything in years past it is that it’s more than just goaltending. Although the Hockey News gives the Rangers 30-to-1 odds, I still believe they have what it takes to win. Call it another hunch of mine. Or further evidence I may be retarded. Rangers in 7.
Tyler: The New York Rangers are one of the most physical teams in the NHL. The Capitals boast finesse that most teams wish they could play with. The Caps have Ovechkin―the Rangers, Lundqvist. It’s opposites at war, and if this season has shown us anything this season, it’s that superior goaltending and brute force usually win. But here's the X-factor: the Rangers are kinda banged up. Do they have what it takes? I think they do. Rangers in 6.
Tim: The upset bug will strike the top-seeded Capitals for the second straight year. The Caps boast a much improved team defensively this year, but unfortunately their guns up front aren’t big enough to bring down a King. I think the Rangers will take their chance and run with it, at least to the second round. Hey Washington, look at the bright side―at least you didn’t win the President’s Trophy this year. Rangers in 7.
Joe: One of the match ups that some predict an upset. I do not. Mike Green, who is returning from a head injury, was able to play the finale against the Panthers, but Boudreau decided to sit him for one more game for precautionary reasons. Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the world but Washington has too much firepower. The loss of Callahan hurts the Rangers chances as well. They will need to block a ton of shots if they can make it a series. Capitals in 6.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals ― 2 Philadelphia Flyers v. 7 Buffalo Sabres
Mike: I believe Buffalo has the second best record since the All-Star break, and the Flyers have been heading down the crapper faster than a laxative-powered turd. Ryan Miller’s skating on to the ice with an aggravating injury which tells me he isn’t 100%. Chris Pronger may not be coming back until the second or third game into the series. However I believe this “non-existent” switch will somehow be flipped on regardless of our sudden slump and Pronger’s absence. Flyers in 6.
Tyler: The Buffalo Sabres literally stampeded their way up the Eastern Conference standings during the last half of the season. The Flyers did that the first half then chilled out for the last two months of the season. The Flyers have been sloppy at home lately, so I expect them to drop a few at The Well. But on the road I think they’ll be unstoppable. Look for it to end in Buffalo. Flyers in 6.
Tim: The Flyers need to bring a solid 60 minute effort and show the peppy Sabres just who is boss in this series. The key factor for a Philly team that struggled down the stretch is quick starts. With a healthy Ryan Miller the outcome could be different, but I think the team isn’t letting on just how banged up he really is. We will see as the series progresses, but I think the Flyers can make Ryan Miller look quite human. Flyers in 6.
Joe: The Sabres are 15-4-4 since Terry Pegula bought the team. Coincidence, or was that the exact turning point for the Sabres? The loss of sniper of Derek Roy to an injury has hurt the Sabres but apparently didn't hurt them much. The Flyers have cooled off in the past 4 weeks, but remain one of the deepest teams in hockey. And with the arrival of Chris Pronger, the edge goes to the deeper Flyers team. Buffalo obviously has the edge in goaltending but I don't think it will be enough. Flyers in 6.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals ― 3 Boston Bruins v. 6 Montreal Canadiens
Mike: Look, injuries suck―especially the one that happened to Max Pacioretty against Chara and the Bruins. But what better way to get some payback than face off against your most hated rival in the playoffs and defeat them, right!? Unfortunately, Montreal is going to have to wait ‘til next year because I don’t see this series going past five games. I just cannot imagine a midget squad like Montreal being able to tough it out against a netminder with a four-leaf clover for a heart valve. Bruins in 5.
Tyler: Judging from what I’ve heard, I’m the minority here. The Canadiens may be small, but they can't be overlooked. Price has looked fantastic in net, Subban is one of the finest young defensemen in the league, and although their offense is small in stature, it has proven it can be mighty. Chara and Thomas are going to be a wall, but I can see this Canadiens club figuring them out. They got through Washington and Pittsburgh last season. This year it begins with Boston. Canadiens in 6.
Tim: I expect this series to have a ton of emotion early on. Look for the Bruins to impose their will on the smaller Canadiens’ team. Boston has size, speed, defense, and most importantly a goaltender that just can’t be beat. Tim Thomas will be tested early. If he stands up to the test, which he will, the Bruins will reinforce their dominance over the diminutive Canadiens. Expect plenty of traffic on the 9-1-1 switchboard in Montreal. Bruins in 4.\
Joe: Zdeno Chara will be playing in Montreal for the first time since "the Incident", and I'm sure he'll get a hero’s welcome when he returns. Two words why the Bruins will win this series: Tim Thomas. He might look like Drew Carey, but when it comes to goaltending it's definitely his line and nothing is getting past it. (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” joke. No? Fine.) Les Habitants de Montréal will be unable to compete with the Big Bad Bruins. Bruins in 5.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals ― 4 Pittsburgh Penguins v. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Mike: I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t impressed with how well Pittsburgh’s done in the latter half of their season without their two superstars. But it’s now time to put that Cinderella baby to bed. This series could go two ways: either Tampa’s going to rain pucks through Marc-Andre Fleury, or the flightless birds are going to turn this into one long, defensive, boring-ass series. In either case, I do not believe Pittsburgh has what it takes to keep up with Tampa’s offense. Tampa in 6.
Tyler: All season long I’ve heard praise rained down upon Steve Yzerman. Naturally, he deserves it. He turned the Lighting from a basement team to a competitor in no time flat. But let’s get real, folks. The novelty that is the success of the Bolts is no match for the mighty Penguins. Dan Bylsma, arguably the top candidate for the Jack Adams, will utilize the Penguins as he has all season and will tear apart the Lightning. It’s a 4/5 on paper, but it won’t look like that on the ice. Penguins in 4.
Tim: This to me is the hardest series to predict. On one hand you have the Lightning―tons of fire power up front with St. Louis, Stamkos, and Lecavalier. On the other hand, you have a banged up, starless bunch of players not many people outside of Pittsburgh know. But that bunch of “nobodies” has been playing lights out hockey. If this key component holds true against the quick-strike Lightning, the Pens will pull out this series. Penguins in 7.
Joe: No Malkin, No Crosby, no problem. Dan Bylsma has been proving the critics wrong. Fleury, Staal and Neal have the Penguins "flying high", and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Lightning are on fire lately, too, winning 6 of their last 7. Dwayne Rolson has played very well and might have been that final piece of the puzzle for the ‘Ning. But Fluery has played his best hockey since he lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup two seasons ago. Penguins in 7.